There is a fat, lazy pigeon on the roof-top 20 feet away… he’s eyeballing me…tucked in between a faded green bucket and some forgotten terracotta roof tiles. He looks comfortable and at home in the heat of this Catalan dusk, I’m not….. I rest my chin on my arms leaning on the wall of the roof terrace and try to stare him out, this is how I kill time as Clare gets ready…..I reckon I can take this bird! The theme from The Good The Bad and The Ugly starts in my head, my eyes narrow to slits..to heighten the tension an imaginary camera flicks rapidly between ever tightening shots of Senior Pigeon and Me…..I have the stubble, a Lucky Strike hangs from the crack of my mouth and I’m wearing boots..this pigeon is toast….
I give up after just 30 seconds…. bored and hungry, the pigeon can have this victory..I have bigger fish to fry.
A long slow drag on the Lucky and gulp of Estrella….Jesus Christ it is hot….
My apartment is on the roof of a Gothic pile buried in the labyrinth that is Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. It’s a local rental commanding knock-out views of Born, Barcelonetta, Orwell Square and the hard blue of the Med that sucks at Barca’s beaches. I love this city, I know her intimately. I know her lines and curves, her secrets and lies, her darkness and light. Equally, she knows me and each time we’ve met she has wooed and excited me…she knows my weaknesses and she plays on them….every…single…..time..she has something new with which steal my breath.
‘La Maison’ ….this is a dive bar in the heart of Gothic. It’s owner is a slim, pearl skinned Parisian, raven hair, ruby lips – she fell right off the pages of ‘Parisian Women for Dummies’….she looks ridiculously outta place here…maybe that’s her angle….aloof and confident. The place is dusky, wooden, leathery…the colours are faded pinks and greens painted on bare plaster walls with myriads of hidden alcoves dimly lit by raw candles..this could be somewhere in central Guatemala. She should be in Le Marais…not here. The furniture is an amalgam of things bought, found and maybe ‘acquired’…nothing ‘fits’…there’s no formula to this place…in fact the whole joint is at 2 opposing right angles to itself….it makes no sense.
I love it.
The punters are mostly South American……Peruvian and Chilean but a few are Yanks on European adventures..loud and obvious. An accordion breathes from around the corner as the first of many beers hits the bar in front of us, I have to lean back hard to locate its origin and master. A three-piece has set up in a corner of the annexed part of the bar – accordion, guitar and cajon – Buena Vista Social club these guys are not…but they are damn close and as they sooth out Latin beats the lazing punters stir and a few begin to Bosa their Novas leaving their hefty Mojitos on rickety tables for a few moments.
“This is my Grandmother’s Ceviche”
A small bowl of dark crimson liquid is laid down on the bar in addition to tall cold beers – it looks like a Persian rug, oils, acids and stock at odds with each other creating a rich tapestry on the surface….prawns and tuna…..coriander, tomato, lime, pepper…this turns out to be the most incredible ‘wet’ Ceviche I have ever tasted – this is what you get in this joint instead of fucking saw dust infused bar nuts. Where have you been all my life I wonder…
The dude behind the bar is Ecuadorian and sports all the hall-marks of a South American Indian.. he is the Parisian’s partner…. previously in life but now only in business. His Grandmother’s Ceviche is heady, fresh, cool, punchy….this is the real deal and its only a bar snack.
“I’m gonna need more of this Ernesto”?
“No problem, you want rice and plantains”?
I’m to giddy, the grin on my mug will be there for days. There is a point in time where your sensory planets align – all external factors that influence you are in perfect balance..its a rarity….where you are, who you are with, why you are where you are, what you are eating, what you are drinking, what you are listening to, what you are talking about….I’m in a perfect storm here and now and at its epicenter is Grannies perfect Ecuadorian Ceviche………Me 1 / Pigeon 0.
♠ Ceviche ♣
Prep time: 5 mins ♦ Cook Time: 2 mins ♦ Total time 5 ish mins ♦ Serves 2
♣WHAT YOU NEED♥
- 1 full ‘Light’ White fish – such as Sole or Plaice (cut into 1cm cubes)
- Juice of 1 lemon and 2 lime
- Fresh Coriander (roughly chopped)
- 2 fat spring onions (very finely sliced)
- White pepper and sea salt
- 1 tomato (seeded and diced)
- 1 small firey Red Chili finely sliced
- Olive oil the very best you can get your mits on)
♣HOW YOU DO IT♥
The rule of thumb with any Ceviche is prep, temperature and speed – your Ceviche needs to hit the plate when your ready to eat it – DO NOT HANG AROUND!
Add the white fish to a bowl and season with the white pepper, cling it and sling into the fridge
Combine the lemon and lime juice, some finely chopped coriander a teaspoon of salt and the sliced spring onion – this is your cooking liquor – cling it and sling into the fridge
Next its just assembly, in a large bowl combine the cooking liquor and the fish and gentle move them around together for no more than about 2 minutes – but watch the fish, the acids will make it firm-up and basically cook but you have to get it out of the cooking liquor as soon as that starts.
When the fish starts to get whiter and firmer remove it to another bowl leaving most of the cooking liqour behind – its done – then add the chopped tomato, a lug or two of olive oil and the chili before spooning onto plate and eating immediately.
This is a gnarley starter and is prep-able well, well in advance or as a main you can spin it up with a simple boiled rice
FANCY A BEER? TRY THIS: