One of the overriding food memories of our trip to Belize and Mexico last year was the incredible array of fish and shellfish that we devoured at every opportunity. We stayed near the coast for the majority of the holiday, where we happily indulged in a fish-eating frenzy of lobster, snapper, barracuda, conch, shrimp and octopus.
But it was ceviche that we ate the most of. We usually started a meal with a bowl of red snapper ceviche – zingy with lime juice, fresh herbs and tongue-tingling chilli, and a large bowl of tortilla crisps – perfect for scooping up the tasty morsels of fish. It’s a perfect starter: it’s light and refreshing, and it jolts your tastebuds into action, leaving you eagerly awaiting the next course – usually more fish!
Red snapper was the most common fish used in ceviche, but we also had conch (a sea snail), which was also served as a delicious crispy fritters with a spicy dip. The conch had a very firm, meaty texture that worked really well as ceviche, but I preferred the flavour and sweetness of the snapper.
Although the holiday is now a distant memory, I managed to rekindle it when I recently visited Wahaca restaurant and ate the shrimp ceviche salad. I loved the fact that it was served in a tortilla crisp bowl that you break up and use to scoop up the fish – it’s a nice touch. After a gratifying lunch I decided to make ceviche at home as soon as possible.
Seabass, in my opinion, is the best white fish to use for ceviche. I have attempted to make it with hake as I thought the firm flesh would work – it didn’t. Other fish and seafood that work well include trout, shrimps, tuna or scallops, but I like the mild flavour of seabass as it allows the other flavours in the dish to shine through.
Fine slices of fish look very elegant, but I think cutting the it into small dice works best for texture. The lime juice used to marinate the fish permeates and ‘cooks’ the outside, but leaves the inside raw, so you get a beautiful contrast between the different textures. It’s a fine balance, as cutting the fish too small will make it overly citrusy as it soaks up all the juice; too big and you’ve got way too much raw fish to chew through. So aim for about 1-1.5cm dice.
I know tomatoes aren’t commonly used in ceviche, but I had some lovely fragrant ones and I think they add a pleasing sweetness to the dish. I’ve also been daring and used a yellow scotch bonnet chilli to add a real kick of heat, but be warned: they’re scarily hot so taste as you go. You’ve got the four elements of sweet, sour, salty and hot, all working together, so it’s no wonder ceviche is such a pleasurable eating experience and popular dish throughout the world.
Serves 4 as a starter
350g firm white fish, cut 1-1.5cm dice
Half red onion, sliced into thin rounds
Juice of 5 limes
2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into
Large handful corriander, finely chopped
Pinch caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Scotch bonnet, finely chopped
Tortilla crisps, to serve
1. Put the diced fish, lime juice and onion in a bow, ensure that the fish is covered with juice. Cover with clingfilm and marinate for 1 hour in the fridge.
2. Drain off the excess juice and add the tomatoes, corriander, sugar, salt and chilli. Stir gently to combine and serve with a bowl of tortilla crisps.