Thursday, 29 November 2012

Tomatoes, coriander and jalapeños - Hispanic Style

After my post about wild asparagus one of my readers pointed out that not everyone is lucky enough to be in and around the countryside, they are limited to what they grow on their balconies.


Cilantro leavesJalapenoHe suggested that tomatoes, coriander and jalapeños were part of the limited repertoire of the balcony gardener. So, with this in mind I have researched a couple of Hispanic recipes using these three ingredients - this post is dedicated to you Jesús. :)

Balcony Tomatoes



Jesús also suggested Ceviche and I would be failing him not to provide a recipe for it. After some research I found that (as with most dishes) there are a few variations on the dish with the Peruvians favouring a full citrus hit whilst the Ecuadorans like a tomato sauce added to it and a salsa style affair can be found in many Central American countries' recipes. Either way the main ingredient is fresh, fresh, fresh, raw fish. I cannot emphasise enough how fresh the fish needs to be. If you are lucky enough to be able to pluck it from the hands of a fisherman as he pulls into port, then make post-haste to your kitchen and then the dining table you are in for a treat.
Fillets of Sea Bream
Sea Bream fillets

As the main ingredient it is important to get the fish right. As well as being as fresh as possible (I told you, it needs emphasising) a white fish is the best choice but one that is robust enough to take the citrus hit. Sea Bass is a good bet as are Bream and Pollack but whatever the local white fish catch is will do fine.

The fish will be 'cooked', actually the proteins will be denatured, in the citrus juice and if you get the marinating time right you will have moist juicy fish on the inside and firmer dryer flesh on the outside. This difference in texture is important for the overall enjoyment of the dish.


Preparing the Fish

It goes without saying that the marinade for a raw fish dish is the most crucial element of the preparation but for it to be effective the fish needs to be prepared properly as well. The fish should be diced into small mouthful pieces. This allows for the marinade to take effect without overpowering the fish and for the difference in texture to be savoured.
I am not a lover of salt but for this recipe the fish does need to be given a good rub with it, left for a minute and then the salt brushed off. Some pieces will cling resolutely to the fish and that is OK as it is a good mix with the citrus.   The salt allows for the marinade to be absorbed better by the fish.

Marinating the Fish

With the fish prepared it is time to marinate. The juice of limes (and a little Seville orange if they are in season) and the chillis, I am using Jalapeno chillis, should be added to the fish and left for anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour. The length of time will depend on the fish used and the potency of your limes (early season limes may not pack quite the punch that those later in the season will).

Serve and Eat
The beauty of a raw fish dish is its simplicity and speed. Once the fish has marinated for sufficient time divide  it between bowls, along with the marinade, sprinkle with onion and chopped coriander. If you want the tomato hit then add the tomato salsa and leave out the onion (there is enough onion in the salsa and you do not want to overpower the fish).
Peruvian Ceviche

Recipe
SERVES 2

Ceviche Ingredients 
250g Sea Bass or similar white fish - no bones, no skin
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 4 limes
Juice of 1/2 Seville Orange
1 Jalapeno chilli, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Method

Cut the fish into 1½ - 2cm cubes and rub with the salt. Leave for a minute before brushing off most of the salt.

Add the citrus juices and the jalapeno and leave to marinate.

Divide the fish and marinade between 2 bowls, scatter with coriander and onion (or salsa if using)

Serve immediately.



Salsa Ingredients

Salsa4 large firm tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 jalapeno, chopped
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Freshly milled black pepper

Method

Combine the tomatoes, jalapeno and red onion with the lime juice.
Season with pepper to taste.
Sprinkle over the coriander.

Hints and Tips

How hot can you take it? I have used jalapenos in these recipes but you can substitute any chilli you prefer. Make the salsa as hot or as mild as you like by selecting the appropriate chilli.

Growing your Own


No matter the size of your garden, terrace, balcony or window box you can grow your own herbs and spices to give your food extra flavour. I always have chillis, rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, sage and chives growing in pots. As I move about a lot it also means that I am not leaving my resources behind when I change house! During the warmer months I also grow lettuces and rucola - again in  pots. Fresh salad straight from the garden - nothing nicer.
Portable herb garden
My portable herb garden

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