The persimmon, or sharon fruit, is a strange creature. Every time anyone comes round and spies them in my fruit bowl (I say bowl...I have three fruit bowls, such is my addiction to this most wonderful of food groups), they ask what they are, and then without fail respond to my reply with "Oh. They look like orange tomatoes". They are, of course, correct: the sharon fruit does resemble an orange tomato. In fact, its texture is rather tomato-like: the centre, when ripe, has that soft, jelly-like consistency that you find within very ripe tomatoes. The skin is tougher and more grainy, though. It's hard to describe their flavour, but it has hints of peach and mango. I'd probably say it is closest in likeness to a papaya. They're not as tart as a lot of fruit, and are oddly satisfying to eat, as the crunch of the skin gives way to the jelloid centre. I normally just eat them whole, but having spied an interesting-looking recipe thought I'd have a go at pairing them with more savoury flavours. I can't really say I "cooked with" them for the first time, as this recipe involves no actual cooking. Still, it's a bit of a taste sensation and one I was pleasantly surprised by.
This salad comprises raw salmon, avocado, persimmon and leaves with a deliciously hot, salty, sweet and sour dressing. There's lime juice, which works well with both salmon and avocado, and I have now discovered goes very well with persimmon too. All that is required is to mix up the dressing, slice up the fruit and fish, get some salad leaves out of a bag, and mix it all together. You end up with a dish that is more than the sum of its parts.
I bought two fresh salmon fillets from the fishmonger, and sliced them thinly horizontally. I admit, I nibbled quite a few pieces in the process. I love the flavour of raw salmon; you get a delicious smooth, slippery, almost buttery texture that is missing from the grainy flakiness of cooked salmon (though I love it cooked too). If you don't want to eat raw fish, or can't guarantee that the fish is fresh enough (I wouldn't make this with supermarket salmon), just use smoked salmon, though I do love the action of slicing through a fresh fillet of salmon. It's like cutting through butter with a hot knife. The fillets are also beautiful, their coral colour dappled with veins of white fat. You can practically feel the omega-3 oils oozing out from under your fingers as you handle it.
The dressing combines rice vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, fresh ginger, ginger syrup, red chilli, rapeseed oil and lime juice. It's an excellent combination, providing a tanginess that works well with the rather rich flavours of salmon and avocado. It also goes well with the jelloid sweetness of the persimmon. I love salads with that combination of hot, sour, salty and sweetness to them; I had a green papaya salad at a Thai restaurant that had the same delicious balance (though the heat was rather too much for me...)
A few leaves (I used rocket, spinach and watercress) and some toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over complete the dish. I love the colours on the plate: the pastel of the salmon and avocado with the fierce marigold of the persimmon, and then the dark leaves, is a combination that pleases the eyes almost as much as the palate. And please the palate it certainly does; it's immensely refreshing but somehow feels like a big treat, because of the rich oiliness of the fish and avocado.
You can't help but feel incredibly healthy eating this. I served it with a loaf of home-made rye bread, just in case it wasn't filling enough. If you're having something "calorific and squidgy" (to quote one of my friends) for dessert, then you might not need bread at all. This is a light meal, though, and a good one if you've overindulged the night before. It's also a good one to rustle up if you're sitting your Finals any time soon, which I know a lot of my friends are. If you're reading this, I'd be happy to make this salad for you any time. Both salmon and avocado are full of good fats, which help your brain power (I still maintain that my getting a First in my finals was wholly due to daily consumption of mackerel over a three-week period).
Raw salmon, avocado and persimmon salad (serves 3-4):
For the dressing:
3cm cube fresh ginger, grated
6 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp ginger syrup (from a jar of stem ginger balls in syrup)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or another flavourless oil)
Juice of half a lime
Half a red chilli, finely chopped (or more if you like heat)
400g very fresh salmon fillets
2 ripe avocadoes
Watercress and rocket
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 lime, cut into wedges.
For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together. Taste - you might want a little more soy or lime juice, depending on how you feel.
Thinly slice the salmon with a very sharp knife. Slice the avocadoes and sprinkle with lime juice to stop them discolouring. Thinly slice the persimmons after removing the stalk and leaves. Arrange on a plate.
Toss the salad leaves with some of the dressing and place on the plate. Drizzle over a bit more dressing (you can leave some on the table for people to help themselves), and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Serve with lime wedges, and if the idea of a meal without carbohydrate scares you, some bread or rice.
(Adapted from a Diana Henry recipe in the Telegraph, here).