A few years back I was in Peru for a couple of months doing humanitarian work (sure makes me feel good to say this!). I had an amazing time and can tell you that Peruvians are more than welcoming and generous. And they most certainly know how to crack a good smile! But, as much as my time there was amazing and fulfilling, there was a downside to the whole thing: I was way up in the mountains, at about 3500 meters up in the air. Way up there, the food is great but pretty much evolves around rice and potatoes (can you believe living on such a diet made me lose 10 pounds?); forget about having a good steak or, even worse, some fresh fish up there... you might regret it.
So when I ended my trip and spent a few days in Lima, right next to the ocean, there was one thing I was dying to do, and that was to eat raw fish. And boy did I eat some amazing fish there. Ceviches are at their best in the capital and I’ve yet to find a place where they serve ceviches that good (if you know of a place in Montreal or the surroundings, can you please let me know?).
But I did bring back a few tricks to make sure I could reproduce some of the good stuff at home. Although never as good, this is close to what you can find over there. The following recipe, if you go ahead and try it, starts as the most bizarre mix of ingredients and can, well, look unappetizing (my husband certainly didn’t think that this dish looked appetizing!). But, don’t judge a book by its cover. This ceviche in rocoto cream is absolutely delicious and different (my husband ended up loving the dish and he's quite a tough critic). It brings a little something to your plate that you don’t often find in this part of the planet. So if you’re feeling adventurous and you love fish, try this one and book your plane ticket to Peru. I guarantee you’ll want to head out there really soon!
Makes 4 servings
2 ½ pounds fresh firm white flesh fish (like halibut, sea bass or flounder fillets)
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ leeks, white part only, roughly chopped
2 celery branches, roughly chopped
¼ small white onion, roughly chopped
2 large scallops
1 tbsp fish stock
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp rocoto paste
Juice of about 8-10 key limes
1 red onion, cut in very fine slices
1 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
1 cooked yam
In a skillet, over low heat, blanche the celery, leek and white onion in olive oil (about 5 minutes). Set aside and let cool.
Combine the scallops and fish stock in the jar of a blender or food processor. Blend for about ½ minute at low speed. With the motor running, add the vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream, as you would to make a mayonnaise. The mixture should take the consistency of a light, chunky mayonnaise.
Add in the cooled vegetables. Blend for a minute or two. Add the rocoto paste. Adjust taste to your liking of spiciness. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
Cube the fish in small pieces and sprinkle with salt. Keep chilled until ready to serve. Just before serving add the key lime juice. Adjust taste to your liking.
When ready to serve, display yams and fresh corn kernels. Add the fish ceviche and top with the scallops mayonnaise. Finish off with red onions as decoration.
Note: You can find ready made rocoto paste in specialized or latin markets.