Kate Walsh established Real Food Projects in 2012 to change the way people approach food. “We’ve been conditioned to think cooking from scratch is too hard, that we don’t have time for it,” she says. “Modern-day eating habits have led to a broken food system and affected the environment, and the only way to fix this is by going back to the kitchen.”

Walsh’s first cookbook, Real Food Projects – 30 Skills and 46 Recipes from Scratch, was released in April. It discusses leaving behind your supermarket, appreciating the story of what’s on your plate and learning to tackle making food from scratch.

“Gravlax is an really awesome dish because not only it is really simple to make but extremely impressive when you bring it out at a party,” says Walsh. “I love making a big platter of homemade crackers, labne, spicy greens and thin slices of gravlax. Crack open a cold bottle of dry white wine and there’s your party.”

This recipe is definitely easier than it seems at first glance. Walsh has a few tips: “The longer you leave it, the firmer it will get, so this part is up to you. If you don’t have lemon or dill, don’t stress. It tastes just as good without it.” Lastly: “If you are finding it hard to cut, put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes and it will become firmer and easier to slice thinly.”

Makes 800g

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp sea salt
140g granulated white sugar
2 bunches dill
zest of 1 lemon
800g very fresh salmon fillet, 4cm (1½ inches) thick, with the skin on and all the small bones removed (use tweezers)

EQUIPMENT

small bowl
kitchen string
baking dish with sides
baking paper
weights, such as tins of tomatoes or small beer bottles
chopping board
very sharp knife

Assemble the cure and dish. Combine the salt and sugar in a small bowl. Lay three long bits of kitchen string over a baking dish, across the two long sides of the dish, spaced evenly apart. Drape a large piece of baking paper over the dish, making sure there is a generous overhang. Spread half the dill over the paper, then sprinkle with half the sugar-and-salt mixture, then half the lemon zest.

Coat the fish. Sit the salmon on top of the paper, skin side down. Evenly sprinkle the rest of the sugar-and-salt mixture over the salmon, then top with the remaining dill and lemon zest. The fish should be well covered.

Wrap it tightly. Pull the edges of the baking paper over the fish and wrap it up like a present, tying with the strings.

Weigh it down. Grab two tins of tomatoes or small bottles of beer and place on top of the salmon. Weighing the fish down is not absolutely necessary, but will give a firmer gravlax that will be easier to slice.

Cure in the fridge. Place in the fridge for 24 hours, turning once after 12 hours, and emptying the liquid that collects in the bottom of the dish.

Remove after 24–48 hours. When the fish feels firm to touch, take it out of the fridge. This recipe is not an exact science – the fish is safe to eat at any stage, so just remove when you think it is firm enough for you. This could be anywhere between 24 and 48 hours.

Get it ready to slice. Unwrap the fish. Remove the dill and lemon-zest strips, then scrape off the curing mix. You can wash the salmon if you like, but it isn’t necessary.

Slice and serve. Place the fish on a chopping board. Using a very sharp knife, slice it very thinly on the diagonal; the skin will help keep it in place as you slice. (If you’re finding it hard to get thin slices, wrap the fish in foil and freeze for 10 minutes to firm it up.) Once it has cured, the gravlax will keep for up to three days in the fridge.

Serving suggestions:

Load up a bagel with gravlax, labne or cream cheese, and a sprinkling of capers and dill.

Grab some white bread, butter it liberally, and layer it with gravlax. Remove the crusts and serve next to your cucumber sandwiches at high tea.

Layer gravlax on top a bowl of brown rice, crunchy seasonal salad greens, roasted almonds, torn pieces of nori, handfuls of herbs like coriander and mint, and a dressing with equal parts lemon juice, tamari and extra-virgin olive oil.