To really get to know a country, pull up a chair at the kitchen table.
This was never better advice than in Peru, the crossroads of South America, where the national cuisine incorporates indigenous culture, Spanish and other European incursions, Japanese and Chinese immigration and African influences. It was ”fusion cuisine” before the term was coined.
Martin Morales’ new book, “Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen” takes you right to the heart of Peru — his birthplace — and along the way, into his heart.
Right out of the gate, he shares the recipe for the award-winning ceviche from his restaurant, “Ceviche,” in London. The signature dish, “Don Ceviche” is the first recipe in the book, and with it you learn the ins-and-outs of the various marinades (called “tiger’s milk”) that “cook” the fish, how to select fish, how to slice it, and how to serve it.
After that, you’re off to the races in a rush of ceviches, Peruvian street food, more fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, salads, drinks and desserts. Each dish and section of the book includes and observation or anecdote to place the food in a hierarchy of meals, memories and culinary traditions. And before you ask, yes, there is a recipe for guinea pig, which, in Peru, is traditionally considered “domesticated livestock.” You may substitute rabbit.
Morales introduces many other traditional ingredients so that you can build authentic Peruvian dishes from the ground up. Some are familiar (quinoa), but before long you’re learning about unusual varieties of corn and chilies, spices, herbs and fruits (although some of them beginning to turn up in the United States as Peruvian food becomes more familiar), and how to make the special chile pastes, sauces and milks little fillips that make the dishes unique.
And just as many wanderers found a home in Peru, you’ll find the ingredients creeping onto your own pantry – and staying. A little amaraillo chile paste here, a little Pisco there — and before you know it, you’ll the flavors of your own dishes turning south and east, toward Peru.
Morales’ signature dish, Don Ceviche, (“the daddy of all our ceviches”) is reprinted here with permission from Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen by Martin Morales (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Morales suggests Sea Bass for this recipe, but any firm-textured white fish – the freshest possible – will work.
Here in Berkeley, for sustainably caught, splendidly fresh fish, look to the Monterey Fish Market (1582 Hopkins Street, Berkeley) or Hudson Fish at the Berkeley and Kensington Farmers’ Markets – or – order from Good Eggs in San Francisco which has just added fresh fish to their delivery menu. Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness.”
- 1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1-1/3 pounds / 600 grams sea bass fillet (or other white fish), skinned and trimmed
- 1 portion Amarillo Chile Tiger’s Milk
- A few cilantro sprigs, leaves finely chopped
- 1 limo chile, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 sweet potato, cooked and cut into small cubes
- Fine sea salt
Rinse the onion and then leave it to soak in iced water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly, spread out on a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess water and then place in the fridge until needed. This will reduce the strength of the onion and help to keep the slices crisp.
Cut the fish into uniform strips of around 1-1/4 by 3/4 inch / 3-by-2 cm. Place in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and mix together gently with a metal spoon. The salt will help open the fish’s pores. Leave this for 2 minutes and then pour over the tiger’s milk and combine gently with the spoon. Leave the fish to “cook” in this marinade for
Add the onion, cilantro, chile, and sweet potato to the fish. Mix together gently with the spoon and taste to check that the balance of salt, sour, and chile is to your liking. Divide among serving bowls and serve immediately.
- Keep your fish refrigerated until just before using.
- We recommend using fine sea salt for making any kind of ceviche, as it is higher quality than other salts and more beneficial in cold “cooking.” With any other kind of cooking with heat, regular table salt is sufficient.
Amarillo Chile Tiger’s Milk
This is our classic tiger’s milk. It is probably the most versatile and the one we use most often at Ceviche.
Put a 1/4-inch / 5-mm piece of fresh ginger (cut in half), 1 small clove garlic (cut in half), 4 roughly chopped cilantro sprigs, and the juice of 8 limes in a bowl. Stir and then leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into another bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons amarillo chile paste (page 226) and mix well. This will keep for 4 hours in the fridge.
Basic Chile Paste
Put 1-tablespoon vegetable oil in a large heavy saucepan, Heat over medium heat, then add 3-1/2 ounces/100 grams frozen or fresh seeded chilies of your choice or 1-tablspoon/35 grams reconstituted, seeded and roughly chopped dried chilies, and ½ a finely chopped small onion. Sauté over low heat for about ten minutes, stirring regularly.
Add two crushed garlic cloves and sauté for 5 minutes until everything is very soft, being careful to make sure it doesn’t take on any color.
Put the contents of the saucepan into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Store in the fridge in a sterilized jar.
Makes about ¾-cup/190 grams.