There are two different schools of thought when it comes to the New Year. One argues that January is the perfect time to flex your willpower (and, you know, your muscles. At the gym. Every day. For a month.). The other shivers under its heavy quilt and casts a glance at the brooding sky and thinks, “Give up all booze and fun stuff now? Yeah, nope.” (You don’t have to ask which side us beer folk fall on).
For those temporarily ascetic dieter types, there’s some good news: even in January, a bowl of ceviche is, well, pretty guiltless. How can you go wrong with what amounts to fresh fish, fruit and vegetables?
But for everyone else, ceviche is so much more than just diet-friendly fare. Best when crafted as a fine balance of chili, salt, and citrus, this Peruvian dish shimmers with brightness and heat. It’s beautifully vibrant – a tropical postcard from sunnier times. In this particular recipe, lime juice is used to “cook” flaky seabass in less than ten minutes, while the merest dash of orange blossom water – an addition I’m still patting myself on the back for – lends a just-perceptible floral note.
Ceviche needs a sparring partner that can roll with its citric spike while calling up summery vibes of its own, and London Beer Lab’s Wheat Beer is just the companion required. Balanced and blossoming with bright esters, it’s a South London-made brew with a continental turn of phrase; it plays nicely with the bird’s eye chili and melds seamlessly with the fruit. If you’re seeking an extra punch of sour, I reckon a fruit gose – Omnipollo Bianca comes to mind – or a nice, lactic Berliner weisse could also sort you out very nicely. Disciplined January types: you weren’t going to serve your ceviche without beer, were you?
Citrusy Sea Bass Ceviche
Loosely inspired by a recipe by Martin Morales; serves two as a light meal or appetiser
1 small sweet potato
½ red onion
1 ruby grapefruit
Juice of two limes
½ tsp orange blossom water
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 bird’s eye chili, very finely minced
2 fillets sea bass
Begin the prep work with your sweet potato. Peel and finely dice the sweet potato into even, small cubes. Add to a small pot of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 10 minutes – you want the sweet potatoes to be fork-tender but you don’t want them to break down into mush. Drain and set aside, allowing the sweet potatoes to cool to room temperature.
On to the red onion. Peel and halve the onion and set aside one half. Slice the other half into very fine half-moons. Add to a bowl filled with ice water and allow to sit for 10 minutes (this will remove some of the onion’s intensity). Drain and dry the onion pieces on kitchen roll, and chill until the ceviche is ready to assemble.
Next, with your very sharpest knife, supreme your red grapefruit (if you haven’t supremed citrus before, here is a very good step-by-step guide). Set aside. Halve your avocado and remove the pit; crosshatch with your knife so the avocado is cut into small cubes. Scoop these out and set aside.
Now, make the marinade for your fish. In a small bowl, combine the finely minced garlic, bird’s eye chili (keep the seeds in, unless you’re really afraid of spice), lime juice, and orange blossom water, with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt to taste (roughly ½ tsp). Set aside for at least 10 minutes, allowing the flavours to happily intermingle.
Prep your fish. Run your hands over both fillets, checking for any lingering bones. Slice the fish into thin slices – roughly ½ cm – leaving behind the skin. Add the fish to a bowl and top with ½ tsp salt, stirring gently to mix. Let sit for two minutes before pouring over your lime juice mix. This is the key moment: it is the lime that “cooks” your raw fish, and the balance of salt, chili, and citrus that makes it a ceviche. Stir gently to combine and allow to sit for 10 minutes. You should notice that, by the end, your fish is turning white and opaque.
To assemble: remove your fish from the marinade and arrange between two plates, before adding the avocado, grapefruit, sweet potato, and onion (arranging prettily, if you’re looking to impress). Spoon over the lime juice mixture. Garnish with some torn fresh coriander, and one final wee sprinkle of sea salt.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.