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Easy gravadlax/gravlax recipe for Christmas or any special occaision

Photo: gravadlax-or-gravlax

Photo: gravadlax-or-gravlax

Skimming past the condemned food counter at Tesco, Danny spotted 600g of fresh salmon fillet reduced to £1.86.
“I know that you don’t like poached salmon but if this went into a fish pie, you’d hardly notice it.”
I examined the carrier bag. He’d also picked up a pack of fresh dill for just a few pence.
“Why don’t we try to make gravadlax? I’ve heard that it’s really easy if you have dill.” [gravadlax or gravlax for short (thank you Martyn and Happy Christmas!)]

So we studied a handful of cookbooks. All recipes add salt, sugar and dill to the cure. Then every chef has their own suggestions.
“Nigella uses gin.”
“Let’s go for that, but a few juniper berries would do the trick if we’ve run out.”
“There’s mustard in this one.”
“How about using the mustard seed that you bought for the piccalilli.”
“Do you think that ground black pepper is a good idea?”
“We could add that to the final dish, right at the end.”
“We could reduce the salt by using lemon juice.”
“Prue Leith cures it for 48 hours.”
“Nigella’s is ready in 12.”

This stage in the process of creating a new recipe is always fun. Fired by hope, expectation and boundless enthusiasm.

I also asked my present client and friend, Jo. She’s a bit older than me and has been cooking superb food for years.
“In an ideal world you have two sides from the same salmon as they need to cover each other perfectly when they cure.”

She found her recipe and talked me through it as I laid a layer of eggshell paint on an old Georgian style sash window.

If you have just one fillet, or even a bit of a fillet you just need to chop it in half down the centre and then, with a bit of luck, you will have two pieces of fish that will mirror each other and match for the curing process.

After 48 hours I rinsed the salmon gently under cold running water to wash away the cure but leave the mustard seed and dill. Danny gingerly cut a sliver and sampled it.
“Wow. It tastes just like gravlax.’

Easy, economical and very, very good. Even if the fresh salmon had been full price (around £5.00) it would have been a bargain. Now we just need the dill and mustard sauce but until then it will be wonderful on thinly sliced buttered Irish soda bread with a dash of freshly ground black pepper.

Easy gravadlax/gravlax recipe


  • 600g of salmon fillet
  • Small handful of branches of roughly chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of castor sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons of gin


  1. Rinse your fresh salmon under a cold tap and dry with a clean T towel or kitchen roll.
  2. Put one half of your salmon, skin side down, on a long piece of foil or inside a loose fitting plastic bag.  Mix up the cure of salt, sugar and gin and spread this over the fleshy side of the salmon. Scatter over the dill so that no salmon flesh is visible. Place the other side of the salmon, flesh side down, over the first slice. Fold the foil over the salmon and nip around the edges carefully (it has to be watertight)/ fold over the plastic bag so that the salmon and cure are secure. 
  3. Cure in the fridge for 48 hours, turning the parcel every morning and evening.
  4. Slice your gravlax along the grain with a large, well sharpened knife. Serve with a dill sauce (soon to be developed by us!) or until then on warm blinis or Irish soda bread. Jo also tipped that gravlax freezes very well and if your knives need sharpening it’s best sliced semi frozen.

  Leave a reply


  1. Sounds delicious,
    I didn’t realise that it was so easy,(haven’t tried it yet though),I shall take your word for it! lol
    I’m determined to ‘have a go’ at this, ooh with home-made dill sauce on my favourite brown soda bread.
    Thanks for the tip of using trout, great ideas recipes,thankyou for the inspiration once again.

  2. There are unfortunately some ethical issues with salmon, unless its organically farmed these days. However, you will be pleased to know the cure you discuss works fabulously with many other fish (basically it just needs to be oily fish) makeral gravads wonderfully, as does the salmon- like trout.

    To make the dill sauce, dissolve some sugar in vinegar, whisk with mustard and blend in the chopped dill and creme fraiche (or sour cream).

  3. Charlotte

    I’ve got one in the fridge right now — two small fillets of previously-frozen Alaskan sockeye salmon in a dish. I hate dill so I did a slightly different version. I whizzed up in the mini-processor: 1/2 cup pickling salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 coffee spoon each of coriander seed and fennel seed/pollen from last summer’s garden, a clove of garlic and a couple of slices of ginger. I covered the bottom of the dish with half this cure, nestled the filets in and covered the top with the rest. Then I splashed in a bit of gin, whacked it in the fridge where I’ll turn it once a day for 3 days. I like it really cured. So for Xmas eve I’ll do little canapes (although I’ve also been really enjoying toast with goat cheese and gravlax in the morning for breakfast).

  4. I love salmon in all guises

  5. Sounds delicious. I love gravlaks but have never tried curing it myself, however now that I can see how easy it is I’m tempted to give it a go. Thanks 🙂

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