If you're looking for something a little beyond the ordinary for Easter, these two recipes will fit the bill beautifully. They're easy to make and delicious to the last bite. My Scandinavian-inspired beetroot gravlax is the perfect starter for an Easter gathering — the flavour is surprisingly mild and the ribbons of graduating purple are nothing short of magical. The second recipe is my baked snapper with preserved lemon pesto. It looks impressive, is so simple to prepare and you'll be making it year after year.
Styling, words and photographs by Elisabeth Chieng of The Gluten Free Table.
Beetroot cured gravlax
Starting this recipe three days ahead to cure the salmon means minimal effort come Easter.
3 (about 300 gm) small beetroots, peeled and grated
1/3 cup caster sugar
250 gm coarse salt
1/3 cup gin
2 lemons, zested
5 juniper berries, crushed
2 bunches dill, leaves and stems finely chopped
1 side of salmon, skin on, with tail end removed, pin-boned
To make the marinade, place the grated beetroot, sugar, salt, gin, lemon zest, juniper berries and dill in a bowl and stir until combined. Place salmon, skin side down, in a large glass baking dish. Using disposable gloves, gently massage a third of the marinade into the flesh, then cover with plastic wrap, and place a weight on top of the salmon to compress it. Refrigerate for an additional two days, draining off liquid each day and massaging an additional third of the marinade into the skin each time. The longer you cure the salmon, the firmer the fish and deeper its colouring will be. So divide your marinade according to how many days you want to cure the fish for. Once you’re happy, drain off the liquid and wipe the salmon with paper towel to remove excess mixture.
Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the salmon, removing the skin as you go. Scatter with extra dill or micro herbs and serve with bread, pickled cucumbers and crème fraiche dressing.
Store additional gravlax, unsliced and wrapped in plastic wrap in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Crème fraiche dressing
½ cup crème fraîche
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, dill, and/or tarragon, plus tarragon and dill sprigs for serving
Whisk crème fraîche, Dijon mustard and chopped herbs in a small bowl. Season with salt.
Quick pickled cucumber
1 Lebanese cucumber
90 ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
For quick pickled cucumber, slice the cucumbers lengthways on the thinnest setting of a mandolin. Discard the ends and then combine ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, season to taste and set aside to pickle (10-15 minutes).
Baked snapper with preserved lemon pesto
Anyone who thinks cooking with fish is too difficult needs to try this simple, show stopping baked snapper with preserved lemon pesto. Make the pesto a couple of days beforehand to cut down on preparation on the day.
3 preserved lemon wedges, flesh removed and discarded
1 cup (firmly packed) basil
30 gm parmesan cheese
A handful roasted Australian almonds
100 ml good quality olive oil
1 kg red snapper, or barramundi, gutted and cleaned with the head removed
Heat the oven to 200°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Combine the preserved lemon wedges, basil, parmesan and almonds in a food processor and pulse until evenly puréed. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle the oil and process until mixture resembles a thick pesto, about two minutes. Add more oil if necessary.
Rinse fish inside and out, then pat dry with paper towel. Season all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread herb mixture inside the fish and close securely with butcher’s twine or toothpicks.
Cut a piece of baking paper long enough to enclose the fish and place on a baking tray. Drizzle the baking paper with oil. Place fish on the baking paper and fold the baking paper over, securing loosely with twine. Don’t wrap the fish too tightly — leave some room around it. Roast fish in the oven until flesh is white and firm to the touch, about 40 minutes. Serve immediately, alongside the preserved lemon and buckwheat salad.
Preserved lemon and buckwheat salad
300 gm buckwheat
60 gm almonds, coarsely chopped
100 gm mixed tender leaves
½ cup (firmly packed) coriander, roughly chopped
Seeds from ½ pomegranate
80 ml (1/3 cup) chardonnay vinegar
60 gm caster sugar
Peel from ½ preserved lemon, rinsed and finely chopped
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
For the salad, place the buckwheat into a large pan and dry roast the groats for roughly five minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add walnuts and stir occasionally until golden, about two to four minutes.
For preserved lemon vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, sugar and preserved lemon in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, then simmer for roughly two minutes or until the mixture has a nice balance of sweet, sour and salt. Set aside to cool, then add olive oil and season to taste. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, add dressing and almonds, toss to combine and serve.