There is no doubt that food goes through fashions. I think we have just come through the winter of the Pork Belly, and we are definitely now going into the summer of the Tapas. When I look back, I can clearly remember the year of the Sticky Date Pudding, the summer of the Pannacotta, the winter of Pesto, the spring of Salt and Pepper Calamari, the year of Laksa. These items have all at different times become ubiquitous in Sydney to the point where you would imagine that chefs might be de-registered if they fail to include some version or other of the dish on their menu. But, the truth is that the reason they become so very popular is because they are all completely delicious.
Without wanting to date myself too much, I also remember a summer of gravlax, or sugar-cured salmon, in the late 1980s. Tasty, soft, indulgent, it is the perfect thing to make for entertaining in summer. All the work is done ahead of time (24 hours ahead), it is very very easy to do and people are incredibly impressed that you have cured your own salmon. Even better, it is delicious and light and sumptuous. And if tapas, do take off this summer, it will be a very easy tapas-style dish to prepare. This recipe comes from Joan Campbell in a Vogue Wine and Food Cookbook called "Home Truths: What The Foodies Cook For Themselves". The cookbook is out of print now but if you trawl around eBay or some of the second-hand cookbook sellers, you may find it.
Gravlax With Dill Sauce
adapted from "home Truths" edited by Joan Campbell
1 side of ocean trout or salmon (you can get your fish shop to skin it and pin bone it for you)
1 tbl white cracked pepper
1-2 large bunches dill, stems crushed
2 tbl sugar
2 tbl white vinegar
2 tbl dill
2 tbl dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
9 tbls vegetable oil (any flavourless oil is OK)
If your fillet has not been boned, go over it with tweezers and pluck out any bones you can feel by running over the fillet with your fingers. If it is not skinned, you can leave the skin on. Mix sugar, salt and pepper together. Place a heavy piece of foil on your kitchen bench, and make a bed of dill on it the size of your fish. Rub half of the sugar and salt mixture into one side of the salmon, then turn it over and rub the other half into the other side. Place the fish on the dill, then top it with another bed of dill the size of the fish. Wrap tightly in foil, and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning the fish over regularly. To serve, scrape the pepper and dill from the fish and slice thinly. Serve with the sauce.
Sauce: Place sugar, vinegar, dill, mustard and salt in a bowl and beat well. While still beating add the oil slowly. Pour into a container and refrigerate until serving.