Salmon Pastirma and Baby Zucchini

Somon Pastirma

This is an example of the new Turkish cooking. When you say pastırma to traditional Turks, they think beef. But the word simply means ‘pressed’, so there’s nothing to prevent you from wrapping the wonderful paste around any form of protein.

Since the process involves leaving the protein to dry for at least a week, you need to be careful if you’re using seafood. For me, the fish that works best is salmon—it can absorb the flavours of the paste while retaining its own.

Unlike beef pastırma , somon pastırma is kept in the fridge during the drying process, which means the coating will stay moist and crumble away when you’re slicing the salmon. This is a good thing—it’s the salmon you want to eat, not the wrapper.

Because somon pastırma has a strong taste, I decided to accompany it with the simple freshness of raw zucchini.

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Ingredients

Cured Salmon

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) sashimi-grade salmon fillet
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) rock salt
  • 440 g (15½ oz/2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons ground fenugreek
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Zucchini And Dill Topping

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) small zucchini (courgettes)
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons dried yoğurt cheese (or crumbly feta)
  • 2 dill stalks, picked and chopped

Method

Place the salmon (which should already be skinned and filleted) on a board and remove any small bones, blood lines and white pieces of fat.

Spread a tea towel (dish towel) over a cake rack (or steamer tray or large colander). Sit the rack on top of a baking tray or large pan. You will use this for the drying process.

Mix the rock salt and caster sugar together in a bowl. Spread half the rock-salt mixture onto the towel-covered rack, about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Put the salmon fillet in the middle of the rack and cover it thoroughly with the rest of the rock salt mixture. Fold the muslin cloth over the top of the salt. Place a flat-bottomed tray over the salmon with a 3 kg (6 lb 12 oz) weight on top (using anything from a bag of potatoes to the Oxford Dictionary), to flatten out the salmon as it dries. Place the baking tray in the fridge and rest for 2 days.

Take the salmon out of the fridge, wash the salt off and plunge in iced water. Rest the salmon (in the water) in the fridge for 1 day.

Remove the salmon and pat dry. Put the salmon on a rack with a drip tray underneath and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the salmon over and return to the fridge for one more day.

Meanwhile, make the paste. Mix the garlic and spices and salt together in a blender to make a thick paste. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle about ½ teaspoon of water into the mix.

Remove the salmon from the fridge and coat it with the paste, making sure every part is completely covered. Put the salmon on the cake rack with the tray underneath, but without the muslin cloth, and return to the fridge for at least another 48 hours.

When you are ready to serve, finely slice the zucchini lengthways. Place in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, lemon juice and yoğurt cheese. Finely chop the dill and then add to the zucchini mixture. Thinly slice the somon pastırma, diagonally, to make at least 24 slices, and serve with the topping.

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