Steamed salmon with cucumber sauce
There is no question at all that salmon cooked as a whole piece (not filleted) will emerge juicy and moist, in the same way as meat roasted on the bone should. It’s a touch trickier, perhaps, but follow the timings here and all should be well. I’ve also cooked this dish using wild sea trout, and it was wonderful. My local west London fishmonger in Shepherd’s Bush (The Fishmongers Kitchen, 020-7603 0673) sold me a beautiful piece of fish, albeit at a princely price. However, it was well worth it-a rare, seasonal treat.
For cooking the fish
700g salmon or sea trout, in the piece (if possible, ask for a tail
piece-there are fewer fiddly bones)
100ml dry vermouth
50g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Juice of half a small lemon
For the sauce
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways and seeds scooped out (keep the skin and seeds)
A little fine salt
1 shallot, finely chopped
2-3 mint sprigs, roughly chopped
1tsp arrowroot, slaked in a little water
100ml double cream
A little extra finely chopped mint (optional)
Place the salmon in a deep plate or shallow bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Bring a steamer to the boil, place the plate/bowl containing the salmon on the rack and put on the lid. Turn the heat down to low, then steam for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and steam for a further 10 minutes. Now, switch off the heat, leaving the lid on, and allow the salmon to ‘rest’ in the waning steam for a further five minutes or so. While the fish is cooking, thinly slice the cucumber into half-moon shapes and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain in a colander.
Once the salmon is cooked, remove it to a plate using a fish slice, then carefully remove the skin. Cover the salmon with foil and keep warm. Add the salmon skin to the fishy-buttery-vermouth juices in the bowl and then tip all of this into a saucepan. Add the cucumber debris (skin and seeds), roughly chopped, together with the shallot and mint sprigs. Simmer this messy mixture on a low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan, pressing down well on the debris with the back of a ladle to extract maximum flavour.
Now, add the cucumber to the juices and simmer for five minutes. Stir in the arrowroot, which will lightly thicken the juices almost instantly, then stir in the cream. Correct the seasoning-add a touch more lemon juice, if required-and add a little chopped mint, if you wish. Bring to a simmer and the sauce is ready. To serve, carefully ease away the four fillets of salmon from the bone, place onto four warmed plates and spoon over the cucumber sauce. Eat with buttered new potatoes.
Gravadlax with pickled cucumber and mustard sauce
Waitrose sells a salmon fillet in an exact 500g piece. And, happily, the packaging is perfect for
curing. Once the dill mixture is added to the fish, simply wrap the container in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge.
For the salmon
500g boneless salmon fillet
85g caster sugar
70g sea salt
2tbsp schnapps, gin or vodka
10g freshly ground white pepper
10g freeze-dried dill, or 100g bunch fresh dill, stalks and all
For the cucumber
1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1tsp sea salt
2tsp caster sugar
Freshly ground white pepper
1-2tbsp white-wine vinegar, or to taste
For the sauce
3tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
A good squeeze of lemon juice
2tsp caster sugar
2-3tbsp salad oil (say sunflower)
1-2tsp freeze-dried dill, or 1 tbsp of freshly chopped dill (sprigs only this time)
Salt and pepper
Grind the first five ingredients, apart from the salmon, into a sloppy green paste. Place half of this in a container (a plastic box with a lid, or the salmon’s packaging) that will accommodate the fish snugly. Lay the salmon on top of this, press it down, then cover with the other half of the mixture, smearing it well over the surface of the fish.
Pop the lid on, place it in the fridge and leave it there for 48 hours, turning the fish occasionally, until firm to the touch. Carefully rinse the fish, but not so much that no remnants of dill remain adhered. Dry with kitchen paper, wrap in clingfilm and keep cold in the fridge.
To make the cucumber salad, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and leave to macerate for about an hour. Drain off the liquid, put the cucumber in a dish and keep cool in the fridge.
For the sauce, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and sugar, then whisk in the oil until you have a loose, thick dressing. Stir in the dill and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Pour into a small serving bowl.
To serve, thinly slice the gravadlax at an angle and present on a large serving dish. Hand around both the cucumber salad and mustard sauce at the table.
Simon Hopkinson is the founding chef and co-proprietor of Bibendum restaurant, London
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