The Sea And The Desert
Sea trout ceviche, guacamole with cactus, dilisk seaweed, corn tortillaWritten by Kieran Creevy | Photography by Claire Burge
There are many areas on our planet where deserts reach the sea, which seems paradoxical, given deserts exist due in part to a lack of water, but though these areas might appear almost lifeless, they can offer amazing scope for adventures, not to mention really good local produce, hence the recipe below.
One country in particular has almost a surfeit of amazing seashore bound by desert and thorny scrub, and some of the most under-appreciated food outside its own borders and perhaps a few neighbouring countries/states.I’m referring of course to Mexico and unfortunately I’ve heard many people describe the food as one note; hot and windy.
However, when you see the huge variety of food available in the local markets and the multitude of ways you can alter the taste of a dish by the simple substitution of one ingredient and you’ll realise that Mexican food is brilliant for us adventure travellers – lots of flavour, and nutrition with minimal ingredients, long lasting (beans, dried chiles, citrus fruit, maize flour – for tortillas), and healthy (loads of fresh fruits & veg, pulses, chiles – again!) assuming you go easy on the cheese and flan.
300g sea trout with skin on, cut into 2 fillets
8 corn tostadas (small tortilla)
1tbsp whole spices (fennel, mustard seed, nigella/onion)
Small handful dilisk seaweed (dried or fresh)
Small squeeze bottle (50ml) rapeseed/peanut/sunflower oil
Juice 3 limes
1 smoked passilla chile
Guacamole with cactus
2 ripe avocado
3 tbsp pickled cactus (or fresh if available)
Important note. Because this dish uses the acid found in lime juice to mostly ‘cook’ the Salmon, it’s imperative that you buy really fresh fish and if that’s not available, choose frozen fish instead.
Most seaweeds are edible, provided you don’t harvest them from an area with contaminants. Where you can harvest the seaweed depends on the species, as some might be exposed only at low tide. Never pull at seaweed fronds, once they detach from the rock, they die. Instead cut off sections of the frond using sharp scissors, and the plant can regenerate.
It’s relatively easy to forage cactus, providing you know how to identify the edible species and carry the right tools (sack, heavy duty gloves, tongs, and a sharp knife). However, since they are commercially grown and readily available in local markets across Mexico, I’d buy there. Plus you have the added advantage of getting advice on the different flavours from the grocers.
(NB if foraging for wild leaves/herbs, make 100% sure you know how to identify the plant – using expert advice or multiple reference sources, don’t pick within 50m of a road, or if you suspect that the area might have been contaminated, don’t destroy the plant – allow it to flower/fruit/grow new leaves again, and if unsure, do not eat)
Over 1.2 billion (yes, Billion) tortillas/tostadas are consumed every day in Mexico, so it won’t come a surprise that you can buy them fresh, or ready made in every village, no matter how small or remote. For preference, choose maize (corn) tortillas over wheat, which are more popular in the northern states that border the US, as these have a much more interesting flavour in addition to being better nutritionally.
Avocados & Limes
ou can buy these fruit in most states of Mexico as easily if not easier than a bottle water in Europe. However, what may surprise you is the number of varieties on offer. If you’re used to watery supermarket avocados, or rock hard limes then be prepared for the difference in flavour. After this you’ll be contemplating growing your own in a greenhouse!
Sea trout: Place the 2 fillets in a ziploc bag
Ceviche: Juice the limes, toast the chile on a dry pan, chop roughly and add to the lime juice and pour over the sea trout. Close the ziploc bag, place in a small dry bag and add a large handful of ice to keep cool.
Guacamole: Peel and stone the avocados, chop and place into a bowl. Dice the cactus and roughly chop the herbs. Add to the avocado and mash with a fork until you have a chunky mix. Toast the tortillas individually on a hot dry pan usually 1-2 minutes each side- when they start to form a bubble in the centre, flip over and cook the other side. Tip into a bowl lined with a tea towel to keep warm.
Dry fry the spices for 2 minutes and then add 25ml of oil to the pan. Add the sea trout – skin side down, and the seaweed. Cook for 1 minute max and remove from the heat. Cut the trout fillets into four
Plate the tostadas/tortillas. Top with a dessert spoon of the guacamole sauce, and then the sea trout. Sprinkle over the seaweed and toasted spices and dig in!
Substitutes: You could replace the sea trout with most meaty fish – tuna, snapper, sea bream, grouper, jacks. The guacamole could be tweaked with mint, olive oil, vinegar, green peppers… Some nice additions would be: Pico de gallo lit – roosters beak: A common Mexican condiment of chopped tomatoes (remember to deseed) onion and fresh chiles. Mango and mint salsa.
In addition to fifteen years work as an international mountain leader and trekking guide on five continents, Kieran has nearly two decades experience of catering for some of the most demanding customers – fellow instructors who want nutritious food with a bit flair, lots of it, now and don’t care that it’s minus 10c and snowing!Twitter @kierancreevy
Claire has been described as part chaos, part rocket fuel. When she is isn’t racing down mountains on her bicycle, you will find her behind a lens and licking the wooden spoon.Twitter @claireburge