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Contrary to what you might think, a dish of raw fish is actually a pretty common thing. Sashimi will spring to mind first, I imagine, and it will be followed by tartare, tataki, poke, gravadlax, rollmops and ceviche.
Also contrary to first impressions, it is quite safe to eat fish raw, puffer excluded. If you can’t get your sashimi grade (aka flipper flapping fresh) tuna or salmon, freeze it for a week to kill any potential parasitic worms living in the raw fish flesh. Even though, you might say, it doesn’t make it free from other pathogens like salmonella or listeria, those are external contaminants and may get to any foods in the course of the processing. So eating your sushi is no more risky than eating deli meat, cheeses or ice cream.
For the information of the unreasonably squeamish (bleurgh, raw fish), all the above listed dishes involve a cooking process of sorts. The ‘cooking’ is most commonly performed by an acidic agent of one type or another, citrus fruit or vinegar; or salt – the commonest preserving/cooking medium. Yes, sugar would do that too but somehow we don’t find herring candy that appealing.
Undeniably, the fresher the fish and the better suppliers it’s sourced from, the safer the end result. But one way or another, fresh scallops are so lovely it’s almost a shame to even ‘cook’ them with lemon or lime. This pairing, spotted in NY Times Cooking, features added sweetness (see, we got to the herring candy in the end) from plums but make sure they are sweet indeed and ripe. Swap plums for mango for a more traditional companionship, but make sure the tarragon is fresh, and there in copious quantities. The herb is the star player.
scallop cevicheServings: 4Time: just over half an hour
- 2-3 ripe plums, stoned
- ½ tsp sugar
- 8 (about 1 pound) fresh king scallops
- 4-5 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves stripped
- 60ml (¼ cup) freshly squeezed lime juice, from 2 limes
- zest grated from 2 limes
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
Cut the plums into 5mm dice. Place them in a large bowl and – unless they are very ripe and sweet – sprinkle with the sugar. Leave while you prepare the scallops.
Wash the scallops and pat them dry; trim the tough white muscle and the coral (you can freeze it and throw into fish stock or a fish pie). Cut the scallops into similar sized dice as the plums and add them to the bowl.
Chop the tarragon leaves very finely and add most to the bowl. Sprinkle over the lime zest and pour in the juice; season with salt flakes and the cayenne pepper.
Toss everything gently together to combine the flavours, best with your hands. Leave the ceviche to ‘cook’ for 5-15 minutes in the fridge, then divide between serving bowls and sprinkle with the remaining tarragon to serve.