Citrus dill gravlax (plus three more flavours and bonus sushi rice recipe)

Gravlax ingredientsI’ve been wanting to make gravlax (AKA gravad lax) for some time now. Salmon is one of my favourite foods, especially when raw or semi-raw, and the idea that I might be able to cure my own salmon without buying a smoker or paying extortionate prices for sashimi-grade salmon strongly attracted me. However, for a long time I was nervous because the recipes I’ve seen vary dramatically. Some call for as much as a full cup of salt while others call for as little as a couple of teaspoons. Some call for much more salt than sugar; others call for much more sugar than salt. Some recipes I’ve seen also make the process seem incredibly complex, involving weights, precisely timed curing, even the use of thin slices of lime that can’t actually touch the fish.

After consulting a ton of recipes, I became convinced that a fairly minimalist approach would work, but although I wanted to simplify the process (and avoid ending up with a fish-flavoured lollipop or salt lick), I also wanted to experiment with a variety of flavours. So I ended up making four different kinds. Continue reading

Chirashi sushi

Chirashi sushiHinamatsuri, or Girls’ Festival, is in Japan something of a spring festival as well as a celebration of girls. Though I know my friends in Canada are still shivering and shovelling, spring is starting to show its face here in England. I saw my first open daffodil today as well as a bunch of little white blossoms, so I’ve been getting into the mood for some springy food.

Chirashi sushi (translates as “scattered sushi;” it’s pronounced chirashi zushi in Japanese) is basically just a layer of vinegared rice with toppings. The toppings generally include sashimi, though it’s certainly possible to make an all-cooked version. Chirashi sushi is one of the traditional foods of Hinamatsuri. These are others too, but clam soup is out in my family because my husband is allergic to shellfish, and I didn’t think it was realistic to obtain the ingredients for sakura mochi (pounded rice cakes coloured pink and wrapped in pickled cherry leaves). Chirashi sushi, however, I could do, and easily.

Chirashi sushi is, in my mind, one of the world’s most perfect dishes. It’s super easy, healthy and incredibly delicious. It’s impressive enough to be used for entertaining or just to make a family dinner feel like a special occasion. The possibilities are endless in terms of exactly what ingredients you use and how. It’s virtually impossible to screw up. Continue reading