pour some sugar on me

Depending on what angle I look at it from, I have either had a terrible or a lovely week. Yes, I did faint at the gym, acquire a bellicose case of bad brains (you know, feeling down), get carsick, have very broken sleep every night, bite my nails too much, and have my laptop break down at lavish expense one week after our car did the same. And we’re still not allowed a pet cat, which hurts my heart so (this isn’t news, but I still feel injuriously inclined to bring it up occasionally.) But I also went to a restaurant opening and mingled with nice people and had cool cocktails, drank lots of coffee with Tim, had a swell Saturday night drinking beers with friends, read two novels (Scoop by Evelyn Waugh and Orlando by Virginia Woolf and yes I would like to talk about them), went to book group, saw a tragic French film with a friend and went out for yakitori afterwards with her husband and Tim, saw two further tragic foreign films with Tim, and made this sugar-cured salmon very successfully for Sunday’s dinner. I was resigned to the salmon perhaps inevitably failing, at least, it wouldn’t have surprised me after the week I’d had. But it worked, just how it should! I did, however, screw up the risotto that I’d hoped would accompany it. Like the universe was saying “you’re still you”. But then I decided that the risotto would’ve been too rich anyway, and the bulghur wheat that I hastily cooked up instead was a much better accompaniment, and we had the risotto for lunch the next day, like I was saying to the universe “how you like me NOW (please don’t drop an anvil on my head)”

So yes, the sugar-cured salmon: it worked. And it can work for you, too! It sounds really fancy but there’s really nothing to it, which is something I rather like in a recipe. I found this recipe in Kinfolk magazine, which is this beautiful publication full of beautiful people living beautiful, instagrammable lives. The juxtaposition of intimidating-sounding title and very straightforward method rather appealed, and also I just don’t cook fish as much as I ought, considering how it’s so fast and can handle so many different flavours and makes your hair shiny.

I was a little concerned that the sugar would seep too far into the fibre of the salmon and I would end up with dinner that thinks it’s pudding, and tastes like neither. Luckily it simply tasted…wondrous. You sit it in some salt and sugar (and I added a pinch of mustard powder, which I couldn’t taste in the slightest by the end so you do what you like) for a couple of hours, shunt it under a hot grill for single digit minutes, and then suddenly you have tender, satin-rich salmon, which has the barest hint of sweetness to it and a kind of rounded mellow juiciness, and that’s all. A little more sugar got caught in the butter that I added before I grilled the salmon, but bizarrely it tasted kind of amazing once it had caramelised and didn’t overpower it with sweetness at all.

sugar-cured grilled salmon

adapted from a recipe from Kinfolk magazine by Tara O’Brady and Nikole Herriott. Thanks for the inspiration, Tara and Nikole! Salmon is so rich and oily that I can’t eat too much of it, so this amount was perfect for two of us. But adjust quantities to suit.

250g salmon fillet, skin on. Boned or not, it’s up to you. We went for bone in, as it was about ten dollars cheaper per kilo, and only came close to choking us about seven times. 
A handful of sugar
two big pinches of sea salt (you only need the plainest sugar for this, so try to get hold of some fancy sea salt if you can, but if you can’t, just use a reasonable shake of salt for each side.)
1 teaspoon mustard powder (as I said, you can’t really taste it at the end. So leave it out if you like.)

Place half the sugar and salt in a bowl that will fit the piece of salmon, and lay said salmon skin down on it. Sprinkle over the rest, evenly. And the mustard powder, if you’re using it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

Turn your oven to grill and let it heat up well. Take the salmon and carefully, briefly rinse it under a cold tap, patting dry with a paper towel. Place it skin side down in a roasting dish, dot with a little butter (maybe 25g?) and grill for about four minutes. Carefully flip it over, and grill for another two or three minutes. Serve, with or without ruined risotto as you please.

The salmon goes from brightly luminous orange to pastel pink as it cures then cooks. Like eating a sunset, you sybaritic creature you.

 Lemon wedges and salmon: friendly.

My life is instagrammable too? Also note the taco pickles, proving their worth as an ideal side for salmon. Also, the salmon’s skin goes crunchy and crispy under the grill and tastes excellent. Steal it all for yourself, if you can. 

I’m not focussing too much on the laptop situation, which is possibly my brain going into a protective exoskeleton mode. Because if I really thought long and hard about every photo that’s on its hard drive and all the information scattered recklessly on the desktop that I stand to lose, and have to pay a lot of money to find out either way, I might cry. During the day, for hours. What I am focussing on is the other thing in my life right now: my cookbook is out on shelves on the 23rd of this month. It’s literally happening this month. It’s a real thing. Oh my. It’s so exciting, in a physical, heart-racingly, spine-pricklingly thrilling kind of way. It’s also very overwhelming. There’s so much to do! So much to organise! So many things to try and make appear out of nowhere! So much to just…take in. Most of it very cool. And so you know, because it is pretty interesting – I hope – I will be talking a bit more about the book over the next couple of weeks and how you can find it and perhaps how it can find you (I’m talking competitions, yo) and what you can expect from it and probably just lots more run-on sentences like this, really.

Whatever happens with this book, I truly love it. I was scared I wouldn’t, but I do, and I’m very sure you will too.
title via: Pour Some Sugar On Me, by Def Leppard. The lyrics are bananas, the tune is so deliciously catchy. And um, Tom Cruise’s rendition in Rock of Ages is so super hot (um, sorry Hannah for mentioning him again.)
Music lately:

Gil Scott-Heron, Lady Day and John Coltrane. So beautiful.

Sleigh Bells, Crown on the Ground. I saw The Bling Ring tonight and it reminded me how much I like this song and its big bratty beat.
Next time: Whether or not the photos of it are recovered on the laptop (shudder) I will blog about lemon cake with white chocolate buttercream!

2 thoughts on “pour some sugar on me

  1. Sophie says:

    Can I please make a recommendation so I don't have to imagine the horror of you two near-choking-to-death on salmon bones? Take some tweezers – either the ones you use for your eyebrows (maybe sterilise them in a flame or boiling water first if you're thingee about that sort of thing) or some fancy chef tweezers (my cheffy boy has a set of these in his knife kit. But for those of us who don't have a knife kit… eyebrow tweezers are fine) – and YANK THOSE BONES OUT! Seriously, it takes about five minutes, and they're all helpfully in a nice tidy line and evenly spaced so they're easy to find and then you don't have to worry yourselves or your readers about accidental salmon-bone death.
    Also, So! Excited! About! Your! Book!


  2. Hannah says:

    Babe, you're an amazing lady, AND you have a COOKBOOK COMING OUT (I know you know that, clearly, so the caps is more just to reinforce how exciting it is for the rest of us), so you aren't allowed to say that a recipe not working is “you being you”. That's the antithesis of you, silly (beloved) head.

    Also, I'm glad there was such joy in your week. It's always the ups and the downs, isn't it? It's life. It's why I spent a gorgeous two hours lying on the grass in the park in the summer warmth yesterday, alternately reading/dozing/then walking, thinking about how lovely it was then proceeded to dash home and cry in my room because there were couples everywhere.

    We need to appreciate all of it, because it makes life amazing ultimately.

    Love your face. x


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