You may be relieved to know that after the last post I took a deep breath, counted to ten and was fully ready to shake off that week and start anew with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Then that crowd up North had their mid-term which was immediately followed by our own national one, creating a proverbial DP of chaos. 'Well sure isn't it good that you're busy' you might say. Only for me to reply that yes, it is good that in the middle of February we're packing them in like Tom Cruise in a fudge factory, but when the result is me being unable to take a break throughout the duration (which in turn meant 24 hours between meals, five days in a row) that smile has now become a firm grimace sitting below two sunken eyes. And the song has switched from 'Mr Blue Sky' to this and this.
Today is pancake day but I'm not posting anything related. My bad, but were it not for a Facebook post from my house mate saying, 'Here, gay lad. Yer makin me pancakes today. I'm finished at half 5.' I wouldn't have bothered. Instead, you get a post about the process of curing fish. I know, but that's life and life has it's disappointments. Take it from someone who owns the Noma cookbook.
Packing on the cure.
This dish came about from no other influence than me just being curious and wanting to try something out. Ten days later its goodbye to our deconstructed Prawn Cocktail and hello to Homemade Beetroot-cured Salmon. The process of curing is an ancient method of preserving meat and fish by coating in a salt/sugar mixture for a period of time. This draws out moisture, sterilises the meat and slows the oxidation process. It's also the process that creates Bacon, Salami, Chorizo and Parma Ham. (thank you Wilkipedia!) Over the years I began noticing the trend of coating fish with grated beetroot as it cured to 'stain' the meat and I knew it was one of those things that I had to try. So after some funny looks from Chef, I was granted a side of Salmon to try it out. Worked like gangbusters. It looks cool and tastes awesome. Rather than being just a colouring agent, the beetroot actually lends a sweet earthy-ness. Even the German was impressed and he calls Salmon, 'Za pig of za sea'. And while it may seem like an ordeal to make and you'll need to clear a pretty large space in your fridge, it's actually embarrassingly straightforward and also will last for well over a week and freezes fine.
Beetroot - Cured Salmon, serves lots
1 side of fresh Salmon, skin on
175g Caster sugar
135g Sea salt
2-3 tbsp of black peppercorns
1 decent sprig of rosemary or thyme or both
3-4 raw beetroot
48 hours later
Check the Salmon for bones.
Place the sugar, salt, peppercorns, herbs, the zest from all the oranges but the juice from only half of them in a food processor.
Blitz from approx 10-20 seconds.
Peel the beetroot and grate finely.
Lay a sheet of cling film over a shallow tray large enough for the fish.
Place the Salmon skin-side down, take the cure mix and pack onto the fish. You want to be sure that it's evenly and entirely covered.
Take the grated beetroot and do the same.
Place another sheet of cling film over the fish, put another tray on top. Weight down with tins, bags of flour, family pets or whatever you have to hand.
Leave in the fridge. Take out after 24 hours, you'll find that there's a load of water in the tray. This is normal, drain off and return to the fridge for another 24 hours.
Remove, drain and wash off the beetroot/cure mix. Pat dry and slice as thinly as possible.
Okay fine, mark this one for next year. Recipe taken from my DCS folder:
100g plain flour
30g caster sugar
60g butter, melted
pinch of salt
zest of two oranges
Using a stick blender, blend the flour, sugar, butter and eggs until smooth. Add the milk slowly while blending to prevent lumps. Stir in orange zest. When smooth let sit for a half hour at room temperature.
Heat a frying pan on a high heat. Fold up a piece of kitchen paper. Hold over a bottle of sunflower oil and turn upside down to damp the paper. Wipe this around the pan.