Last Wednesday was my country’s Independence Day. When I lived there I usually didn’t care too much about celebrations, I just looked forward to the public holidays. I never watched the official parade or the one that is organised by one of the big supermarket chains, with fireworks and everything. Here, of course, things are different. Fiestas patrias, as we call that day, is the perfect excuse to indulge on Peruvian food. Because I’ve been craving so many dishes, I decided that I would declare July the Peruvian food month.
As I’ve written before, Peruvian food is not that healthy. It’s way better than fast food, but most of the dishes are loaded with starches. That’s the main reason why we haven’t been eating them everyday. The other reason is that some ingredients are expensive or impossible to find here, so I have to use what I’ve got wisely.
I prepared the first dish two Sundays ago, for Monday’s lunch and dinner. It was a fake pollo a la brasa (charcoal chicken). Fake because there’s no way on Earth a charcoal oven could fit in my apartment, so I just marinated it with rosemary, salt, pepper, cumin, soy sauce, malt beer, vinegar, garlic and ají panca (red chili), and roasted it in the oven. It was very tasty, but different from the original thing. Instead of eating it with potato chips, I parboiled cubed potatoes, sprinkled them with olive oil and salt, and roasted them in the oven. I also added a coleslaw with an Asian dressing that was the perfect pairing for the chicken.
The second dish was picante de camarones, which we ate that Wednesday. It’s a shrimp stew with shrimp stock (I used prawn stock this time), bread, Paria cheese (I used queso fresco, Peruvian-style feta cheese), evaporated milk, ají panca (red chili), onion and garlic. The result was very similar to the original version. I served it with white rice (we cook it with sautéed garlic and salt), broccolini and green beans.
That Friday we had asado con puré, beef marinated in red wine and red wine vinegar and slowly cooked with stock, puréed onions, carrots and tomatoes, and herbs, served with mashed potatoes and rice. I added broccolini to add some veggie fiber. This one was tasty too, but different from the one I cooked back home, because the flavour of Australian garlic and onions is stronger.
The central day was last Sunday. My sister and I cooked lunch and had a toast with a Peruvian cocktail: algarrobina, which is prepared with pisco, algarrobina (carob syrup), evaporated milk, egg yolk and ice, and sprinkled with cinnamon.
For lunch we had a mixed leaves, cucumber, tomato and avocado salad simply dressed with lime juice, plus seco de cordero (lamb stew with onion, garlic, yellow chili, chicha de jora, coriander and stock), borlotti beans cooked with a bit of bacon and with aderezo (onion, garlic and chili cooked slowly in oil until soft) added in the end, ají de gallina (chicken stew with chicken stock, bread, onion, garlic, yellow chili, evaporated milk, Parmesan cheese and pecans or walnuts), and white rice. We didn’t have dessert, the cocktail was sweet enough and we already had too many calories.
Alvaro arrived late from work and had lunch. Later we watched the debate and before it ended I started preparing some nibbles to eat while drinking a few beers. I prepared huancaína sauce (yellow chili, onion, garlic, queso fresco, milk and soda crackers) and yuquitas fritas (cassava boiled and fried in butter). We opened the jar of choclo (white corn kernels) I bought in Tierras Latinas, but unfortunately they were a bit tough. The sauce and yuquitas were brilliant.
To be continued…