Conflict Kitchen London recently ran pop up restaurants at Monikers on Hoxton Square serving food from countries that are currently experiencing conflict of some kind. The idea was inspired by a Pittsburgh based restaurant of the same name that serves food only from countries that are in conflict with the US. In London, Myanmar, Jordan and Peru were the featured countries.
The pop ups were part of the Talking Peace Festival – a month long series of events organised by the charity International Alert, and inspired by the UN International Day of Peace. International Alert are a peace building organisation that provide advice to local people, governments and companies internationally to help resolve conflict through dialogue. The festival has now ended, but there is one final lecture on 21st October.
A group of us went along to one of the Peruvian pop ups. As well as gorgeous food, the evening involved an education in mining and the extractive industry in Peru, and the subsequent conflicts they cause in relation to land, water and environmental impact.
The evening’s food was prepared by a Peruvian lady called Marlith. She is part of a social enterprise called Mazí Mas that helps women from migrant and refugee communities develop their culinary skills professionally. Their aim is to increase the confidence of these women in order that they can ultimately create their own food business or become employed by one.
For me, the two stand out dishes of the evening were an Amazonian ground nut soup called inchicapi, and ceviche – raw white fish cured in lime juice. The ceviche was different to most others I had tried (admittedly, typically Mexican). It contained huge dried kernels of corn that I had never seen before, let alone in a ceviche. Some research later on revealed it to be a type of dried corn called chulpe or cancha. It had been toasted and salted to make something called tostado. This is also typically served as a snack alongside your beer in Peruvian bars.
Even though I’d eaten it many times before, I had never made ceviche. I felt it was time. I wanted to include the giant corn. Sourcing it didn’t prove to be so simple. I searched in vain for it locally, so tried making my own from fresh sweetcorn. That didn’t go so well… I work in the Elephant and Castle area which has a very large population of Latin Americans. So I went to a Colombian shop in the shopping centre, but they didn’t have any either. At the weekend I bought what I thought was the right thing in two shops in Brixton. It wasn’t. Then, on the advice of a friend of a friend, in the pouring rain during my lunch break on Monday, I went down to the railway arches behind the Elephant shopping centre where I found a Latin American cafe/deli called Chatica selling the stuff. Finally!
I bought my fish from my local fishmonger Jonathan Norris on the same day as I made the ceviche – freshness is super important. As I was only preparing for two, he suggested gilthead bream instead of sea bass which is larger. This is more commonly used, but any firm white fish will work well.
In Peru, ceviche is typically served with lettuce, boiled sweet potato and corn. We ate it with sweet potato wedges.
Peruvian Ceviche (serves 2 very generously as part of a main meal, or 4 as a starter)
300g firm white fish
½ tsp salt
1 habenero/scotch bonnet chilli
1 small garlic clove
1cm piece of ginger
1 red onion
For the tostado (optional):
½ tbsp sunflower oil
Handful of maíz de tostar (chulpe or cancha)
Salt to taste
First make the tostado if using. Put the oil in a small frying pan and place on a medium heat. Add the corn. Once it starts to make a popping noise, cover partially. Keep stirring until the corn is golden. Be careful of any corn popping out of the pan! Drain on a kitchen towel. Add salt to taste. Keep aside until you are serving the ceviche.
Cut the fish into small cubes approximately 1½ cm in size. Place in a glass bowl and cover with cold water. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes (the brining helps the fish stay firm).
Juice the limes.
Finely chop the garlic and ginger. Roughly chop one coriander stem (with leaves). Remove the seeds and pith of the chilli, and finely slice ¼ of it. Add all of these to the lime juice. Keep aside.
Slice the onion as thinly as possible. Soak in iced water with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes. Drain well and dry on a kitchen towel. Refrigerate until needed.
Take the fish out of the fridge and rinse. Drain well and place in a glass bowl. Pour the lime juice mix through a sieve onto the fish. Stir gently. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. You can leave it for longer if you prefer the fish to be more ‘cooked’.
When the fish is ready remove it from the fridge and drain. Keep the lime marinade. Adjust seasoning if necessary (I didn’t need to).
Mix the onions with the fish, and place onto 2 plates. Pour over a couple of tablespoons of the marinade onto each one. Garnish with a little more chopped coriander and chilli, and the tostado.