For me, this dish encapsulates all the flavours of the Agean. When eating it, make sure you spread the salt and vinegar jelly over the salmon as it really intensifies the flavour. All the components can be done well ahead of time, making it the perfect showstopper entrée for entertaining.
Carrot and cardamom-cured salmon
- 5 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 275 g (1 cup) table salt
- 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 75 g (¾ cup) green cardamom pods, cracked open and toasted
- 1 side salmon, pin boned, skin and bloodline removed
Salt and vinegar jelly
- 250 ml (1 cup) sherry vinegar
- pinch of sea salt flakes
- 500 ml (2 cups) sugar syrup (see Note)
- 15 g agar agar powder
- 250 g tennis ball-sized beetroots (or 300 g cooked)
- 300 g (1 cup) rock salt
- 1 egg
- 5 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 40 g Dijon mustard
- 50 ml lemon juice
- 300 ml vegetable oil
- 300 ml olive oil
- 1 corn cob, kernels removed, cob reserved
- 500 ml (2 cups) water
- 1 bay leaf, torn
- drizzle of olive oil
- ½ small brown onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 75 ml thickened cream
- 250 g Japanese pumpkin, peeled and seeded
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 75 ml thickened cream
- 100 ml chardonnay vinegar
- 100 g brown sugar
- 4 small bulbs baby fennel, halved with 4-6 cm of stem left on
- splash of extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of sea salt flakes
Olive oil powder
- 25 ml olive oil
- 25 g Maltosec (see Note)
- samphire and fennel fronds
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling/freezing time 3-4 hours
To make the cured salmon, using a high-powered food processor, puree the carrots, salt, sugar and cardamom until smooth. Place the salmon in a ceramic or glass dish, pour over the carrot mixture, turn to coat well, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Rinse the cure off the salmon, pat-dry, then cut into 1 cm-thick slices.
Meanwhile, to make the salt and vinegar jelly, place the vinegar, sugar syrup and agar agar in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring continuously for 5 minutes or until the mixture comes to a simmer. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour into a lightly greased, flat dish so that it is about 2 cm-deep. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set. Turn out the jelly onto a chopped board and cut into 2 cm cubes. Refrigerate until needed. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes just before serving.
To make the beetroot mayo, preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the beetroot on a rock salt lined baking tray and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel the beetroots, then puree the flesh until smooth. Cool. Place the egg and egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice in a food processor and combine well. With the motor running, gradually add the oil, drop by drop at first and then in a slow, steady stream until emulsified. Season to taste. Makes about 650 ml. Combine equal quantities of beetroot puree and mayonnaise and place in a squeeze bottle, then refrigerate until needed. Reserve the left over mayonnaise for another use.
To make the corn puree, place the stripped cobs, water and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. In another saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and corn kernels and cook for 5 minutes or until soft and caramelised. While the corn is cooking, add the stock, little by little, until the corn is tender. Place the corn in a high-powered blender, add the cream and puree until smooth. Season to taste, then pass through a fine sieve. Place in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.
To make the pumpkin puree, grate the pumpkin using the largest holes of a cheese grater. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the pumpkin, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender, add the cream and process until smooth. Season to taste, then pass through a fine sieve. Place in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until needed.
To make the pickling liquid, place the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool. Cook the fennel halves in lightly salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain and refresh in iced water. Just before serving, toss in a little of the pickling liquid, then drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and season to taste. Allow to cool and keep refrigerated until needed.
To make the olive oil powder, combine both ingredients in a bowl and stir until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
To serve, place a slice of salmon on each plate, then place generous dots of each of the purees parallel to the salmon. Add a cube of jelly and halve a bulb of pickled fennel. Scatter with samphire and fennel fronds and finish with a spoonful of olive oil powder. Serve immediately.
• To make sugar syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and cool.
• Maltosec, also known as maltodextrin, is a powder derived from tapioca. It has the ability to absorb fats and convert them into a paste or powder. It is also used as a bulking agent and to stabilise high fat ingredients. Available from specialist food stores.