Over the winter holiday, my grizzly cat of a husband brought back a special treat from the supermarket fishmonger---a whole salmon (on-sale). He adores---a rather severe understatement---salmon and could certainly not pass up such an offer. What to do? Well, definitely not a morsel should be wasted (except the unedible bones, of course).
Head, back bone, and tail were reserved for a quick browning followed by steaming (we're Chinese...). A small section was removed from each of the two side filets for roasting with my pistou maple syrup cheese crust. The rest (and bulk) of the salmon filets were destined for curing with a treacle (a.k.a. molasses) blend that my husband first tasted in university and forever fell completely head-over-heels for. To his absolute delight, I had found a recipe for it online when we first tried to replicate it a couple years back. It didn't taste the same, but the idea of being able to make one's own treacle-cured salmon satisfied him fully. But unfortunately, I had not developed the taste for salmon (I preferred trout and white-fleshed fish) nor treacle-curing at that time, which made sharing a whole salmon rather difficult. My husband would have been joyfully content polishing off a whole salmon by himself, but it just seemed too much of an indulgence!
Well, this time, either my taste buds have changed or the curing blend turned out better, but I found myself unable to stop eating the treacle-cured salmon after the first bite. It was enticingly salty, caramel-ly and robustly sweet, and palate-cleansing citrus-ly refreshing. Gravlax was similar, but treacle-curing was less herbaceous and more depth-fully sweet. My husband leaped with joy at this discovery. Two meals was all that was needed to polish the 2 large filets. I equally enjoyed cleaning off the backbones while he savoured the head. It certainly seems that we can and will be having whole salmons more often (as long as they're available and affordable, that is). =)
Nigel Haworth's Treacle-Cured Salmon (replicated from The Independent)
We made a few slight changes as we didn't have the exact ingredients. For the fennel seeds, we omitted them for one filet and used cumin instead for the other filet. Both tasted wonderfully, with the cumin seeds adding extra depth to the treacle. For the mustard, we just used mustard grains (à la ancienne), and it worked out wonderfully.
- 1 salmon fillet, 750g-1kg, skin on, boned and trimmed
- 1tsp fennel seeds (can be omitted---tastes just as lovely; or replaced with cumin---adds further depth to the treacle)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 50g sea salt
- 1tbsp English mustard (or mustard grains, which was what we used)
- 80g black treacle
- 2tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- Put the salmon fillet, skin side down on a sheet of clingfilm. Mix the fennel seeds (if using), lemon zest, salt, mustard, pepper and treacle together and spread evenly over the flesh of the salmon fillet, not the skin. Wrap well in more clingfilm, place on a tray (skin side down) and leave at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 48 hours.
- Remove the clingfilm and scrape away any excess liquid and marinade
and pat the salmon dry with kitchen paper.