It’s all about Ceviche

Ceviche: potentially one of the most iconic Latin American delicacies. Up and down the coastal regions of Central and South America, you will find variations of the zesty raw fish dish. Put simply, ceviche (or cebiche) is raw fish “cooked” by citric juice, in a type of marinade.

Ceviche can be dated back to the earliest inhabitants of South America and is mentioned in Peruvian literature from the 19th Century. Certainly in Peru, a country with a great love for seafood, it is one of the most internationally famous and popular dishes.Yet it was somewhere in Costa Rica over three years ago, where I first tried ceviche. It was a bizarre thing to eat at first, but ultimately, as a seafood lover, I relished it. Unfortunately for me, it’s not yet something that is well-known in the UK. So when I read that Peru was famous for ceviche, it was number one on my list.

My first taste of Peruvian ceviche was in a quirky little seafood bar in Arequipa, named Frogs. It was recommended to us by the Peruvian receptionist in our hostel.

Aside from the curious and overly friendly owner, ‘Frogs’ was a charming, vibrant place to grab a quick bite of lunch. Specialising in seafood, we felt  that we were in the right place.

Well, the ceviche was as vibrant and refreshing as the bar. Served beautifully on a fish-shaped plate, the colourful dish of mixed seafood ceviche, served sweet potato and maize (corn) kernels, blew us away before we even tasted it.

It was such a deliciously refreshing meal. Perfect for a light snack or appetizer. The freshness of lime and tang of onions and chilli, works perfectly with the semi cooked fish. It’s a strange texture, as the fish is not flaky like usual, but fleshy and soft. And being a Peruvian dish, of course there had to be sweet potato: a delicate accompaniment.

Needless to say, this was not the last time that we had ceviche in Peru. We had fresh homemade ceviche (with bones, unfortunately) made by a wonderful Peruvian lady during our homestay, as well as an extravagant squid and mussels ceviche platter in Lima.

There are many variations of this dish across Latin America, each with different ingredients and serving suggestions. I was excited to see ceviche featured in January’s BBC Good Food magazine, but the recipe looked far more Mexican than Peruvian. For me, ceviche to me is served the Peruvian way.

So here is my tried, tested and delicious recipe inspired by Flor Arcaya de Deliot The Food & Cooking of Peru :

Peruvian Ceviche

  • 500g cod fillets, skinless and boneless
  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 chilli, seeded and sliced
  • Juice of 8 limes or about 150ml lime juice
  • 1 Little gem lettuce, to garnish
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Salt and ground black pepper
To accompany:
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 corn on the cob (optional)
Cut the cod into bitesize chunks, and slice the onion lengthways. Put the two ingredients into a bowl, along with the chilli and season well with salt and pepper. Pour the lime juice over the mixture to cover well. Stir the juice in evenly, cover with cling film, and leave the mixture to marinate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes in water for 25 minutes until soft. If using corn, cut it into pieces, and boil for 10-15 minutes.
Check the ceviche, by stirring it again. Cover once more for another 15 minutes. Once the fish has gone opaque and white, it is ready! Just arrange the lettuce around the plates, and pile the ceviche into the middle. (There will be a lot of lime juice left over, some of which I drizzled over the top, for extra moisture, but the rest can be disposed of) Serve the dish immediately, accompanied with the sweet potato and corn, if used.
The recipe really is that easy. It’s so simple, but you get a really authentic and exotic appetizer, perfect for entertaining! I encourage you all to try ceviche at least once. I expect that it may not be for everyone, but for a seafood lover, it is a must! With the reputation of being one of Peru’s greatest dishes, it really does fly the flag. 

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