We chat with Peruvian don Martin Morales about making the national fish dish and cocktails for the nation's Independence Day on Tuesday 28 July
We love celebrating the holidays of countries around the world. St Patrick's Day? Great, we’ll have a pint of Guinness. US Independence Day? Yep, load us up with a hot dog and some apple pie. Bastille Day? Excellent, make our order a steak and chips with red wine. Peruvian Independence Day? Um, yes, we like the sound of it, but what on earth should we eat and drink?
To find out what we need to be chowing down on for this Latin American fiesta – which is on Tuesday 28 July, FYI – we paid a visit to Peruvian chef Martin Morales who is basically the king of bringing cuisine from Peru to the UK and stamping it with his own unique mark.
Morales opened up his first restaurant Ceviche in Soho in 2012, which celebrates the national Peruvian dish – funnily enough, this is also called 'ceviche'. It's the freshest white fish you can get, marinated or 'cold cooked' in a spicy citrus juice also known as tiger’s milk.
According to Morales, celebrating Peru is all about saying 'salud' – 'cheers!' in Spanish – with ceviche and the country’s national cocktail, a pisco sour. We asked Morales to tell us more and we got him to show us how to make a menu that any Peruvian would be happy to dine on.
What makes Peruvian food so special?
"It’s the beauty of the dishes: they are often full of flavours that people haven’t tried before. There’s a huge range of tastes, from coastal areas to the Andean mountain, as well as cuisine from Japanese-Peruvian, Criollo, Afro-Peruvian and indigenous cuisine, which dates back thousands of years. All of these different histories are what the foodies always really love about the food."
What about the most famous dish, ceviche?
"It’s our national dish which comes from our ancestors. It’s also the name of our restaurant as it represents freshness, zestiness and feel-good food."
What’s the secret to a good ceviche?
"Like any great cooking, it’s about timing so when the ingredients meet each other they have to balance the different flavours. Like a pack of wild horses, you have a group of ingredients that are pretty powerful, from aromatic chillies to acidic fruit like lime and then salt. As we’re dealing with semi-raw fish we need to make sure we have the freshest ones as it is prepared in just seconds.
"The magic of ceviche is that whenever the salt hits the fish, it opens up the pores and the lime juice mixes with the chillies. Then it hits the fish again and there's a series of chemical reactions in the space of a few minutes. It’s a very active dish – after that time, it all calms down and almost wilts, but if you can catch it and get a mouthful when the activation is happening, that’s great ceviche and your taste buds will be excited by the flavour explosions."
And how about the national drink, pisco?
"Pisco is like a fortified wine. It’s made from pure grape juice, not the stems like other spirits. It’s more than 400 years old."
What does it taste like?
"I think it’s very unique. It’s much silkier and sweeter than tequila, it’s more interesting than vodka and it can be as aromatic as gin. Pisco sour is by far the most popular cocktail. Every conversation and every dinner in Peru starts with an aperitif of pisco sour and every celebration in Peru is toasted with pisco sour.
"At Ceviche Old Street, we also specialise in infusions like dates, fruits and vegetables. We’ve been pioneering the pisco imposter, which recreates the profile of other spirits like gin, tequila or whiskey so we can make the classic cocktails that people love and want."
If we were in Peru this Tuesday, what would the typical menu be like for the day?
"Well, it’s actually the middle of winter at the moment, so you’d probably have ceviche for lunch. Then for dinner you would have a heartier, warming meal like lomo saltado – a beef stir-fry dish – and you would drink pisco sours or artisan pisco.
"We'll be celebrating with a Pisco Libre event at Ceviche Old Street on Sunday 26 July with a cocktail making and tasting session."
Fancy making good Peruvian food?
As much as we’d like to be jetting off to Lima next week, we’re stuck in the UK. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be waving the Peruvian flag for their food, so Morales tells us how to prepare the party time spread …
How to make don ceviche
Amarillo chilli tiger paste (makes 190g of paste):
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100g frozen or fresh chillies, deseeded or
- 35g reconstituted dried chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
Amarillo chilli tiger's milk:
- 5mm fresh root ginger, cut in half
- 1 small garlic clove, cut in half
- 4 coriander sprigs, roughly chopped
- the juice of 8 limes
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp homemade amarillo chilli paste
For the don ceviche:
- 1 large red onion, very thinly sliced
- 600g sea bass fillet or other white fish, skinned and trimmed and cut into uniform strips of around 3cm x 2cm
- fine sea salt
- a few coriander sprigs, finely chopped
- 1 limo chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 sweet potato, peeled, cooked and cut into small cubes
- 1 portion of homemade amarillo chilli tiger’s milk
- To make the homemade amarillo chilli tiger's milk, put the fresh root ginger, the garlic, the coriander, and the lime juice into a mixing bowl. Stir and then leave to infuse.
- Meanwhile, to make the chilli paste, put the vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Heat over medium heat and then add the chillies and the onion. Sauté over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and sauté for 5 minutes until everything is very soft, being careful to make sure it doesn’t take on any colour. Put the contents of the pan into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Continue to make the amarillo chilli tiger's milk. After the ingredients have infused, strain the mixture through a sieve into another bowl. Add the salt and the homemade amarillo chilli paste, and mix well.
- To make the don ceviche, wash the sliced red onion and then leave it to soak in iced water for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly and spread out on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel to remove any excess water. This will reduce the strength of the onions and help to keep them crisp.
- Place the fish in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt and mix together gently with a metal spoon. The salt will help open the fish’s pores. Leave for 2 minutes.
- Add the onions, coriander, chilli and the cubed sweet potato to the fish.
- Pour over the tiger’s milk and combine gently with the spoon. Leave the fish to ‘cook’ in this marinade for 2 minutes.
- Mix together gently with the spoon and taste to check the balance of salt, sour and chilli is to your liking. Divide between serving bowls and serve immediately.
Chef's tip: keep your fish refrigerated until just before using. We recommend using fine sea salt for making any kind of ceviche as it is higher quality than other salts and more beneficial in cold ‘cooking’. If cooking with heat then normal table or rock salt is sufficient.
You can also make the amarillo chilli tiger's milk ahead of time and it will refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
How to make a great pisco sour
Fun fact: Miguel says he's made around 100,000 pisco sours in his lifetime. Can someone give this man a medal for services to cocktails?
- 50ml pisco acholado
- 1 egg white
- 30ml lime juice
- 20ml sugar syrup
- 3 ice cubes
- 3 drops of angostura or chuncho bitters, to serve
There are two ways to make this cocktail:
- You can either put all the ingredients into a blender with three ice cubes and blend until smooth, or …
- You can fill a shaker with the ice, add the other ingredients and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Carefully hold the froth back with the lid of the shaker or blender, and pour the liquid into a chilled glass; you will still end up with a drink with a good head of foam.
- Either way, add 3 drops of bitters to serve.