Our evening binge-TV is Modern Family. There are 11 seasons so it looks like we’re covered until next summer (who am I kidding, we’ll be finished within a month). In an episode we watched the other night, a character lamented, ‘Do you remember when summer meant fireflies, cut-off shorts and ice cream trucks?’
Do I remember? Don’t I just. And the alarming thing about this is that unlike Modern Family’s Claire Dunphy who is a stay-at-home mother of three, habitually tearing her hair out about them and her husband, I don’t have children. Or a husband. So what has happened to the summer of yore?!
Summer in Toulouse entered with a noticeable drumroll. The thick heavy heat swelled as the weeks wore on; humidity smothers us like a damp blanket throughout the days and has the audacity to intensify at night. Forget Modern Family’s fireflies – mosquitoes float lazily through the flat’s open French windows, leaving a trail of chaos, itchy skin and pockmarked ankles in their wake. Those summers of cut-off shorts are a nothing more than a fantasy unless I want my legs to be ravaged. I’m talking about mutant mosquitoes here.
Despite the humid atmosphere, France is currently burning under the sun – grass is parched and dry and don’t get me started on our garden (somehow the grass can’t grow but weeds on the other hand seemingly don’t need water). Geckos soak up the heat on sun-drenched pavements, then wildly scatter as you approach – at least that sudden movement out of the corner of your eye is nothing to be worried about.
So, yes, it’s quite clearly summer. But that romance? The fireflies, cut-off shorts and ice cream trucks?
Sorry to be the voice of grown-up doom, but the summers of our childhoods have gone. Once upon a time, there was a sense of endless possibility, of at least two months without school or homework, and there were picnics and homemade lemonade, and time to read books for fun. Throughout my pre-teens I read stacks of American teen-romances – of girl gangs cycling through suburbia, a babysitting club tackling adventures, of 16-year-olds driving their cars to the local 7-eleven for sodas (thrilling even though I had no idea what a 7-eleven was), of summer romances with the school outcasts and bad boys, of summer camps and popsicles and baseball.
My summers as a child were less all-Americana, however we still ate ice lollies (the UK-version of popsicles) and ice creams on sticks, splashed about in paddling pools and stuck the end of our garden slide over the inflatable edge so we had a real water-slide. I took pride in my first ever bikini (with a pre-pubescent figure and pot belly) and enjoyed a taste of that teen-chick-lit freedom on our annual holidays to Cornwall with family friends.
Unlike at home where we lived on a busy main road and also there was a general lack of local friends to go and see, we cycled everywhere around the residential resort of self-catered cottages, galloping across fields, playing in trees, and barging into our friends’ houses. My sister and I shared a room and we felt like we were having a week-long sleepover, plus our room had a TV (!) and we stayed up late watching Totally Spies on Cartoon Network.
The familiarity of this home-bound adventure kept us safe, yet the novel differences to normality was for me the unlimited possibility of summer – independence and child-like freedom with nothing to do but go swimming, take cliff-top walks to the beach and enjoy late bedtimes.
Now though, those childhood escapades of summer and that sense of endless, boundless summer days… are drifting away. Gaylord and I, like all self-respecting adults with bills, have to work. We do take our chances where we can with those late bedtimes but we don’t watch much Cartoon Network these days. There was a summer adventure last month with a visit to see my friends and family in the UK.
However, that came with a less glamourous side to summer – namely a heat wave and hostels with no air-conditioning, bunk-beds and tiny shared showers… which finally confirms I have in fact grown up – since when was bunk-beds transferred to the list of negatives?!
This is why I take my summer escapism through the food I make in our little kitchen. We have to have an escape from the drudgery of the rat race somewhere, and I love an adventure with my taste buds. Summer ingredients are by far the best out of all the seasons, and to many that might sound obvious, but to me – a winter girl – this is essentially heresy. But, honestly, give me summer in a bowl please. Which is what I have to offer you here with prawn ceviche.
What is prawn ceviche?
Ceviche is raw seafood marinated in citrus juice and it originates from Peru, yet many other Latin American countries have regional recipes; I tried octopus ceviche at a traditional Mexican restaurant in Playa del Carmen. Traditionally, Peruvian ceviche is white fish served with sweet potato, and the citrus marinade is called leche de tigre (which literally means ‘tiger’s milk’) and it cures the fish – the acid in the citrus juice breaks down the fish’s proteins and ‘cooks’ it, meaning it becomes safe to eat.
Since trying the octopus ceviche, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on some prawns to cure with my own leche de tigre – this has been my hope for at least a year now which is why prawn ceviche made its way onto my food bucket list of 2022. Prawn ceviche is my 5th dish to accomplish – finally I’m halfway! Thank god I put only 10 on the list.
Now, I’m going to throw in a curve-ball. You can also make a ‘cheat’s version’ of prawn ceviche – if you’re not a fan of raw seafood then this is the recipe for you.
In my defence, I went to buy raw prawns but the only prawns available were cooked and pink. And, honestly, it’s too hot to worry too much about it, I need to cheat and make life easier for myself. Many ceviche recipes online call for poaching the prawns before marinating anyway (which in my opinion kind of defeats the purpose of ceviche but never mind).
This ceviche is instead a fresh and light salad of zingy juicy prawns soaking in a citrusy bath, along with cucumber, avocado and finely chopped jalapeno and red onion. The red onion pickles slightly in the citrus juice, so there is a bonus tang to the sweet seafood. Toss all the ingredients together, serve with coriander and eat with tortilla chips, no need for cutlery. It’s a messy summer’s evening meal – sticky fingers ready to lick clean. Like a trip down summer’s memory lane.
A cheat’s prawn ceviche with avocado, cucumber and coriander
- 400 g fresh cooked prawns peeled and deveined
- Juice of 5 limes plus the zest of 1 lime
- ⅛ of a large red onion
- 1 ripe avocado
- 9-10cm cucumber
- 1-2 slices of pickled jalapeno or fresh, and add more if you like heat
- A sprinkle of fish sauce
- A handful of fresh coriander
- Sea salt
- Tortilla chips to serve
- Chop the prawns into bite-sized pieces and toss them in a bowl. Slice half of the onion into thin strips, then the rest into tiny dice. Add to the bowl, along with the lime juice and zest. Toss everything together, add salt to taste and leave to marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Chop the cucumber, discarding the watery centre, before dicing it into even-sized pieces. Dice the avocado. Finely chop the jalapeno. Mix all of it into the prawns and lime juice, toss everything together, and sprinkle over a little bit of fish sauce (not too much! Take it slow because it's pungent stuff!). Toss again to combine.
- Tip it all into a bowl and garnish with coriander. Serve with tortilla chips and maybe a refreshing cocktail (which is finally one of the perks of being a grown-up)