Tag: amberjack

Peruvian Ceviche and my love of the sea

Peruvian Ceviche

What I love the most about Malta – besides the wonderful people around us – is the sea. I can sit on one of the rocky beaches for hours staring at the sparkling shades of blue, the salty air in my nose and the the next seafood meal on my mind. Although I’m quite obsessed with snorkeling – I feel a great fascination for the beautiful wonders of Malta’s amazing underwater life, I can’t help but think about food when I’m close to the sea. We went to the fish market in Marsaxlokk as soon as we arrived and I couldn’t resist filling the cooling box with the freshest tuna, swordfish, calamari, Cipullazza (scorpion fish) and sea bream.

The fisherman’s wife at one of the stands made us try a selection of raw fish as I was on a mission. I’ve been wanting to make Peruvian ceviche for months and I decided that there’s no better place for my culinary experiment than Malta with its daily catches from the sea. Ceviche is a traditional Peruvian dish made with raw fish marinated in lime juice for a few minutes. Although the citrus fruit’s acid creates a chemical process similar to cooking I still wanted to use the freshest fish possible. I also felt that it would be appropriate to taste it raw first to approve the taste of my choice of fish. So we were right in the middle of the market, surrounded by lots of people and the most beautiful seafood offered on large tables when my experiment started. I just thought of sushi when I put one thin slice of fish after the other into my mouth. It felt a bit strange, especially after my fish-stand-lady told me that she would never eat raw fish. She had a mischievous smile on her face, but I trusted and survived.

I’ve never been to Peru so I decided to ask a woman for help who has lived in Lima for years, she’s a passionate connoisseur and food writer. I met Sheila through eat in my kitchen, she is one of my blog’s earliest readers and joined me on this journey with great support. We’ve never met in person but we felt a connection immediately through the universal language of food. My Peruvian lady is originally from Chicago but she dug deeply into her new home’s kitchen culture. I knew that I was in the right hands when I asked her for a recipe – and I wasn’t mistaken. Her directions led to the most delicious ceviche on our table in Malta, it was surprisingly quick and easy. And yes, lime juice kind of cooks the fish, I couldn’t believe it when I saw (and tasted) it! Sheila recommended flounder but I went for Accola (Maltese amberjack) which was my favourite at my raw fish tasting session. I also added some lime zest which isn’t usually done in Peru but I love the slightly flowery flavour it adds to the fish. It was quite an exciting kitchen experience but most importantly: my new seafood discovery made the most delicious lunch!

Peruvian Ceviche

We also had a couple visitors to the island in the past few weeks. My mother decided to hop over for a spontaneous long weekend which we celebrated befittingly. We enjoyed a Maltese champagne picnic with the fantastic Cassar de Malte at a promenade in Valletta before we headed over to a new restaurant find – the Italian Scoglitti right at the sea. They treated us to a huge local Pagell (red snapper) in sea salt crust after we had already enjoyed octopus with potatoes, swordfish carpaccio and pulpetti tal-Makku (white bait pulpetti) along with Meridiana‘s white Isis wine. It was a feast finished with Maltese Mqaret (date sweets) – the delicious recipe will follow soon!

Another one of my most beloved seafood restaurants on the islands is Rew Rew at Mgarr ix-Xini in Gozo. Noel creates very pure dishes, honest simplicity, always cooked to perfection. We went to the little hidden bay a couple times this summer to enjoy local prawns from the BBQ, fried sardines and makku, grouper ravioli and Bazooka (deep sea snapper). Holly, my editor from New York, joined us on one of these visits and she was more than impressed.

I love the sea and all these wonderful frutti di mare, it’s a gem we have to protect and treat with respect!

This recipe has been featured by Food52!

Peruvian Ceviche

Sheila’s Peruvian Ceviche

Serves 4-6.

firm, white fish (such as flounder, sea bass or amberjack) 280g / 10oz
medium sized red onion, quartered, thinly sliced, 1/2
red aji límo (Peruvian habaneros), thinly sliced, 1/4 (to taste)
yellow aji límo, thinly sliced, 1/4 (to taste)
organic limes, zest and juice, 3
fine sea salt

Cut the fish into 1cm / 1/2″ pieces. Lay the fish in a large sieve, rinse quickly with cold water, drain and dry with kitchen paper.

Pour the lime juice in a deep bowl, add the fish, toss it around and marinate for 2 1/2 minutes. Take the fish out with a slotted ladle and divide between plates. Garnish with onion and aji límo and sprinkle with salt and lime zest (optionally) to taste.

You can serve ceviche with cooked corn, sweet potatoes and lettuce.

Thank you Sheila!

Peruvian Ceviche

 

Peruvian Ceviche

 

Peruvian Ceviche

 

Peruvian Ceviche

 

Peruvian Ceviche

 

Peruvian Ceviche

 

ceviche11

Grilled Amberjack with Mint Oil

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

Here is another one of our Marsaxlokk fish market purchases, firm amberjack steaks! When I wrote about my Moscato Prawn Pasta last week I mentioned the small town’s Sunday market that turns the picturesque promenade at the seafront into a busy scene of fishermen offering their fresh catches and farmers piling up their colourful harvest. Green boxes filled with melons, tomatoes, zucchinis and peaches made my mouth water before we even started our shopping!

The small path between the stalls was packed with people looking for the nicest piece of tuna or swordfish, trying to spot the fisherman offering the freshest Maltese prawns, mackerel, barracuda or octopus. We bought far more than we had planned but we couldn’t resist when we saw all the wonderful seafood in front of us. After 30 minutes of choosing the fish we wanted and bargaining here and there, we started to feel a bit exhausted. The heat reached its peak and forced us to take a break. We ate a nice big watermelon, sweet and juicy and found a little spot in the shade right next to the colourful boats swaying gently in the crystal clear water.

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

Sometimes when we visit Marsaxlokk we sit down in one of the cafes at the piazza in front of the church and enjoy a little snack with our espresso, or we go to one of my beloved Pastizzerias! You can find these little bakeries all over the island selling some of my favourite Maltese treats, little pies filled with ricotta or spinach and anchovies. One of these pies is Pastizzi, a flaky puff pastry shell which is so delicate that it crumbles between your buttery fingers, you can also get these filled with peas. The other one is called Qassatat, the pastry is less rich and more like short crust. If you come to Malta you should try these traditional pastry delicacies, that’s what many Maltese miss the most (apart from their bread!) when they live abroad!

Back to the amberjack, when we came home we started the grill and cooked the fish without any seasoning. You could also sauté it in a pan and cook it in the oven for a few minutes at 200°C (390°F). It’s summertime, the kitchen is already hot and we have the gas barbecue ready in the garden so we decided to grill it. I mixed some olive oil with lemon juice and fresh mint leaves to sprinkle over the cooked fish and over a few slices of tomatoes – no salt, no pepper!

At first, my boyfriend wanted to enjoy the pure taste of the amberjack without the aromatic mint oil but when he smelled (and tasted) it on my steak he changed his mind! Fish and mint works just too well together!

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

 

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

 Grilled Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

For 2 hungry people you need

amberjack steaks (around 1,5cm / 1/2″ thick) 400g / 14 ounces
olive oil 4 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 1/2 tablespoons
fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slices, 10
tomatoes, quartered, 3

For the mint oil, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and mint leaves.

Cook the steaks on the grill for a few minutes on both sides until golden and cooked through. You should be able to lift the fish off the bone when it’s done.

If you cook the fish in a pan, heat a little olive oil and sauté the fish for 1-2 minutes on both sides until golden. Cook in the oven at 200°C (390°F) for about 8 minutes.

Arrange the tomatoes and amberjack on a big plate an sprinkle both with the mint oil.

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

 

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes

 

Amberjack with Mint Oil and Tomatoes