Carpaccio is a brilliant choice of starter or snack if you’re on a low-carb or diabetic regime. I’m always astonished when people tell me they don’t fancy carpaccio, because to my mind the combination of rosy leaves of beef fillet, sharp salty Parmesan shavings, fruity olive oil and a spritz of lemon juice is the food of the gods. It may seem like heresy to tinker with this formula by using a zippy Asian dressing, but the result is sensational. Follow my measurements to the letter, though, because the punchy ingredients will overpower the delicate meat if they’re not used with restraint.
It’s impossible to produce paper-thin slices of carpaccio at home unless you have an industrial slicing machine, or you freeze the fillet first. I don’t have the former and won’t ruin the texture of the meat by doing the latter, so my solution is to flatten the leaves of fillet with a rolling pin.
I usually make this with beef, but it’s also excellent with good-quality venison fillets. In these pictures, I used gemsbok from the Gardens Continental Butchery in Kloof Street, which was as tender as a baby’s cheek.
Strew the top of the dish with any tiny leaves or micro-herbs you can find – I used the tiniest flat-leaf parsley leaves, from the heart of a plant that cheekily seeded itself in a crack between two paving stones in my garden.
The recipe contains a very small amount of sugar (essential to create the perfect hot-sour-sweet-salty balance that characterises Thai food) but if you’re on a punishing no-carb regime, you can leave this out. Or add a whisper of your favourite sugar substitute.
This recipe – which serves 6-8 as a starter – comes from my book Scrumptious: Food for Family and Friends, and is reproduced here courtesy of Random House Struik.
If you like this recipe, try my low-carb Halloumi and Beef Carpaccio Salad with Crisp-Fried Capers, and Low-Carb Seared Tuna with a Burnt Tomato & Caper Dressing.
Seared Beef or Venison ‘Carpaccio’ with a Thai-Style Dressing
750 g fillet steak, or the equivalent weight of venison fillet
a little olive oil, for rubbing
4 tsp (20 ml) oil, for frying
small herb leaves, for garnish
white and black sesame seeds, for garnish
For the dressing
2 limes (see Cook’s Notes, below)
1 tsp (5 ml) white sugar
3-cm piece of lemon grass, bruised, peeled and finely sliced
1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated palm sugar (or ordinary sugar)
1 tsp (5 ml) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) fish sauce
2 drops sesame oil
Rub a little olive oil all over the fillet. Wrap the meat lengthways in a large sheet of clingfilm and twist the ends in opposite directions to create a tight Christmas-cracker shape. Tuck the ends underneath and chill for at least 2 hours, or until needed.
Heat the oil in a large pan and, when it is blazing hot (but not yet smoking), quickly brown the meat on all sides. This should take no more than 2-3 minutes – less, if you have a slim venison fillet – and the meat should remain quite raw inside. Place in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes.
Cut the fillet into slices 3-4 mm thick. Place the slices between two sheets of clingfilm and use a rolling pin to thin and gently stretch the meat to the desired thickness. Alternatively, you can use the back of the blade of a heavy knife to stretch and flatten the slices.
To make the dressing, cut the limes in half and dip the cut end in the white sugar. Place them, sugar-side down, in a hot non-stick frying pan. Cook until the cut surface is nicely browned and caramelised. (If you’re on a sugar-free regime, leave out this step and squeeze the lime juice directly into the dressing.)
Cool the limes for a few minutes, then squeeze the warm juice into the jug attachment of a stick blender. Add all the remaining dressing ingredients and whizz at high speed until well combined. The dressing should be slightly coarse, with tiny ‘bits’. If you don’t have a blender, very finely slice the ingredients and pound everything together with a mortar and pestle before whisking in the liquid dressing ingredients.
Spread a little dressing on the base of a platter or several smaller plates. Arrange the meat slices on top and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Strew over the herb leaves, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Serves 8 as a starter.
The fillet can be seared, sliced and refrigerated, and the dressing made, up to 3 hours in advance, but put them together just before you serve the dish or the dressing will ‘cook’ the fillet. If you can’t find fresh limes, use lemons instead.
Michael’s wine recommendation – click here
Jane-Anne Hobbs is a food writer de luxe. Recipe developer and photographer, she has written a stunning cookbook Scrumptious, click here to read my review. Always on the look out for low carb dishes, she has latterly come up with some stunners, and this is one of them.
CLICK HERE to go to her website.