Beetroot and Kummel Cured Salmon, with a cucumber salad

I was at a shooting party recently and was served beetroot and vodka cured salmon as a starter - it was absolutely delicious.  Light, tangy, the cucumber salad adding a refreshing bite.  I found a number of variations on-line which I've adapted to produce my perfect variation - it's a bit more Scandinavian than the original, and a little more fragrant.

For the salmon
500-600g (1lb 2oz-1lb 5oz) side of salmon, boned, with skin left on
1tbsp coriander seeds
1tbsp fennel seeds
1tbsp caraway seeds
1tbsp cumin seeds
½tsp black peppercorns
2tbsp coarse sea salt
1½tbsp granulated sugar
3tbsp Kummel
zest ½ lemon
150g (5oz) raw beetroot, peeled and grated (wear gloves)
3tbsp grated horseradish
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

For the cucumber salad 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and ribboned
Handful of breakfast radishes, finely sliced (optional)
A few candy beetroot, finely sliced (optional)

For the salad dressing
3tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp caster sugar
3 sprigs dill, roughly chopped 


  • Check the salmon for any small pin bones, and remove with fish tweezers if necessary
  • Mix together the spices, grinding to a not too-fine powder in a pestle and mortar or spice blender
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until evenly distributed
  • If using a chamber vacuum packer, distribute a small amount of the mixture on the bottom of the bag, and put in the salmon fillet, skin side down.  Put the remaining mixture into the bag and seal at normal pressure.  The salmon can remain like this in the fridge for several days.
  • If you don't have a vac-pac, line a baking tray with cling film, and place the salmon fillet onto it, skin side down.  Cover with the marinade, and wrap fully in cling film.  The cure will draw out some of the fish's moisture, and result in a firmer flesh.  To enhance this, you can place another baking sheet on top of the fish and weight it down.  The mixture needs to be left for at least 24 hours, and the colour will develop the longer you leave it.  On colour, you could also consider using golden beetroot at this time of the year, which will give the salmon a brighter colour.
  • Open (or uncover) the fish, and clean off the marinade under cold water... Try to avoid getting too much water into the grain of the fish, and then pat dry with kitchen paper. 
  • Prepare the cucumber by slicing it finely on a mandolin.  Pop it into a colander and sprinkle it with 2tsp of salt.  This will crisp up the cucumber and draw out any excess fluid... Rinse of the cure and dry the cumber (I usually spin mine gently in a salad spinner, rather than squeezing it). 
  • If using the radishes, slice them to a similar thickness on a mandolin or by hand.  They accentuated the pepperiness of the horseradish, and echo the pinkness of the salmon cure 
  • If using the candy beetroot, keep them away from the other ingredients until the last minute, as the colours can leech from the candy stripes
  • Mix together the dressing, and when you're ready to serve, dress the cucumber (and optional elements) with the dressing and leave for 5 minutes.
  • Slice the salmon finely with a salmon knife - do not put your hand on the salmon, and cut the pad off your finger, as I did one Christmas morning!  Serve the salmon and salad together.  You could also grate chilled horseradish over the dish at the last minute - Alain Passard did this on one dish we had, and it made a delightful addition!
This is the slightly spicier cure for the red beetroot salmon 
This is the lighter and more citrussy cure for the golden beetroot cured salmon

The top piece of salmon has the golden beetroot and lighter cure,
the second piece the red beetroot and slightly spicier cure.

The top piece of salmon has the golden beetroot and lighter cure,
the second piece the red beetroot and slightly spicier cure.