Although it takes time and there are a number of steps, curing salmon at home is actually very simple and it makes for an impressive and versatile dish, as well as being ideal for canapes or a sandwich filling. Cardamom and clove, so redolent of Christmas, are the main spices in the Zhoug, but its fiery green chilli kick make it a contrast to typical seasonal fare. Crisp fennel and vibrant oranges provide the ideal balance of texture and flavour and make this dish a fresh alternative to the usual spread of robust festive dishes.
You will need to start this recipe the day before.
500g salmon fillet, from front part of the fish, bones removed
85g coarse rock salt
85g light brown sugar
1 large bulb fennel, finely sliced (see method)
2 oranges, skin and pith removed and then cut into segments
3 spring onions, outer layer removed and finely sliced
50g fresh coriander, washed and roughly chopped.
2 tbsp Early Harvest olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mix the sea salt and the sugar together in a bowl. Lay out a piece of cling film that is around 3 times the size of the salmon and then lay another one the same size across it, so that you have a cross. Lay another one diagonally across the other two and then lay the salmon in the middle. Spread about a third of the Zhoug over the salmon with a knife and then lay the salt and sugar mix all over the top in an even layer, allowing some to spread to the sides. Wrap the salmon with the cling film, so that the salt and sugar mix will maintain contact during the curing process and nothing will leak out. Place on a tray, or plate and leave in the fridge for 12 hours, or overnight.
Once the salmon has cured, remove from the fridge and unwrap. Scrape the curing mix into the bin and then rinse the salmon under cold water. Pat dry with kitchen towel and place on a plate with kitchen towel underneath to absorb any water. Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flesh of the salmon to dry and become sticky. Remove, then spread the remaining Zhoug over the top of the fillet and wrap with cling film. Leave to marinate for another 12 hours.
To finely slice the fennel, its best to use a mandolin. If you don’t have one available, cut the bulb in half, lengthways and then thinly slice across it. Place into a bowl of very cold, or iced water for 2 -3 minutes, which will help keep the fennel crisp. If doing ahead of time, add some lemon juice to the water to stop the fennel turning brown. Drain the fennel and spin in a salad spinner to dry.
When segmenting the oranges, do this over a bowl to catch any juice and squeeze the pulp, as this will be used as a dressing. Mix the olive oil with the juice and season with salt and pepper and set aside.
If you’re confident taking the skin off the salmon then do so, but it’s not essential. With a sharp knife, cut the salmon into thin slices, cutting right down to the skin. Then cut along the base, keeping your knife flat and pressing it into the skin, to release the slices. Arrange the slices across each plate.
Mix the fennel, orange segments, spring onions and coriander in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and then coat with the dressing. Add around half first and then more if you think it’s needed. Toss to combine and then taste again for seasoning. Divide between plates, alongside the salmon.