Recipe: Palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns)

A few weeks ago my Facebook status reflected how I missed avocados from back home, after opening one I bought for $1 at Woolworths that was horrible inside. A few Peruvian friends chimed in, including Victor who lives in Spain and can buy Peruvian avos there, and Gino who lives in the Central Coast and mentioned palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns). The craving was on.

Palta rellena is a great warm weather entrée. It’s basically a mayo-bound salad served in a half avocado. The most popular protein of choice in the filling is pulled chicken (chicken breast that has been boiled and pulled in strips with a fork). It’s usually mixed with peas and/or carrots and/or corn and/or potatoes. After ditching the legume, grain and nightshade I was left with carrots. I figured out celery and broccolini stalks would be nice additions thanks to their crunchiness, freshness and mayo-affinity.

Palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns)
Yield: 6 servings as an entrée

Palta rellena con camarones

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch broccolini stalks (use the florets in another dish) or asparagus, chopped
  • 15 – 18 medium prawns, peeled and cleaned
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I make my own, following this recipe)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Steam carrots and broccolini stalks or asparagus separately. Let cool.
  2. Heat ghee or butter, add garlic and prawns. When cooked, let cool down.
  3. Reserve 6 prawns and chop the rest.
  4. Mix vegetables and prawns, add mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Split avocados in half, remove the seed, scoop each half out of its shell with a spoon and place on a plate. Stuff with the prawn mixture and top with a whole prawn.

Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra 2006

Tool and Dream Theater are my favourite bands ever. So much so that I have Tool’s eye tattooed in my right arm and shoulder and DT’s logo tattooed in the back of my neck. So much so that when I heard from Fourth Eye that there was an Australian wine importer Sip & Listen would sell Merkin VineyardsChupacabra 2006 I immediately placed an order.

Merkin Vineyards, for those who don’t know, is Maynard James Keenan‘s (singer for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer) winery. Apparently, wine making is to Keenan what visuals are to Adam Jones (Tool’s guitarist): the perfect complement for their musical selves.

I had no idea of how good the wine would be, but I had to try it. Its price is a lot higher than what I usually pay for wine (3 bottles for $100, 6 for $200, 9 for $300); I was cautious and only reserved 3. The Chupacabra was supposed to hit Australia in October last year so I was hoping to drink a bottle in my birthday, but it didn’t make it until January. Fortunately, I had a new excuse to celebrate with a bottle.

Last year I applied to uni. It was a long and expensive process, and finally, on January 18th I got an offer. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, and it needed a celebration. My sister came to our house for dinner, we had some steaks and I opened my first bottle of Chupacabra. It was exciting and scary at the same time, too. What if the wine was crap? Would I be able to tell or would I be biased by my musical taste? If I admitted it was crap, would I like Tool less than before?

I know, so much anticipation over a bottle of wine is a bit stupid. I swear it didn’t last more than the 30 seconds that took me to uncork the bottle (yes, it has a real cork). The Chupacabra’s colour is deep and much darker than what I was expecting for a 2006 wine. It has a very decent body and smell. Knowing it was a Cabernet/Syrah (Shiraz) blend I was a bit worried about not liking it to drink on its own (I find some Cabernets too dry and oaky, and most Shiraz too acidic) but the taste was amazing. It’s a wine with character and complexity but, at the same time, easy to drink. I could taste ripe fruit and warm spices. And it went perfectly with the steaks and Tool music in the background.

Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra

I’m looking forward for the next excuse to open bottle #2.

Happy Australia Day everyone!

Review: Mountain Ridges Cafe (Katoomba)

A bunch of us went on Saturday to the Blue Mountains to check out the venue for an upcoming event. We stopped at Katoomba for a midday feed. When the passengers of car # 2 (namely my housemates and I) arrived, we found passengers of car # 1 sitting outside the Mountain Ridges Cafe and with starving looks in their faces. Sorry for being late, guys!

Mountain Ridges

The cafe is located opposite The Carrington Hotel. They do breakfast til 1 pm and have a good selection of lunch dishes. Perhaps the most attractive thing in the menu, for me, were the loose leaf organic teas. Alvaro, Bonnie and I had the green tea with lime and coconut ($4 a pot), which was fantastic. Other beverages in our table included cappuccinos, macchiatos and a chai.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

Soups were popular in our group that day. Two zucchini and two pumpkin soups arrived in giant bowls with slices of crusty bread on the side. Soup slurpers were happy.

Zucchini soup

Zucchini soup

Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup

The big breakfast was another popular item. The standard two free-range eggs with pan-fried bacon, beef chipolata sausages, roast tomato, juicy sautéed mushrooms, home-made hash browns and toast were ordered two ways: one with poached eggs and normal toast and other with fried eggs and gluten-free toast (for $1 extra). Unfortunately the kitchen mixed up the orders, but the eaters were happy to stick to what they were given.

Big breakfast with fried eggs

Big breakfast with fried eggs ($12.90)

Big breakfast with poached eggs

Big breakfast with poached eggs and gluten-free toast ($13.90)

Another breakfast dish was the now classic variation of an old favourite: the eggs salmon Benedict, gently poached free-range eggs on a bed of fresh smoked salmon and rocket salad topped with Hollandaise Sauce and served on toasted Turkish bread. Those looked fantastic.

Eggs salmon Benedict

Eggs salmon Benedict ($13.90)

Some people shared a batch of Cheesy Cheddar chips, hot chips topped with melted cheddar cheese and crispy bacon. The bacon didn’t look that crispy but I’m sure the guys enjoyed the chips.

Cheesy cheddar chips

Cheesy Cheddar chips ($8.50)

Coincidentally, all the members of my household had the same dish: grilled seasonal fish fillet, a delicate boneless fish fillet, lightly seasoned and grilled, brushed with lemon butter, served with a fresh garden salad and your choice of a sweet potato and pumpkin mash or chips. We all ordered the sweet potato and pumpkin mash, which unfortunately had white potatoes in it. The fish fillet (skate, I think) was not that good, I had the feeling the dish was overpriced for what we got.

Grilled seasonal fish fillet

Grilled seasonal fish fillet ($19.90)

Other dishes in the mains menu included steak, prawns and kangaroo, I think I might try one of those if there’s a next time.

Mountain Ridges Cafe
40 Katoomba St
Katoomba
(02) 4782 3330

Review: La Parrillada (Petersham)

I don’t know what took us so long to visit La Parrillada, to the best of my knowledge one of the oldest Peruvian restaurants in Sydney. They don’t advertise themselves as offering typical Peruvian cuisine because there are only a few traditional dishes in their menu. Instead, they say the do Latin American BBQ.

With so many good American-style, Argentinian, Brazilian and Korean BBQ restaurants around you may ask why bother going to that lifeless highway called Parramata Road? For me, the answer is simple: to feel at home. The minute my sister and I stepped in the restaurant, we were magically transported to the other side of the world. The decoration (a mix of bits and pieces: fabrics, posters, hand-painted decorative plates, a zampoña), the music, most of the patrons, and of course, the staff, were as authentically Peruvian as pisco.

Bar

La Parrillada

We were warmly greeted (service is stellar) and given the menu, tucked in a beautifully carved leather cover. Traditional items in the menu include salchipapa (sliced frankfurters mixed with potato chips – I know there’s nothing Peruvian about it but it’s “typical” street food), anticuchos de carne (marinated beef kebabs – traditionally made with heart but they use rib steak), crema volteada (crème caramel), lúcuma ice cream, Inca Kola (the local soft drink), chicha morada (purple corn drink) and pisco sour (pisco, lime, egg white & syrup cocktail). We didn’t have any of those (but we’ll try the anticuchos next time!)

Menu

Instead, we ordered the parrillada for 2 persons: over 1.5 kilos of meat, including beef spare ribs, pork spare ribs, pork loin chops, beef sirloin steak, lamb griller, and South American chorizo. It’s served with garden salad, chips and sauces. We told the waitress we didn’t want the chips; she automatically offered double salad. Talk about great customer service!

Along with the sauces arrived four complimentary mini chorizos, some bread rolls and butter. We enjoyed the chorizos and the butter while sipping on a great organic Malbec that Gladys brought.

Bread & butter

Complimentary bread & butter

The sauces were the classic mayo, ketchup, vinaigrette-style and ají amarillo (yellow chilli). The chilli sauce was amazing, we asked for a refill (I was tempted to ask for a takeaway batch!)

Mini chorizos & sauces

Complimentary mini chorizos & sauces

The salad, as ordinary as it may sound deserves a special mention. While it wasn’t the most creative salad ever (iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, capsicum), the dressing took us closer to home than an airplane ticket. If you’re not Peruvian that doesn’t mean much; if you’re Peruvian I guarantee an immediate response in the long-term memory section of your brain.

Garden salad

Garden salad

The meats were very good, some better than others in terms of tenderness, but all equally tasty. My favourite was the lamb, followed by the chorizo. We’re big eaters but we were defeated by the size of the meal (in my defense, I had pigged out in the food bloggers picnic earlier) and returned home with doggie bags.

Parrillada for 2

Parrillada for 2

Parrillada (for 2 persons) ($59.90)

If you decide to try it, keep in mind that while all meats are sourced from quality purveyors, they’re all grain-fed. Also, the restaurant only accepts cash, it’s BYO (wine only) and corkage is $6 per bottle. Finally, if you like salsa music, Gilberto Santa Rosa will be in the house this year for the Independence Day celebration (should be around July 28).

La Parrillada
470 Parramatta Rd
Petersham NSW 2049
(02) 9560 0943
www.laparrillada.com.au

Sydney food bloggers picnic 2012

Made it to my second Sydney food bloggers picnic! Last time some of us first-timers were overwhelmed by the amount of sweets and vowed to bring something savoury next time. I kept my promise and brought some bacon-wrapped stuff (dates, sweet potato, broccoli and asparagus). Bacon is always a crowd pleaser and I had to make sure I brought something Paleo just in case I couldn’t anything else. I also had a gigantic brunch before heading to the picnic (guess what! bacon, eggs, sauerkraut, and a few pieces of leftover broccoli, asparagus and sweet potato).

Bacon-wrapped stuff

The forecast said it would rain and the sky didn’t look very promising. Still, 70 of the 86 bloggers who RSVPd defied the chances and gathered at Centennial Park. It was great to see people I already knew and to put faces in some of the blogs I’ve been following lately.

Bloggers socializing

There was enough chow to feed a medium-sized village, most of it sweet (we all know is easier to make sweet things look pretty), but it was good to see some delicious savoury offers.

Food

Food

Food

Peaches

I didn’t keep it strictly Paleo but was sensible with my choices; I’ve learned that gluten, excessive sugar and processed foods make me feel worse than a little dairy or booze. I had a few (ok, heaps of) beef & feta meatballs with tzatziki from Spoonfuls Of Goodness, several cucumber & smoked salmon canapés made by The Gook, mussels, chorizo, chicken, prawns and snow peas from the paellas brought by Ramen Raff and Lex, aniseed pork (sans pastry) courtesy of Polka Dot And Chopsticks, a spoonful of coriander/lime hummus made by Nic, a few candied walnuts, and a bit of paté.

Beef & feta meatballs

Beef & feta meatballs with tzatziki

Cucumber & smoked salmon canapes

Cucumber & smoked salmon canapés

Paella

Paella

Aniseed pork

Aniseed pork

Simon was the main attraction of the day, he arrived all geared up to prepare cocktails on demand.

Simon preparing cocktails

Simon in action

I had two Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic (loved the sliced cucumber detail!) and when I went to get a third one Simon told me I should try the Samuels Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice, his favourite cocktail of 2011. It was indeed nice, although much sweeter than what I would normally drink. And yes, I still had a third gin & tonic.

Hendrick's gin

Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic

Once again Suze and Helen did a terrific job in organising such a big meetup, and all the bloggers showed off their cooking (in some cases food purchasing) skills.

The complete list of attendees is in Suze’s post.

For other great recaps of the day (with much better photos than mine):

Review: Wasabi Bistro (Surry Hills)

My sense of adventure urged me to buy another Spreets voucher for a restaurant I had never heard of. This time it was a Japanese meal for two (entrée and main) plus wine for $49 at Wasabi Bistro. The reason I decided to try this restaurant out was that I liked their website. I know, that didn’t guarantee that the restaurant would be good but what can I say, a clean and consistent design does the trick for me.

Staff members were very young, friendly but still learning. They took our voucher and offered the menu options. I had noticed that sashimi was in a separate section but the deal description stated you could choose any entrée, including sushi, sashimi and cool tuna carpaccio. I double-checked with the waiter, he said no sashimi but I showed him the printout, he asked someone (I guess the manager) and came back saying “ok, you can have sashimi”.

We didn’t order sashimi. Just kidding! We ordered tuna sashimi and beef tataki to start. First arrived the tuna sashimi, along with a chilled bottle of Hardys Siegersdorf Riesling, on top of julienned daikon and with the typical wasabi and gari on the side. The only downside was that there were 5 pieces of fish, making it difficult for us to share.

Hardys Siegersdorf Riesling

Hardys Siegersdorf Riesling (normally $34)

Tuna sashimi

Tuna Sashimi, 5pcs (normally $10.80)

The beef tataki was very disappointing. Instead of delicate slices of quickly seared meat we got what looked like pre-cut stir-fry beef. The serving was quite small, too: again 5 pieces. Alvaro was a true gentleman this time and let me choose between the extra piece of tuna and the extra piece of beef; I chose the fish (it was bigger!).

Beef tataki

Beef tataki (normally $11.90)

Next arrived the complimentary miso soup, one of my favourite cheat meals (hey, at least miso is fermented!). The soup was good and piping hot.

Miso soup

Miso soup

For mains we asked for some gluten-free options to try to minimize the damage for the day (the provided soy sauce was not gluten-free and miso can have gluten in it). They said we could have the grilled salmon and the Wagyu steak without sauce, so that’s what we ordered.

Both portions were quite small. The grilled salmon was on the dry side (perhaps because they used sashimi-sized pieces?), and the Wagyu steak was not that fantastic (these days not all Wagyu is created equal) and they forgot to forget about the sauce. At least it was just on one side of the beef.

Grilled salmon

Grilled salmon (normally $16.50)

Wagyu steak

Wagyu steak (normally $28.00)

By the end of the meal I didn’t know whether to feel ripped-off because of the portion sizes and average quality of the food or to think it was good enough for the price. I guess I still don’t know.

Wasabi Bistro
Shop 6B-8, 417-431 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9357 2076
www.wasabibistro.com.au

Recipe: Atún playero (beach tuna)

More than a recipe, this is a memory. When I was a little girl, my dad took us to the beach every single Sunday in summer (from December 21st to March 20th – he’s extremely punctual). My mum was, as always, in charge of food. She packed a big container full of tuna sandwiches and two huge soft drink bottles (a Coke and a Inca Kola because tastes in the family were divided). Once in the beach, between swimming and sun-bathing, they bought us snacks: some sort of sweet tuile-like cylinders, delicious natural fruit ice pops (I usually got mango, my sisters and mum loved the coconut ones) and/or regular ice cream. But the highlight for me were the tuna sandwiches.

The sandwich filling is super simple: canned tuna, tomato, red onion, lime juice, salt and pepper. The combination is very tasty but also super moist. My mum made the sandwiches in sliced white bread and by the time we got to eat them the bread was all soggy. Not only that, but the sand in the beach inevitably stuck to the damp bread. Back then I was sometimes annoyed when I chewed on some sand or my sandwich fell apart in my hands, but now I really miss the taste, the smell, the feel, and the whole experience. I don’t miss being a fat kid in the beach, though :)

Canned tuna in Australia tastes different from canned tuna in Perú (fish and seafood in general do). But I can trick myself into bringing back those memories with a bit of atún playero (beach tuna), now free of bread… and sand.

Atún playero (beach tuna)
Yield: 2 servings as an entrée

Beach tuna

Ingredients

  • 300 gr canned tuna in springwater
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 limes
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Drain tuna.
  2. Seed and chop tomatoes.
  3. Chop onion.
  4. Mix tuna, tomato, onion and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve as an entrée with some greens, maybe throw an avocado or make sandwiches if that’s your thing.

Review: Carlisle Castle Bistro (Newtown) (2)

It took us six months of living in Camperdown to revisit our local, the Carlisle Castle Hotel. On an auspicious January Saturday the planets aligned, all four of us were home at the same time, and nobody had plans for lunch.

Last time we were there, almost a year ago, we ordered very different meals: we all had sandwiches, chips and beer. Man, how have we changed! This time Alvaro and I shared the crispy skin salmon served with chat potato, chorizo, capers, spanish onion, rocket & horseradish aioli and the chargrilled marinated octopus served with Mediterranean style salad. I asked in the kitchen if they could give me something else instead of potatoes. “We can do chips”, they said. “No, no potatoes”, I replied. “Mash?”. “No potatoes”. It took a while but finally they gave me a potato-free option: salad.

The salmon was great, the skin crispy as advertised and the seasoning spot-on. The vegetable matter was a standard garden salad with a bit of avocado and some capers. Sadly, they cut the chorizo out of the meal along with the potatoes, resulting in not that good bang for our buck. I couldn’t find the aioli, either, unless that’s how they call the green oil on the plate.

Crispy skin salmon

Crispy skin salmon ($25.50)

The chargrilled marinated octopus with salad, basically a garden salad plus lots of olives and roasted capsicum, was very tasty, zero complains here.

Chargrilled marinated octopus

Chargrilled marinated octopus ($15.50)

Bonnie had to overcome her aversion to animals served whole with her chargrilled mackerel. I took the head off and ate it to make things easier for her. The fish was a bit small but tasted great, ditto on the salad.

Chargrilled mackerel

Chargrilled mackerel ($23.50)

Neil had a garden salad with chicken. He was happy with his choice.

Garden salad with chicken

Garden salad with chicken

Carlisle Castle Bistro
19 Albermarle Street
Newtown 2042
(02) 9557 4852

Urban Food Market

It’s not uncommon for food bloggers to get inspiration/food envy/serious cravings from looking at other people’s blogs. On one hand it’s great because you find out about great eats that you can later experience first hand. On the other hand it’s kinda lame to blog about something that somebody else already did.

So I’ll keep this lame post short. It’s so lame that the inspiration came not from one but from two of Miss Piggy’s posts: this one on Pepe Saya butter and this one on Urban Food Market.

When I read about Pepe Saya butter the word cultured hit me. Good butter is a marvelous product but good cultured butter? It’s a completely new level. And could it be possible that the cows that produced the milk were grass-fed? I emailed Pepe Saya and the almost immediate reply was “yes”. I could see fireworks in my computer monitor. Grass-fed cultured butter, ladies and gentlemen. Conjugated Linoleic Acid, omega-3, carotenes, vitamin K2, and friendly bacteria packed in a creamy, delicious spread. I had to get some! Unfortunately, the Christmas holidays arrived soon and they shut the shop. I emailed them last week to see if they’d be back on Saturday but unfortunately they won’t be opening most weekends this years. But there was light at the end of the tunnel, they shot me an email saying that they’ve checked their list of stockists and found out Urban Food Market is open on Saturdays.

This took us to

Urban Food Market

in Marrickville. They are one of the few businesses that focus on naturally-fed, ethically-raised, sustainably-produced meats. People who often don’t care about that are, in my opinion, not looking at the big picture. Animals that are fed food that is not natural for them get sick and are given antibiotics, which we later ingest along with the meat. Healthy animals = healthy soil & healthy planet = healthy people eating the animals = plenty of food for the future of humanity.

Meats

Meats

We did not buy any meat there this time, mainly because it’s a bit more expensive than where we usually shop. They do have some pork sausages that sounded super tempting, but we didn’t get me because they had rice flour.

Meats

Meats

The mission was to get Pepe Saya butter and that’s what we got, although a lot more expensive than the price at the factory ($10 vs $7.50). Worth every cent.

Meats & dairy

Meats & dairy

They also sell a few pantry items: condiments, sauces, stock, etc. Oh yes, and they have an online shop, too.

Pantry items

Pantry items

Urban Food Market
Unit 1, 168 Victoria Rd
Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8999 6106
http://urbanfoodmarket.rtrk.com.au

Recipe: Slow-cooked cebiche de pato (duck cebiche)

Cebiche is usually raw seafood marinated in lime juice and served with chillies and sliced onions. But there are as many kinds of cebiches as flavours of potato chips in Australia, to give you an idea. There’s cold cebiche (raw, for example the classic one made with fish) and hot cebiche (cooked, for example camarones a la piedra). In the North of Perú, the land of the best ducks and the liberal use of coriander, there’s cebiche de pato. The best taste is achieved by slow cooking it in clay pot. Because I don’t have one, I came up with this variation for the slow cooker.

Slow-cooked cebiche de pato (duck cebiche)
Yield: 6 servings

Cebiche de pato

Ingredients

  • 6 duck legs (drumstick and thigh)
  • 250 ml sour orange juice (I haven’t found sour oranges in Australia, you can use half orange juice and half lime juice instead)
  • 50 gr Peruvian yellow chilli paste or 1 tablespoon Peruvian yellow chilli powder (or any chilli)
  • 40 gr garlic (about 8 cloves), mashed into a paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • salt
  • 2 cups duck or chicken stock
  • 50 gr fresh hot chilli (optional)
  • 600 gr red onion in thick slices
  • chopped fresh coriander to taste
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 kg boiled cassava

Directions

  1. Marinate duck in sour orange (or orange and lime) juice for at least 6 hours.
  2. Remove duck from marinade (reserve the marinade) and rub with garlic, chilli, cumin and white pepper. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Place duck in slow cooker, add marinade and stock.
  4. Cook in low for 4 to 4.5 hours. If using fresh hot chillies, break them with your hands and add them to the slow cooker. Add the onions and cook for extra 30 minutes.
  5. Before serving, add the juice of the extra 2 limes.
  6. Serve with chopped coriander on top and boiled cassava on the side.

On a non-culinary note: When I went to primary school (yes, I can still remember) I was taught that cebiche can be either spelled with a c and a b or with an s and a v, i.e. either cebiche or seviche. I always chose the first because it was the preferred form in the dictionary of the RAE – Real Academia de la Lengua Española (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). Nowadays the RAE also accepts the spelling ceviche but I feel funny writing it that way. So here’s my disclaimer: I spell it the way I learned to, do not think it’s a typo ;)