As someone who likes food, it’s not surprising that Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities. It is, after all, home to the world’s best restaurant not to mention some of the greatest beer. And, unlike Canada, where restaurants seem to close their terraces at the first nip of coolness, you can eat outdoors in Copenhagen well into the colder months – most places even supply blankets to wrap yourself in while you eat pickled herring by a canal. Sitting there among the beautiful old buildings – the canal boats, the streets filled with cyclists – enjoying a simple plate of herring, a little chopped egg, sliced onion, some sour cream and a bit of black bread, is civilization at its Danish best. Take another stroll on the Strøget!
I’ve tried to recreate that mood around here with little success. None in fact. Opening a jar of pickled herring in my house is a surefire way to clear the room. Even His Majesty The Cat turns up his royal nose and heads for the hills. Which leaves me and the dog. And, let’s face it, the dog will eat anything and can’t be counted as an arbiter of good taste.
Take a bit of fresh fish, however, and quickly pickle it with a little citrus and some herbs and suddenly there’s a line forming at the kitchen door. Even HMTC becomes a little purring dervish weaving about my feet.
Myself, I think it’s all in the name. Ceviche (Sa-veech-CHAY!) just sounds a heck of a lot more je ne sais quoi than pickled herring (PICK-eld HAIR-ring!). But try telling that to the kids.
We first enjoyed ceviche when graduate school friends from Chile made it for us one cold, dark Ottawa winter night a few years back (OK, quite a few years back). One bite was enough to transport us to a summer terrace in Santiago (the pitcher of pisco sour they’d also made was helpful in this regard). Salty, citrusy, just a little spicy and very fresh, the fish stays firm and meaty.
It is also very simple to make – almost as easy as opening a jar of herring.
Serves four as an appetizer or two as a light meal
3/4 pounds very fresh halibut or other firm-fleshed fish, cut into roughly one-inch cubes
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 finger hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon seat salt
Mix all ingredients together and allow to marinate for two to three hours in the fridge, until the fish is opaque. Enjoy!