smokey lavender and vodka-cured salmon

The starter for my vodka-themed meal was vodka-cured salmon, which I flavoured using the lavender and lapsang souchong salt which I bought earlier in the year.

It’s incredibly easy to cure salmon – a flavoured salt mix is packed onto the pieces of salmon and, in this case, a generous slug of vodka is also poured over and the fish is left to cure, in the fridge, for up to a week. the resulting fish has a firmer texture than raw salmon and will take on the flavours you use in your cure.

I was surprised by how little of the saltiness penetrated the fish but how the subtle smokey lavender flavour really did.

I served this with an apple and fennel salad, rye bread and an extra sprinkle of grey goose vodka over the salmon.

Vodka cured salmon with Diana Henry’s apple and fennel cream (serves 10)

for the cured salmon:
1kg piece of salmon in 2 halves, filleted but skin on
8 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (from the fennel heads below)
50g sea salt flakes (as mentioned above, I used a salt flavoured with lavender and lapsang souchong tea)
75g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of  freshly ground black pepper

for the apple and fennel cream:
1 fennel bulb
1 apple
150ml sour cream
½ a teaspoon of caster sugar
2 teaspoons of grain mustard
zest of half a lemon and a squeeze lemon juice

run your hand over the salmon flesh to make sure there are no little bones in it. if there are, remove them with tweezers (i did this but found i ended up removing most of the bones as i cut the salmon just before serving so don’t worry if you don’t get them all).

place the salmon on a large piece of foil. rub some of the vodka all over the salmon and place one piece of it on the foil, skin side down. pour a little more vodka over the fleshy side of the salmon, then mix the salt, sugar, pepper and fennel fronds and press half of this on top of the salmon. sprinkle with a little vodka. repeat with the other piece of salmon and place it on top so the slated flesh sides are touching. sprinkle the remaining vodka on top. fold the foil round the salmon and make a package.

place the salmon in a dish* that will hold the liquid it releases and place a weight, such as a chopping board or couple of tins on top and put in the fridge. turn the salmon package from time to time while it is curing. you can leave it for anything from 1-6 days.

when you are ready to use the salmon, unwrap the package and scrape off the salt mix. using a very sharp knife, cut the salmon flesh horizontally into thin slices (removing any extra bones you find), leaving the skin behind.

to make the salad, remove any tough outer leaves from the fennel and trim the ends. cut the bulb into fine strips, removing the core. halve and core the apple (i used a red one to add a bit of colour) and cut it into similarly sized strips. mix the fennel and apple with the sour cream, sugar, mustard and lemon zest. taste and add a squeeze of lemon if you wish.

serve with the salmon and thin slices of rye or pumpernickel bread. i also like it on beetroot rosti.

* some recipes say to place the salmon on a rack in a dish but i didn’t have space in my fridge to do this.