Having Swedish family and a father who loves to cook, I grew up eating Gravad Lax and learnt to love it from an early age! It’s a Scandinavian dish that’s usually served as a starter at dinner parties, served with a cucumber salad and a dill and mustard sauce.
Gravad Lax (pronounced ‘gravlaks’) comes from the Middle Ages when fishermen would keep salmon fresh for longer by rubbing salt in it and burying the salmon in the sand and then covering it with rocks as a way to squeeze the moisture out. ‘Grav’ literally means ‘hole in the ground’ (or ‘grave’) and Lax means salmon.
I used to think it must be terribly complicated to make at home but in fact the opposite is true, and it’s the ideal starter for any dinner party, or a lovely light party snack.
It only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, but then ideally should have about 3 to 4 days in the fridge before serving.
For the salmon you will need:
- 85g caster sugar
- 70g sea salt
- 2 tablespoons of gin or vodka
- 2 teaspoons of freshly ground white pepper
- 1 handful of fresh dill
- 500g fresh salmon fillet, skin on but bones removed
For the mustard dill sauce you will need:
- 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 1 squeeze of lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- salt & pepper
- more dill!
To cure the salmon:
- Blend together the sugar, salt, gin or vodka, white pepper and dill in a food processor to make a paste.
- Place half of the mixture into a dish that will accommodate the fish snugly. Lay the salmon on top of this flesh-side down, press it down, then cover with the other half of the mixture, smearing it well over the surface of the fish. Cover with cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 2 or more days, turning the fish occasionally, until firm to the touch.
For the mustard dill sauce:
- Mix the mustard, lemon juice, sugar, salt, pepper and dried dill in a bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil until you have a loose, thick dressing. You may need a little more oil. Pour into a small serving bowl.
- Carefully rinse the fish under cold running water, but not so much that no remnants of dill remain. Dry with kitchen paper.
- Thinly slice the Gravad Lax at an angle and present on a large serving dish.
- Serve alongside a cucumber salad, the mustard dill sauce and either toasts or rye bread.