Serves about 8 as a starter or 16 as a canapé.
- Wash the salmon fillets under running water, then pat them dry with kitchen paper towel.
- Lay the 2 salmon fillets on a board, skin-side down. Use tweezers to remove any remaining bones from down the centre of each salmon fillet – the further from the tail along the centre-line the more likely you are to find some pointing directly up – run your fingertips along the centre line to find them.
- Wash the beetroots thoroughly – scrubbing is needed, but no need to peel them. Use a plastic glove to hold the beetroot(s) at the top while you coarsely grate it onto a board or plate. Don’t wear white while you are doing this, and make sure your work surface can be easily wiped clean as it may spray a little juice!
- Roughly chop the 15g of dill, including the stalks.
- Mix the caster sugar, sea salt flakes grated horseradish, grated beetroot and dill in a stain-proof bowl. This is the ‘cure’.
- Spread out a large double layer of cling film on your work surface, spread about ¼ of the ‘cure’ in the middle and place one of the salmon fillets on top, skin-side down. Spread ½ of the ‘cure’ all over the flesh of that salmon fillet. Then place the other salmon fillet exactly on top, this time skin-side up. Spread the remaining ¼ of the ‘cure’ over the top of the skin. Then carefully and tightly wrap the cling film over the salmon fillets from all directions to make a parcel. Turn the parcel over and place in a stain-proof container with sides at least 3cm high – e.g. a roasting tray or oven dish. Put another dish on top and weigh it down – I use a granite pestle and mortar, but heavy tins would work just as well.
- Put the whole thing in the fridge for between 2 and 7 days, depending on how strong a cure you want. After 2 days the edges will be tinged purple which looks very pretty when sliced, and after 7 days the purple beetroot colour and flavour will be right through the fish. I usually leave it about 3 or 4 days. However many days you leave it, you need to turn it over once a day, and drain away any excess liquid that comes out of the fish. If the liquid is accumulating under the cling film use a skewer to make some holes to drain it out.
- When you want to use the salmon (2-7 days later), unwrap the cling film and gently brush and then rinse the ‘cure’ off the salmon (plastic gloves are handy again for this!). Pat dry with kitchen paper towel.
- To slice, use a very sharp, long knife. You may need to make a very small incision to remove any gristle running down the centre line before cutting your slices.
- Hold the tail end firmly with your left hand (if you are right-handed) and then cut thin slices from the other end of the fillet, cutting diagonally down away from the tail end. The first few bits will be scrappy until the diagonal angle is achieved. Then just keep cutting slices until you get too close to the tail to continue.
- To serve as a starter simply arrange a few slices on a plate with some quenelles of crème fraiche (blobs made smooth by being passed repeatedly between two teaspoons) and fronds of dill to decorate.
- To serve as a nibble you could either spread a little crème fraiche on the underside (less attractive side) of each slice and then roll up and secure with a toothpick. I usually serve it on blini (home-made or shop-bought) or gluten-free buckwheat blini with a small quenelle of crème fraiche and a frond of dill.
- Serve this with an ice cold Scandinavian Aquavit or white Burgundy.
- To cater for larger numbers simply use larger salmon fillet portions to cater for more people, and proportionately increase the quantities of all the cure ingredients, especially the salt, sugar and beetroot. Always start from the tail when you are asking the fishmonger to cut the fillets for you.
- Any leftover cured salmon will last for several days in the fridge, and can be used just like smoked salmon – it goes beautifully with scrambled eggs and champagne, as I discovered the morning after my wedding party!