My first encounter with ceviche proper was on a hitchhiking jaunt to Mexico – happier and safer days then. Every day seemed peppered with ceviche plates, or ceviche plates were peppered every day? However I choose to remember it, the flavors are front of mind still: bright perfumy cilantro, sweet raw onions, hot chilies, same day fish swimming in lime juice with sometimes tomatoes, sometimes cucumbers, sometimes avocado.
You need really fresh fish to make any kind of ceviche. So when fresh trout presented themselves in the “Cheile Dimbovicoara” (although hard to say who looked more unhappy at the prospect of custom, the owner or the fish themselves) a fresh, light, summery ceviche was a must.
With a seed sown on an inspirational “fish preserving” course in Italy (local fish, orange juice, olive oil marinade served with orange and fennel salad) here is a version that uses local bounty (robust parsley, fresh red onions, sweet tomatoes and “ardei iute”).
Gadgets & Gizmos
A sharp knife and a clean chopping board.
Timeline & Planning
This recipe is “fast & fresh” (kind of like the Mexican holiday vibe) so you want to be confident that when you plate it, it won't sit around for hours and the fish toughen. Best plan is to marinate the fish (cut into small strips to maximize speed and homogeneity of the “denaturation” process) 1.5-2 hours before mixing in the final ingredients. “Denaturation” is the cooking process that occurs when citrus juice or heat meets fish. The juice method does not kill all bacteria so freshest fish is paramount! Dense fish will need a little longer – salmon will take a little longer than trout. Tuna will take a little longer than salmon and so on.
Ingredients for Carpathian Trout Ceviche for Four as a starter (Two as a main dish)
4 small trout or 8 trout fillets (150g-200g per person for a starter, 250g-300g per person as a main course)
2 lemons juiced
1 chilli chopped
1 small red or white onion
2 tomatoes or a generous handful of cherry tomatoes
a handful of parsley leaves with a small “legatura” of lovage (“leustean”)
salt, pepper and olive oil
First catch your river fresh trout and check for signs of life before gutting and filleting them. This is not for the faint hearted and indeed one of ours made a break for it and dived back into his pond from the bucket. Alternatively ask your fishmonger to fillet them (mine does). Salmon fillets work wonderfully too (I like to add fresh ginger and lemongrass into the lime “cooking juice”). I like to serve with home made polenta flat breads but a simple potato salad or couscous works brilliantly too. You don’t have to add olive oil, but I think it works well in this version.
Slice the trout carefully into strips, cutting into the fish on a diagonal. Lay the strips in a glass or ceramic dish and pour over the lemon juice, chili and onion. Cover and leave in the fridge for an hour. Check all the fish is in contact with the lemon juice and rearrange the strips if you need to, leave for another hour.
Add halved cherry tomatoes, a generous amount of parsley and season with coarse ground pepper and sea salt. Arrange on plates or in bowls and dribble good olive oil over to taste. A good dry Riesling works well as does a Corona with lemon/lime.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is the chef and owner of the London Street Bakery, which offers healthy seasonal food. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)