The first time I ate raw seafood was when I was around 8 or 9: sitting on a rock off the Greek coast, my new-found friends showed me how to pick sea-urchins, pull them of the ground, knock them against the rock to open them and suck the insides out, on the spot. Needless to say, there are more refined ways to consume seafood, but few are so memorable.
During our holidays in Chile, however, I came across a way of eating raw fish and seafood that did not require getting wet: Ceviche. The technique of preparing fish with lime or bitter orange juice is popular alone the Pacific coast of South America and has been for, apparently, thousands of years. What I like about ceviche is its simplicity: marinating it, effectively, in salt and lime juice causes the proteins to ‘denaturate’, similar to what would happen if your cooked it. As a result, the texture will become firmer, but it will retain the wonderful flavours of fresh fish. It’s the closest to picking up a sea urchin and eating it on the spot, but if that’s a bit worrying for you head over to this fantastic article at Seriouseats for detailed information about the process and the science behind it!
All you need for ceviche are some limes and fresh fish. Really fresh fish. You need to be able to look into its glossy eyes and expect it to blink. And when you ask the fishmonger of your choice if it is fresh, really fresh, he or she needs to be able to look you in the eye and not blink when they say ‘yes.’ Mention the words ‘sushi’, ‘sashimi’ or ‘ceviche’ and if they still don’t blink you’re on to a winner: all you need now is a bag of lemons and limes, some fresh coriander or cilantro, and some fresh chili.
Unless you are a pro, get the fishmonger to fillet the fish and remove the skin – it saves you a lot of time. If you’d rather do it yourself, there are plenty of instructions on youtube. This has the benefit that you can use the bones and head to make your own fish stock – simply simmer them with some onion, carrots, celery and parsley for half an hour, then pour it through a sieve and boil the liquid down to around ½ its original amount. Cool and freeze to have it ready whenever you’re making fish pie or a chowder!
In Peru or Chile ceviche is often served with boiled corn and sweet potatoes on the side: their sweetness and starchiness contrast perfectly with the slight acidity of the fish, making it the perfect starter.
Sea Bass Ceviche (serves 2 for a starter)
- 300g sea bass fillets, skinned (1 medium-sized fish)
- 1 tbs sea salt
- 100ml lime juice (ideally key limes)
- ½ red onion, finely sliced
- ¼ garlic clove, finely diced
- some crushed ice
- ¼ bunch fresh coriander or cilantro, chopped
- ¼ red chili, as hot as you can handle it, finely sliced
- hot chili sauce (optional)
In the meantime, juice the limes. Add the onions, garlic and chili and mix it all well with the fish chunks and the crushed ice. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for between 30 minutes and one hour. Traditionally ceviche would have been marinated for over an hour, but modern chefs prefer a shorter ‘cooking’ time for a firmer texture.
We left it for just over half an hour and the fish was perfect: white on the outside, slightly pinkish in the centre. Simply sprinkle with the coriander and serve immediately, with the steamed corn and sweet potatoes on the side and ideally with a Pisco Sour or two …
I’m bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday over at Angie’s, who, together with Kaila @ GF Life 24/7 and Sarah @ Sarah’s Little Kitchen, is hosting this wonderful event. Check it out and, more importantly, get involved!