The Christmas cooking has really started now we’re getting so close to the celebrations! With an eye on healthy diet recipes for the Christmas season for my family, I spent last night experimenting with gravadlax – I wanted a change from smoked salmon, so curing my own salmon seemed like a great idea. One of the few things I dislike though is dill, a major ingredient in gravadlax. Cue experimenting!

In the end, after a bit of research, I decided on gin-cured salmon instead of vodka, with coriander and juniper as the seed and herb base rather than dill and fennel. Using unrefined sugar instead of plain caster also adds a different dimension to the flavour, countering the tang of the gin. So, here’s my recipe for those that fancy a go. It’s really easy, and with salmon being so good for brain, skin and immunity, it’s almost a health crime not to include it in the seasonal eats!

Gin and Coriander Gravadlax (serves lots!)

1.5 kg side of fresh salmon, top end, cut into two equal pieces (or centre cut to ensure pieces are the same size)
100 mls gin plus a small amount for rubbing
300 g coarse sea salt
75 g golden syrup sugar
120 g caster sugar
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp peppercorns
around 20 juniper berries
zest of 2 limes
fresh coriander from a large growing pot

Lay out the salmon fillets flesh side up, and check for pin bones, removing any left. Rub the flesh of both pieces with a little gin. Grind the coriander seeds, peppercorns and juniper berries in a pestle and mortar.

Mix the salt, sugar, and spices in a large bowl, then add the lime zest and fresh coriander, combining well. Add the gin, and give a final mix until a wet paste forms.

Lay the first fillet on a large piece of foil (large enough to wrap both fillets into a tight parcel) skin side down, and cover the flesh with all of the salt mixture. Lay the other fillet on top, flesh side down, to make a sandwich with the salt mixture in the middle.

Wrap the sandwich tightly in the foil, using another wrapping of foil if necessary, and lay in a dish or baking tin larger than the parcel, and with some room to collect the water that will leach from the curing salmon – make a small hole at the bottom at teach corner of the parcel to let this fluid out.
Weight the parcel down with a chopping board topped with a bag of flour/ dish filled with tins, refrigerate and turn over once or twice a day. The salmon will take 4-6 days to cure, and will keep for a few days after that. When it’s ready, scrape off the remaining curing paste, and give it a rinse, then pat dry, and slice as thinly or thickly as you like.

Serve with rye, spelt, walnut bread, or blinis, with a quick homemade mayo of 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 2 tbsp caster sugar, seasoning and a squeeze of lemon juice mixed with cold pressed organic rapeseed oil until you get the consistency you want.

A perfect canape, starter or snack for the festive season, and a great standby for unexpected guests. If it lasts that long…..  Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

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