The perfect Ceviche recipe
In case you hadn't noticed, Peruvian cuisine is booming lately, and ceviche is without a doubt the country's signature dish that everyone wants to try.
If you have never heard of ceviche - Peru's national dish - it consists of very fresh white fish (such as seabass or sole) sliced and marinated in lime, Peruvian chilli, and served with sweet potato and thin slices of raw red onion. A simple dish to which the key is getting the blend right between the acidity and heat of the marinade - known in Peru as leche de tigre ('tiger's milk').
Peruvians are mad about it, and the Peruvian president has even been known to take a helicopter ride from Lima to the coastal town of Huanchaco just to lunch at his favourite cevicheria, closing streets so he could enjoy his favourite meal in peace.
The recipe that follows comes from recognised Peruvian chef Martin Morales, founder of London's Ceviche restaurant, whose cooking lesson last year we were lucky enough to take part in.
His book, Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen, is written with passion and filled with recipes that not only tempt, but inspire. Every recipe has a story about family life or Peruvian culture. There's a real sense of history and insight into the many influences, such as Chinese, Italian, Japanese and African, that have shaped traditional Peruvian cooking over the centuries.
But stop talking, start doing. Here is the recipe:
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
600g sea bass fillet (or other white fish), skinned and trimmed
1 portion of Amarillo Chilli Tiger's Milk (root ginger, garlic, limes, fresh coriander stalks only, amarillo chilli sauce (or red chilli) and salt)
A few coriander sprigs, leaves finely chopped
1 limo chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 sweet potato, cooked and cut into small cubes
Fine sea salt
In terms of timings, you want to boil a sweet potato ahead of time but the rest of it should take around 20-30 minutes from start to served dish.
- Boil the sweet potato, whole, in its skin. Once cooled, skin and then cube it into 1/2cm cubes - really quite small.
Now the next step is to prepare the 'Tiger's Milk':
Take 1 chunk of fresh root ginger, about the size of the top half of your thumb. Peel it. Then chop it into 2 or 4 pieces. Put it in a bowl.
Crush 1 garlic clove. Strip off 4 coriander stalks (keep the leaves as they're used for the main dish). Put it all in the bowl.
Get 6 or 8 limes (how many you want depends on how juicy they are). Roll them around on the worktop, pushing down hard with the palm of your hand to loosen the juice within. Cut each lime in half and hand squeeze them into the bowl (aim to get about 2/3rds or 3/4 of the juice out - not more).
Add ½ tsp (or two 'chefs' pinches) of salt.
Chop up an Amarillo Chilli and put it in the bowl. If you can't find that chilli, you can apparently get close to the taste by lightly steaming a yellow bell pepper, chopping it up and adding a red chilli and then liquidising them.
To finish, add either a tsp of Amarillo Chilli sauce (adjust to taste) or ½ tsp medium red chilli, deseeded, deveined and chopped. Taste to check the balance of salt, sour and chilli is to your liking.
For the main dish, start with the onion. Cut it in half and then slice it very thinly. Put it in a bowl of iced water while you move onto your fish.
Cut the fish into uniform strips of around 3 x 2cm. Place in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt and mix together gently with a metal spoon.
Leave the fish to 'cook' in this marinade for 2 minutes. Remove the coriander stems, ginger and garlic from the tiger's milk and then pour it over the fish, combining them gently with the spoon.
Drain the onion and pat it dry on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.
Add the onions, coriander, chilli and the cubed sweet potato to the fish and stir them together gently.
Divide between serving bowls and serve IMMEDIATELY.
Keep your fish refrigerated until just before using.
It is recommended using fine sea salt for making any kind of ceviche as it is higher quality than other salts and more beneficial in cold 'cooking'.
Remember, it's a dish which you can vary to suit your tastes, don't feel scared to reduce chilli or increase lime, etc but the basic process remains the same. It's also very helpful if you know what a really good ceviche tastes like so head into London's Soho and Ceviche restaurant for a taste of the real deal. While you are there you can pick up a couple of bottles of the Amarillo Chilli sauce!
For the truly Peruvian immersion experience, you can enjoy this dish with some of Chile's Sauvignon Blanc, or why not just match Peru's national dish with Peru's national cocktail - Pisco Sour is really enjoyable with ceviche too. And you're lucky because we also have the recipe for you here.