A lime and ponzu dressed salmon carpaccio
Valentine’s Day – celebrate it because you want to and not because the calendar tells you to…
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which I and many others I know cynically call Hallmark Day. I personally don’t believe that we need a special day to celebrate love when we should be celebrating it every moment of every day, whenever possible. However, the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day is impossible to ignore.
My husband and I normally just prepare a special meal, which is silly because since we both love food, preparing special meals is kind of what we do every day anyway.
However, we won’t be cooking this year. A new French restaurant has opened in Godalming and we’ve decided to try it out (but we’re passing on the special Valentine’s Day menu offered and are opting to try what’s on the a la carte instead). We have many French friends and are often in France, so I hope this restaurant lives up to its supposed French roots.
But all this thinking about Valentine’s Day did make me want to come up with something special this weekend especially since we weren’t going to be cooking on Tuesday, and this salmon carpaccio is the result. I made it on Saturday for my husband, and it’s particularly special because it’s associated with both a very dark but also a hugely important time in my past…
Memories of life and food
14 years ago, I almost left the UK after just 3 months here.
Without boring you with all the gory details, I had just arrived from Singapore and found a job with a PR agency in London. I accepted a demotion – I had been an account manager in Singapore – but only on the proviso that I would be bumped back up to my right level if I proved I could also cut it in London.
The work wasn’t the problem… my colleagues at the time where.
They made my first few months in this country a living hell, and they were hateful. They (and unfortunately they were all women), did everything to make my life miserable, and I ended up crying many a night because London at that time seemed like a horrendous place, full of unfriendly and nasty people with hard hearts.
My husband offered to move us back to Asia again, and I seriously thought about leaving but I was stubborn, so I decided I would toughen up, ignore my colleagues, and just focus on doing a damn good job. In fact, I decided I would do an even better job than any of my colleagues could manage, and that’s exactly what I did.
I did eventually win most of my colleagues over and those that were horrible to me left anyway, especially when I got my first promotion 9 months later.
I couldn’t have done it without an amazing client though. My first account was for an American tech company, an unknown in Europe. Within 6 months, I’d made sure every tech mag knew and wrote about them. In under a year, they went from being an unknown tech company to coming top in every review around.
To thank me, my client offered to take me and my husband out to dinner. He’d booked a table at Nobu, one of the swankiest restaurants in London.
We got absolutely legless that night, drinking endless bottles of sake and eating dish after amazing dish of modern Japanese food. Through my drunken haze, one dish stood out; a salmon carpaccio that was dressed in a sharp, salty but sweet marinade that almost lightly cooked the raw salmon as we ate it.
I’ve always wanted to recreate that dish but because we were so drunk, I couldn’t even remember how it tasted.
This weekend, I made up a marinade of my own, like my own oriental style ceviche, influenced by a number of different styles of salmon carpaccio I’ve had in restaurants since that visit to Nobu.
I’m sorry I took such a long-winded route to get to this recipe today, but this dish evoked all of those memories from long ago.
I’ve come a long way since those dark days and I’m at peace with my past.
London, like most big cities, can be harsh but if one can tough it out, one can find the nice people that live and work in it too, and I have found many of them whom I’m honoured to call my friends.
It helps that I’m a lot older now too and, basically, I really don’t give a sh*t what people think of me anymore as long as I’m happy with what I do, and I’m very, very happy with how this dish turned out.
It, like the dinner my client took us too, is a celebration; of where I am today – trying to eat a little bit more healthily when I can, keeping things simple, and loving what I do, whether that’s in the kitchen or at work.
Happy Valentine’s Day for tomorrow and enjoy the rest of the week.
Lots of love
Lime and ponzu dressed salmon carpaccio (serves 2 people as a starter or 2 as a light supper)
1 large uncooked salmon fillet, skin removed and sliced as thinly as possible
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 Finely chopped lime zest
A drop of sesame oil (and I really do mean a drop)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1 handful baby watercress leaves (or pea shoots if you can get hold of them)
To put the dish together, first slice the raw salmon as thinly as possible and lay them out flat on a plate.
Mix all of the liquid ingredients together for the marinade, toast the sesame seeds and then add them to your marinade, along with the chopped chives.
Grab a small bunch of baby watercress leaves and place them on top of the raw salmon.
10-15 minutes before you wish to eat, drizzle a generous amount of the lime and ponzu marinade all over your fish, and allow your salmon carpaccio to sit in the marinade (in a cool place but not in the fridge) for at least 10 minutes before eating.