NIK PICKS AND CHILL
These two recipes are from fellow food writer Nik Sharma, who knows that the fridge can also be a “cooking” tool.
NIK’S TEA AND CORIANDER GRAVLAX 1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
Alot of what I do seems to involve an almost stalker-ish level of interest in fellow food writers around the world.
I hold a lot of importance in and love to see what is going on elsewhere; you’ll often hear me gushing about the Nigel Slaters and the Fergus Hendersons; lamented greats AA Gill and (of course) Bourdain; and other lovelies such as Rosie Sykes, Felicity Cloake, Felicity Spector (why are so many food writers called Felicity?), and Diana Henry, to name a few. One of my absolute favourite favourites is Nik Sharma. A boy from Mumbai, India, who worked his butt off to get a college scholarship in the US, became a molecular geneticist and then, against all advice, turned his back on a lucrative career in medical research to become a food writer and photographer. He began a blog, A Brown
1 tbsp Pernod or vodka
Table, and, in his own words, he went for risk over predictability and creativity over stability. In our line of work, this is a difficult balance; you want to inspire without being intimidating, to offer up something that is different yet accessible. And boy, does he nail it. He’s the weekly columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle, and his food… well. Beautiful, fresh, generous, awe-inspiring stuff that is, above all else, emanating the sort of warmth and love that is rare in journalism nowadays.
As I write this, I’m preparing to host him here in Auckland. This is a big deal for me. Keep an eye out for his book, Season. It’s pretty lovely. These two recipes come from him, with love. It’s my sort of food.
This is by far one of the best takes on gravlax I’ve ever eaten. The flavour of the tea is sensational, but mix it up a bit if you fancy – lapsang souchong will give you a smokier end result, if you’re into that. I wouldn’t recommend washing the cure off entirely when you go to serve it; just gently scrape as much of it as you can – you want a bit of the residue there for flavour and visual effect.
Serve by cutting into paper-thin slices – you may want to fold into the cucumber salad for a cooling lunch dish; or serve on toasted sourdough with a bit of red onion and a dab of aioli or horseradish sauce.
Prep time: 15 mins Curing time: 1-2 days Serves: 4
2½ tbsp Darjeeling tea leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
90g coarse Himalayan pink salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
450g fresh salmon fillet, boned, skin on
In a mortar and pestle or food processor, combine the tea, peppercorns and coriander seeds and grind up or process until you have a coarse powder. Mix in the salt, sugar and lemon zest.
Lay out a large sheet of tin foil and place the salmon skinside-down on top of it. Drizzle over the Pernod or vodka, then spread the salt mix over the top, making sure the fish is covered entirely. Wrap the foil tightly around
everything into a firm little parcel, then place in a dish with sides, weigh down with a few cans or a bottle of wine, and pop in the fridge to cure for 36-48 hours, moving the fish once or twice to redistribute the curing mixture. The salmon will be a little firm to the touch once cured. To serve, scrape off the curing mixture (your hands are best for this), and slice at a 45-degree angle. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
This is a nod back to Nik’s childhood in India, where cucumber seasoned with salt, dried chilli flakes and a squeeze of lime is a popular snack in the oppressive summer heat. As well as being quite delicious alongside the gravlax, I would fancy this as a cooling accompaniment to a hot curry, or some grilled lamb, chicken or fish, with a splash of yoghurt on the side. This will respond well to being made and refrigerated an hour or so in advance before serving, so the flavours can get to know one another properly.
SALAD OF CUCUMBER, CUMIN AND LIME
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 2 mins Serves: 4 as a side dish
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large telegraph cucumber, peeled and diced
1 or 2 green chillies, to taste, finely sliced
Handful of mint leaves
Sea salt and pepper, to taste Zest and juice of 1 lime