Sunday, November 29, 2009

Smoked salmon

Serves 4-6

I hear that Christmas is on the horizon, and with the sight of the rather predictable over priced and sweaty packets of smoked salmon flying off the supermarket shelves already in mind, why not do yourself a favour and give some thought to making your own this year... It is labourious, fiddly and can get messy, but as with many small things in life, personal triumph outweighs almost everything. I miss Christmas at home and will go to all lengths to make the big day as close to the real thing as possible, so indulge me why don't you...

10g fresh dill, chopped
2kg fine sea salt
1kg caster sugar
1 side good quality organic salmon, pin-boned and trimmed
1 litre (or enough to completely cover the salmon) good-quality olive oil (not extra virgin)

Mix the dill, salt and sugar together well. Using either a plastic container that is longer, wider and deeper than the salmon, or a piece of tin foil twice the length and width of the fish, sprinkle the base with a handful of the salt mix in a thin and even layer. Place the salmon on top, and then cover completely and evenly with the rest of the mix to ensure an even cure.

If you’re using a plastic container, cover it well with cling film or tin foil. Otherwise, fold your piece of tin foil around the salmon, covering it neatly, then wrap the whole thing in another sheet of foil. Leave to cure in the fridge for 36 hours.

Rinse the salt mix off the salmon and pat dry with paper towels. Then put the fish into a plastic container or a large, sealable plastic bag. Pour over the olive oil, completely covering the salmon, and carefully seal to prevent oxidisation. Leave for 24 hours.

Take the salmon out of the oil and wipe off any excess. Take 2 saucepans or loaf tins, put 40g of wood chips and 1 tea bag in each, and set alight. Once the wood chips have taken on a good flame, extinguish them by covering with a lid.

Tip the smoking wood chips into a deep metal tray and cover with a perforated tray, followed by a wire rack, upon which you place your salmon. For the smoker to work, all the smoke must be contained. To do this, cover and wrap the whole thing in tin foil. Leave until the smoke has died. Remove the fish from the smoker, have a little feel, check the smell and slice a little off if still unsure - it may need a second smoking, if so repeat the whole process once more. The reason we don't put more chips and smoke heavier in one hit is that we do not want to cook the fish with excessive heat.

Remove the salmon from the smoker and wrap in muslin cloth, and then leave in the fridge for 24 hours to mature.

When you are ready to serve, slice the salmon lengthways and serve it with soda bread and pickled cucumber, drained of juice and sprinkled with a little dill and fleur de sel.