Tag: red onions

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

Cod al Cartoccio with Ramp and Red Onion

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

My beloved ramp is back in season, ready to add its garlicky spiciness to fish, meat and vegetables, and to one of my favourites of course: fragrant ramp pesto!

I’ve been looking for it impatiently over the past few weeks and when I finally spotted the first bunch at my organic supermarket I had to call my boyfriend instantly, he’s almost more obsessed with these green spring leaves than I am. We changed our dinner plans from gnocchi with blue cheese sauce to spaghetti with pesto, and that was just the beginning of our re-awakened green passion! Cod al cartoccio on a bed of ramp and red onions was next on my list. It’s not only very delicious but also a very convenient match. I wrapped the fish in a parchment paper package with a little white wine, olive oil and lemon juice and cooked it in the oven for 15 minutes, all in all it took less than half an hour including the preparation! If you’re still looking for a light and easy family Easter lunch, think al cartoccio. It cooks the fish to perfection while you can create your desired aroma of herbs and vegetables, it tastes divine and looks beautiful on the table.

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

 

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

Cod al Cartoccio with Ramp and Red Onion

For 2 people you need

cod fillet, about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick, 400g / 14 ounces
ramp, stalks cut off, a large bunch (about 50g / 1 3/4 ounces)
small red onion, cut in half and into thin slices, 1
white wine 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons plus more for the parchment paper
sea salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan-assisted oven).

Cut 2 large pieces of parchment paper, big enough to wrap the fish, lay them on top of each other and brush the top layer with olive oil. Lay the ramp leaves in the middle of the oiled parchment paper (leave 2 leaves out and put aside), place the cod on top and season with salt and pepper. Lay 1 ramp leaf on top of the fillet and arrange the onions around the fish. Whisk the wine, olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the fish. Close the parchment paper like a bonbon and fold the top twice. Place in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes, if you can separate the fish (gently) with a fork it’s done, if it needs a little longer close the parchment paper and put back into the oven (mind not to overcook it!). Chop the raw ramp leaf and sprinkle over the cooked fish, serve with fresh baguette and a glass of chilled white wine!

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

 

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

 

Cod and Ramp al Cartoccio

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

It’s been dark for days and the sky is painted in a dull grey that doesn’t seem to fade away. It welcomes me in the morning as soon as I open the curtains in our bedroom and it changes into pitch black in the afternoon without showing a single patch of blue all day. I don’t even want to look outside the windows anymore, I start daydreaming instead, a skill I improved to perfection over the years. I can stare at my computer for minutes before I realise that my mind is already in Dwejra in Gozo, exploring the deep blue of the Mediterranean sea. Another one of my favourite imaginary winter escapes is to stroll down the narrow streets of Valletta, the stone of the baroque buidings glowing in the golden sun and a soft breeze cooling my skin. If I get hungry I just dream myself into Caffe Cordina, I sit at one of the little tables at the Piazza Regina with an espresso and a pastizz tal-irkotta and I completely forget about reality, the grey sky and January’s sober melancholy. I’m not in Berlin anymore.

This works with any place in the world which made me happy at one point, a few days ago I found myself in the mountains, in Bavaria. I imagined a summery Biergarten scene, wooden benches, hearty food and beer mugs on rustic tables under green trees. After a few seconds, I got hungry, but not an imaginary kind of hunger. I felt like pretzels and Obatzda, the famous Bavarian dip made of whipped camembert, caraway seeds and sweet paprika. Daydreaming wakes up all the senses, it doesn’t matter if you see a real sandwich in front of you or if it’s just in your head, all you want is this sandwich on your plate! So I got on my bike, drove to my favourite pretzel bakery and picked a young camembert at the market on my way home. Last year, in early spring, I made an Obatzda variation with rucola and I used a well aged cheese but this time I was after a light aroma to give the spices more space. Back in my kitchen, I put the camembert in the blender and mixed in the spices. When I spread the thick dip voluptuously on a pretzel bun and garnished it with red onions, garden cress and crushed hot chili peppers I could see the Bavarian Biergarten right in front of me.

You can find my recipe for Pretzel Buns here!

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

 

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

For 4 sandwiches you need

pretzel buns or large pretzels,  cut in half, 4
young camembert 100g / 3.5 ounces
cream cheese 80g / 3 ounces
heavy cream 1 tablespoon
caraway seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/8 teaspoon
ground sweet paprika 1 teaspoon
ground cayenne pepper, a pinch
salt and pepper
small red onion, cut in half and into thin slices, 1, for the topping
small dried chili peppers, ground in a mortar, 2-3, for the topping
garden cress, a small handful, for the topping

Purée the camembert, cream cheese, heavy cream and spices in a blender until smooth and season to taste. Spread on the buns and sprinkle with onions, garden cress and chili.

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

 

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

 

Pretzel Buns with Camembert, Caraway Seeds and Red Onions

Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

Moussaka

My Moussaka, truth be told, is a fruity ratatouille baked with a fluffy lemon ricotta soufflé on top. The traditional Greek Moussaka is made with a Béchamel sauce which I’m not too fond of. I like this creamy sauce in my lasagna or cannelloni but that’s it. The ricotta tastes much lighter, enhanced with lemon zest, nutmeg, parmesan and fresh basil, it gives this dish more of a summer feeling. Contrary to the Greek version, I kept mine vegetarian, there’s no minced meat involved, just zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onions, lots of parsley and a velvety layer of fried aubergine slices in between the vegetables and the cheese. It stops the ricotta from running into the juicy ratatouille.

When I cook a ratatouille I always make a big batch. This moussaka is perfect as a second day dish for ratatouille leftovers. Topped with the ricotta it just has to bake in the oven for half an hour, great if you have friend’s over for dinner and not much time for preparations! I baked it in small casserole dishes closed with a lid so that each of us could have our own little pot.

Moussaka

 Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

I bake the Moussaka in two 12,5cm / 5″ casserole dishes with lids, you could use a big one instead but you may have to bake it a bit longer for the ricotta to set.

For 2-3 people you need

small aubergine, sliced into circles, 1
zucchini, sliced into circles, 1
red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 1
big red onion, quartered and thinly sliced, 1
big tomatoes, chopped, 4
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
parsley, chopped, 2 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
olive oil for frying
salt and black pepper

For the topping
ricotta 260g / 9 ounces
organic eggs 2
parmesan, grated, 30g / 1 ounce
small basil leaves, chopped, 30
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
lemon juice 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
(I also added in a little of the liquid of my Moroccan preserved lemons)
nutmeg, ground to taste
salt and pepper

Spread the slices of aubergine on a baking dish and sprinkle with salt on both sides to pull some of its water out. Let it sit for around 15 minutes, rinse the slices and dry between kitchen roll paper. In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the aubergine for a few minutes on both sides on medium temperature until golden and soft, add a little more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes until golden and soft. Add the bell pepper and garlic and fry for 2 minutes before you add the zucchini. Fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes and deglaze with 2 tablespoons of Balsamico vinegar. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add the parsley and season with Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping, mix the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F top/ bottom heat.

Divide the vegetables between the 2 casserole dishes, cover with 3-4 slices of aubergine and spread the ricotta mixture gently on top. Cover with lids and bake for around 35 minutes until the ricotta mixture is set.

Moussaka

Radicchio with Caramelised Red Onions and Lemon Thyme

Radicchio with Caramelised Red Onions + Thyme

In the past few days I’ve had caramelised onions on my mind, sweet and syrupy, preferably the red ones or shallots which taste softer and reveal an intense natural sweetness when they are cooked. There is a big bowl in my kitchen which is always filled with onions. I like to have the whole range at hand, red, yellow, white, big and small, but most of the time I use the spicy yellow bulbs, mine are medium sized and organic, they bring tears to my eyes as soon as the knife touches the peel. They are great too cook with but painful to prepare! A few shallots are in the bowl as well and red onions of course which I love to use for pies or in salads, which rarely happens as I’m not too fond of raw onions.

I have a beautiful head of radicchio in my fridge just waiting to be used, the big leaves falling over its sides like a ball gown, almost too perfect to destroy! But I must, I want to combine its bitterness with the sweetness of caramelised red onions and some lemon thyme. The radicchio is uncooked but the onions caramelise in sugary butter, softening over less than 15 minutes before I deglaze their juices with dark Balsamico vinegar. The result is delicious, a salad of bitter sweet flavours glazed in a thick sweet and sour dressing!

Radicchio with Caramelised Red Onions + Thyme

 A Salad of Radicchio, Caramelised Red Onions and Lemon Thyme

For a side dish for 2 you need

radicchio, torn into bite sized pieces, 4 big leaves
medium sized red onions, each cut into 8 pieces (lengthwise), 2
butter 3 tablespoons
sugar 2 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
olive oil 4 tablespoons
lemon thyme, 10 young and soft sprigs chopped roughly or just the leaves
salt and black pepper

In a large pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of oil together with the butter and sugar on medium temperature. As soon as the butter starts to sizzle add the onions, stir once in a while. Let the onions soften over 10 minutes, they can become a bit dark but shouldn’t burn as that would make them bitter. When the onions are soft, caramelised and have turned a dark red, season with salt and pepper and take them out keeping their caramel juices in the pan. Deglaze the bits and pieces left in the pan with the Balsamico, put on medium heat for a few seconds and mix it so that just a little of the vinegar evaporates. Take it off the heat, pour the liquid into a bowl, whisk with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

On big plates, arrange the radicchio with the caramelised onions on top, carefully as they are very soft, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and add the thyme. Drizzle the thick dressing over the leaves, it’s so strong that a few drops are enough to spread the sweet flavours.

Radicchio with Caramelised Red Onions + Thyme