As I sit here, bleary-eyed and covered with a thin but pungent layer of vegetable oil and chicken fat, recovering from an all-star Fried Chicken Nite, I can't believe that I haven't written about ceviche yet.
What was I thinking? Perhaps that I ought to seek out new and complicated recipes to make a mess of and mis-type out here, sending you all off to make the wrong pancakes, like Isola Bay (I still feel really bad about that) or too-much-cheese-too-little-cream-mac-cheese like Fay Schopen. Although Fay and I go way back and we had a Faceboook consultation about what went wrong and I think it's all cool now.
In reality, I ought to just be talking about things that work, that are simple but new, uncomplicated, fresh and delicious. And there is nothing more like that than ceviche.
I'm pretty sure that ceviche is just a generic term that refers to 'cooking' fish in acid - i.e. citrus juice or vinegar. I'm not talking battery acid here. You can do it all kinds of different ways, but I first came across this in Nigella Express, (my first ever cookery book, which you may or may not guessed by the number of appearances it makes here), where she makes it with monkfish cooked in lime juice and decorated with coriander, spring onions and chilli.
"Yah" said Henry, when we were talking about it the other day. (Henry is REALLY posh) "Yah ceviche is wonderful, but you need some sweetness in there. I add avocado."
I nodded blithely (and then tucked that piece of information away in order to steal it and try to pass it off as my own another time).
So here were are. What follows is a sort of hybrid of stolen recipes, jammed together without even the guts to pass it off as my own.
This works best, I find, as a starter, served with nachos. Henry thinks nachos are common. But I think worrying about being common is common, so I always serve ceviche with about 6 bagfuls of the cheapest nachos I can find.
I'm sure none of you is frightened of raw fish but if you are - don't be. I was a bit apprehensive about just chopping up a load of raw monkfish and squid and serving it to people but I was wrong. People LOVE IT. Just get nice fish, I guess. Giles refuses to get it from Waitrose, (although I think that would be fine), instead driving purposefully to a titchy fishmonger in Hampstead in order to pay 8 times as much. But they are real fishermen, covered in tattoos and everything. Not very friendly, but I guess that's all part of the reason you go to some tiny indie meat or fish vendor - to get fleeced and treated like crap, to assuage your huge guilt at being happy and middle-class.
Ok, so here we go. This gets you enough for 8 people as a starter-with-nachos.
1 large pack lightly salted pack of Doritos
1 monkfish tail or equivalent size of turbot or seabass. If you're not sure how much that is, just say to the fish guy "I need enough to feed 8 as a starter" and they're usually quite helpful. If brisk.
2 large handfuls of squid - with tentacles or not depending on how much they gross you out
2 red chillies and 2 green chillies - deseeded and chopped finely
2 spring onions or one shallot, chopped up
the juice of 3 limes
1 large or two small ripe-ish avocadoes
1 large handful of coriander
large pinch of salt
1) Chop up the monkfish (or turbot, or seabass) and the squid FINELY. Yes, it's a pain in the arse, but you really have to chop it up into bits the size of your thumbnail (unless your hands are REALLY HUGE, in which case, the size of your index finger nail). This especially applies to the squid, which can be chewy.
2) lay the fish out in a shallow dish and pour over the lime juice. Swizzle it around a bit and then leave it for 8 minutes - no more than 10.
3) drain off the lime juice, then pour over and stir in one tablespoon of olive oil to stop the fish sticking together, which it will insist on doing
4) add to the fish, which now ought to be opaque, the chopped chillies, onion, chopped avocado and coriander and then season. You will probably need more salt than you think - although bear in mind that there will be an extra hit of salt in each mouthful from the nachos
The really great thing about this is that you can never make too much. Whatever you have left over put in the fridge - the next day flour it and fry it off and then eat with chopsticks. The chopsticks, I find, are essential.