Recharging a battery with some fish

One day sometimes can be enough. Just to recharge your battery to make sure you can handle being in your third country within three weeks. I’ve landed in Mozambique yesterday, and thankfully Veerle, a Dutch colleague of another organisation was waiting there for me. It’s nice to speak your own language again after becoming totally anglofied. At a certain point I always lose the ability to think in Dutch.

She took me to a friend of hers, Astrid, who generously hosted me and Veerle and made sure we got a proper taste of Maputo. Moreover she gave a good introduction to Mozambique. I’ve learnt now some of its history, the relationship between ANC and Frelimo, about the recent food riots, but more importantly if you want to relax, where to get your nails done and eat carrot cake.

The biggest adventure though was the fish market. It wasn’t a very big market, but it was colourful, noisy and smelly (as you imagine any fish market probably). The noise did not only come from the offerings at the fish market, but also the vuvuzela’s in the bar next door, the kids wanting you to sell you tissues, the lemon sellers and the many people around (including Chinese).

Astrid was looking for some good white fish to actually prepare a Colombian pre-historic dish. There were all kinds of big fish lying around, and we honestly had no idea what to take, but finally she found one with the seller Alberto! Now Alberto was a man with a strong will, big mouth, but little skill and a knife that could not even cut through butter. However he refused to acknowledge either of these facts and basically screamed at Astrid that he was the best man to filet the fish (which he clearly was making a mess off) and that it would be better if she would bake it with the skin instead of him taking it off (as that would relieve him from this tedious job of course). Astrid however, was not impressed and insisted he continued. In the meantime Veerle and I bought more than a kilo of shrimp with what many of us would define as a wonderful smiling shrimp lady. We also admired the beautiful crabs and lobsters. Such beautiful colours.

It took a while before Alberto finally was finished. Unfortunately, he had one more trick up his sleeve. Astrid had decided that the head of the fish could go to a little boy, since we would not eat it anyway. The minute we turned our backs, the head of the fish was snatched from the boy by the seller, leaving the boy with nothing. He would probably try to sell it again…There was little Astrid could do about it, and offered the boy a few coins. Hopefully he would be able to buy something instead.

This little fact of reality did not deter us though from enjoying the rest of the fish and the shrimp later on in the afternoon. Here’s the recipe for the white fish, which has the same effect as actually cooking the fish, but you won’t need to do this. Sounds a bit like a riddle, but the amount of acid from the fresh lemons causes a similar chemical reaction that makes sure the fish becomes soft and edible, as when you would cook it. A technique of pre-historic nature when there was very little firewood around, but the need to prepare food anyways.

Recipe for Ceviche

So get somebody to filet about a kilo of white fish for you and cut into smaller pieces (or do it yourself), but make sure it’s not Alberto.

Squeeze about 6 lemons and 6 limes for their juice, and pour this over the white fish and make sure it’s fully covered. Add some salt, chili pepper to taste and if you like some garlic. Let it rest for about 30 minutes. Serve with sweet potatoes, some coriander and if you can find them, roasted corn cornels.

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