Gin & Tonic-Cured Salmon

By 9th December 2020March 23rd, 2021No Comments

You know the story about turning water into wine? Well, in our house, you’d be mistaken for thinking someone had switched the water source to a local distillery, such is the family’s thirst for gin. This beautifully complex and inventive ode to Mum &  Dad’s favourite drink is an absolute knockout and the perfect way to kick off your Christmas meal. It takes time, but it’s worth the effort  and – while each of the individual elements might taste unusual by themselves (who drinks neat gin, anyway?), the result when combined is to die for.


Makes 4-6 small plates with plenty of salmon left over to enjoy yourself

For the salmon:

  • 1kg side of salmon, trimmed and skinned
  • 30 coriander seeds
  • 20 juniper berries
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 2 lemons, zest only
  • 2 limes, zest only
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 375g of flaky sea salt
  • 100g of sugar
  • 50ml of gin

For the pickled lemons:

  • 165ml of water
  • 125ml of white wine vinegar
  • 55g of caster sugar
  • 2 lemons

For the compressed cucumber:

  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 25ml of olive oil

For the tonic gel:

  • 225ml of tonic water
  • 50ml of water
  • 100g of pickled lemon, plus 100ml of the pickling liquor
  • 4 gelatine leaves (or as per instructions in relation to volume of liquid)
  • 6g of sugar
  • 1g of salt

For the dill mayonnaise: 

  • 1/2 bunch of dill
  • 250ml of olive/veg/sunflower oil
  • 30g of egg yolk (about 2 egg yolks)
  • 20ml of white wine vinegar
  • 5g of Dijon mustard
  • salt

For garnish:

  • dill, sprigs
  • Breadcrumbs, toasted

  1. To make the pickled lemons, slice the lemons finely and put to one side. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over a low heat, mix in the water and allow to cool, before transfering the lemons and liquid to a sealed bag or jar and leave to pickle for at least 24 hours.
  2. For the salmon, use a sharp knife to run over the side with removed skin to get rid of all the skin (sometimes the fishmonger has been a bit lazy) and set aside. Toast the spices in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until aromatic. For how long depends on how old the spices are, but expect 1-2 minutes. Crush the spices. Blitz the zest, spices, dill and 100g of the flaky sea salt to a coarse consistency in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Fold through the remaining salt, sugar and gin. Coat the salmon with the cure, put in an airtight container, and leave in a fridge for 10-30 hours. 
  3. To make the tonic gel, blend the tonic water with the 100g of pickled lemon, 100ml of pickling liquor from the pickled lemons and 50ml water until smooth and pass through a fine sieve. There will be pieces of the blended lemon left in the sieve, which is fine. Heat the liquid until it is simmering and add the gelatin, sugar and salt (adjust the amount of gelatin according to  pack instructions depending on how much liquid you have). Transfer to a tray to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Once set blend the gel to a purée type consistency and transfer to a piping bag. You can use a zip freezer bag if you don’t have a piping one, cutting off the corner when plating. 
  4. To compress the cucumber, slice length ways along the cucumber into 0.5cm slices, discarding any pieces with seeds. Transfer to a bag with the olive oil and salt and seal, making  every effort to  remove all the air from the bag. Reserve in the fridge for 2–3 hours before dicing into cubes.
  5. To make the dill mayonnaise, blitz the dill with the oil until smooth then hang through muslin. Whisk together the egg yolk, vinegar and mustard and slowly drizzle in the dill oil until emulsified. You can use a hand blender rather than whisking, making sure the blender is in a snug cylinder of the mixture. Season to taste – it will take a good pinch of salt.
  6. When ready to serve, rinse the salmon well and dry on kitchen paper. Taste it as it will be delicious. Cut into a 1cm dice, discarding some of the edges if they are too salty.
  7. To plate, arrange the around 8 salmon pieces alongside the cucumber dice and pipe dots of the dill mayonnaise and tonic gel on top. Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and garnish with dill sprigs.