Freedom is a State of Me, Myself and Mine – Samke Harra Recipe

Have you ever yearned for freedom? Not the Count of Monte Cristo, I’m free and hell bound kind of freedom, nor the Nelson Mandela, Rebirth of Hope kind either. I’m talking about a freedom of a less significant kind. A silly, wasteful, icantreallybebothered one. You know, the kind where nothing stops you from sitting there looking at your toes for 3 days. Well, 5 weeks ago I handed in my resignation. This Monday was my first day as a free, unemployed man, and I have to tell you, so far, my toes look great!

Some time ago, I decided I need a short career break; a month or two where I don’t have to walk into an office. Not that I hated my job or the people who work there; I actually enjoyed both. I love .Net development as much as your next geek does, and I also consider at least half of my (old) team as good friends (love you guys). But I just needed a break, some time for myself. To do some travelling. To sleep in when I felt like it. To get my car serviced. To take my 5 month old daughter to her swimming lessons on a Wednesday – she’s about to start crawling by the way, God help us. Let’s face it, sometimes, you just need a change –  I needed mine and now it’s here. Though not as redeeming as escaping Shawshank and not as poignant as William Wallace’s great moment, my freedom somehow feels just as important.

Yes, you’re right, I am worried about income. Somehow, I had never associated my work with the paycheck I got. Money seemed incidental to employment, appearing in my bank account as matter of monthly habit, though now I know better. But before the realities of a diminishing bank account start hitting hard, it’s time to celebrate. Samkeh harra, or chilli fish, is one of Lebanon’s celebratory dishes and one of only a handful of fish dishes to ever come out of Lebanon. Think rich, fatty fish (salmon in this case), roasted until just done, smothered with tahini and covered with one of the simplest and best flavour combinations to ever join forces – fresh coriander, roast walnuts and almonds, lemon juice, onions, chilli and olive oil. This is a dish worthy of its own celebration, but is also perfect as one to mark my achievement. On Sunday, I sat and ate with the sun on my shoulders and felt like a free man.

Do you need a career break, or have you taken one already? Share your story and your celebration dish by leaving a comment.

Samke Harra – Chilli Fish Recipe

Salmon: 4 kilo salmon, skin scored, rubbed with salt, pepper and olive oil, covered with aluminium foil at 200c and baked until done (1 hour approx)

Tahini sauce: Mix tahini (1.5 cups), juice of 1 lemon, salt, a crushed garlic clove and add enough water until you have a thick homogenous sauce. Adjust flavours to taste

The herb and nut layer

  • 1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup roasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 4 tabelspoons of olive oil
  • Chilli, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Mix the herb and nut layer’s ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes
  • Remove the skin from the fish, but keep it whole
  • Spread some of the tahini on the top of the fish to cover the side completely
  • Spread the herbs and nuts to completely cover the tahini
  • Serve with a sense of freedom and a beer


  • I think I can relate to what you are saying! This is exactly what I need, today I was telling the girl who works with me that I needed a sabbatical year! Although I just came back from a vacation, it still felt not enough… Maybe just vacation blues.
    I recently made a different version of Samkeh Harra. It required white fish and had tomatoes in. It was a success but I did not take pictures or thought of posting it. After all I was a guest and some courtesy was needed! The fish was a hit though and I was asked for the recipe 😀

  • Clean, piquant simple flavours + beautiful photo ♥
    And I can imagine the textural contrast between the silky salmon flesh and the crisp herbed nut crust.

    Glad to hear you have taken the brave step of freedom and time to just… be. What a precious gift to have given both yourself and your family.

    Thirteen years ago, I ‘packed all my pretty dresses, box’d up my high heeled shoes’ and set off for the far side of the world with my backpack (oh OK, and one nice frock & a Serge Lutens perfume)… led eco-groups in the Costa Brava, taught diving in the Canary Islands and Egypt, ate falude in Esfahan and fesenjan in Rasht and fell in love in Mexico… and never did return to the graphic design industry.

    Now, I work as a chef on a boat in the Caribbean. 🙂

    But I still miss, terribly, frosty glasses of draught Cooper’s Sparkling (cloudy but fiiine) pulled at The London pub in Balmain. And the rush of seeing “The Blood is Back!” sign at the bar behind Colin at the Lord Nelson pub in the Rocks.

    Our customary celebratory ‘meal’ is liquid [bubbly]. Champagne when in funds, cava or prosecco when not. 😉

  • You are so BRAVE. I would love to do what you’ve done, but the realities of a new mortgage make it impossible. Best of luck, but I’m sure you won’t need it.

  • That fish looks so colourful and impressive but easy to make too. Enjoy your career break. I’m having a forced one at the moment as I’ve just moved back from London. Shame it can’t last longer…

  • This dish looks awesome, I’m yearning for that nutty crust.

    It’s great to hear you’ve decided to take some time off – I have no doubt that you’ve earnt a little time for yourself.

    My last day of work was 1st of December, and now I’m in cruising around south america for 6 months. Just had a great meal at the Santiago (fish) markets, including ‘piure’ which is very tasty, although the strangest seafood I’ve ever eaten. It was definitely not my celebration food, which would have to be eggplant stuffed with feta, accompanied with 2 or more bottles of south australian fine wine.

    Enjoy your freedom

  • Mmmmm, salmon and nuts – what a great combo!

    My career is also my passion and I LOVE it and won’t be leaving it anytime soon… (I do cooking demos for Thermomix). The stress of being a graphic artist got a bit much for me, and I quit to be a SAHM, but now I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds – being home with the kids as well as cooking for people and blowing their minds with this awesome machine – such fun!! 😀

  • Good for you! What a brave decision but wonderful to spend time with your young daughter while you are pondering meditation of your toenails. It’s something we all have to do occasionally, take a break from the constant work schedule, breath deeply and enjoy time out. When one door shuts, another door always opens. I left real estate 6 years ago to start our own business and relish the freedom of self employment. Make the most of your ‘you’ time at the start of this wonderful new Year.

  • I am not that crazy about salmon , but I like your take on it. i am sure it tastes fantastic with samke harra spices!
    I am sure you will be fine and excel in whatever you decide to do; enjoy your leisurely time.

  • I’ve eaten samke harra during my trip to Lebanon but it was made with a white fish. I loved it. I also enjoyed sayyadiyeh though my efforts to replicate it at home were not so great.

    Enjoy your new found freedom. One day I’ll tell you my story in person 🙂

  • Hi fouad

    enjoy your blog immensely, love salmon and love samki hara.

    for many years I had a similar feeling at work, quit in search of something else but didn’t do enough preparation. thoroughly enjoyed the break of a few months. sadly I’ve had to go back to similar work.
    good luck with your new found freedom, think ahead and plan a little

  • Fouad, I’m totally amazed by how wonderfully the fish is crusted with the nut & herb mixture…don’t think I’ve ever tried this, but it’s never too late!

    I quit my job last year. Unbelievable growth and future trajectory…but I was SO burnt out. The next few months were mixed pleasure…I’d have sudden phases where I’d be like, “OMG, what am I doing with my life!” interspersed with moments where my mind would just let my body enjoy the freedom…”man, I can live this life foreva.”

    Not enough people have the courage to take time out to live life, and it’s admirable that you’ve decided to do it. Enjoy your moments of bliss!

  • Bravo!!! No one owns you, once again. We move in and out and through the web – like one reader mentioned. The mortgage. Still, you can walk away, and you will if you need to. We have our limits. They can’t rewrite that program.

    I quit at the end of June, my 3rd attempt to get off the road, and out of truck driving. I sat here for three months, applying for other kinds of jobs on the internet, with one eye on the checking account. After 100 jobs I’d had two interviews, one for part-time at minimum wage, the other didn’t call me back.

    I’m driving truck again. The commercial driver’s license is valuable, in that regard. You can get a decent paying job any time, any economy. My only other training is in reporting. I used to do that before I got divorced, but that profession is in trouble now. I maybe could have gone to Alaska, a town you can only get to by a three hour ferry boat ride up the fjords, or some dismal little town in the middle of Montana. Entry level jobs. So I’m back on the road. And still free, again.

    Enjoy your time off. Write. I’m writing this after your last post, the war years. A lot of people went through that, few with your command of English, fewer still with your particular take, your ability to organize it the way you do.

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