I admit us chefs can be a pedantic bunch when it comes to ingredients. We like to use only the best – preferably in-season, organic and locally sourced.
But the holy grail of requirements for the best ingredients is ensuring they are ultra-fresh. And this is never more important than when preparing one of my favourite seafood dishes: ceviche.
Not so much a dish as a method, this Latin American staple relies on the acidity of citrus juices – usually lemons and limes – in place of heat to “cook” seafood. If you’ve never tried it, you are in for a real treat.
Because there’s no heat involved, it’s more vital than ever to use fresh-from-the-sea ingredients, which explains why this dish is so popular in coastal areas.
In Mexico, Central and South America – and particularly Peru where the method originates – ceviche is practically a national dish, popularly served as either an appetizer or a main meal.
Preparing it is fascinating and not nearly as daunting as it may sound if you’re a novice. It is the acidity of the citrus fruit which sparks a chemical process when it comes into contact with the fish, making the flesh turn opaque and firm, just as with conventional cooking.
But if that all sounds a bit scientific, rest assured that there is a true art and beauty in ceviche, not least because of the delicate flavours it produces. A variety of ceviche seafood freshly prepared and arranged on a platter is truly glorious to the eye too.
Remember, the keyword here is fresh. So if you’re lucky enough to find a source of bay scallops hauled straight from the ocean, try this simple recipe:
In a large glass mixing bowl add all ingredients and stir well. Cover the bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. The scallops are ready when they feel firm.