Recipe: Simple huancaína sauce

This is the quintessential Peruvian sauce, originally the main ingredient of papa a la huancaína (Huancayo-style potato), but nowadays used as a sauce to serve alongside pretty much anything. I like to serve it with cassava chips, made by boiling frozen cassava and then frying it in butter.

The original recipe has the following ingredients: ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli), queso fresco (Peruvian feta cheese), evaporated milk and soda crackers. I used to sautée the chillies with onion and garlic but this is optional. I now omit the crackers to make it gluten-free and lower carb and use ají amarillo paste because I can’t find fresh ones in Sydney. Also, Australian feta is closer in flavour to its Peruvian cousin than the Greek or Danish varieties.

Simple huancaína sauce
Yield: about 1 cup

Huancaína

Ingredients

  • 200g Australian feta
  • 1/2 cup cooking cream
  • 1 tsp ají amarillo paste

To serve – any or all of the following:

  • boiled potatoes
  • boiled and fried cassava
  • Peruvian corn kernels threaded in toothpics

Directions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor to your desired level of chunkiness.
  2. Serve with starchy things to dip in sauce.

Recipe: Ensalada de palmitos y palta (hearts of palm and avocado salad)

I make variations of this salad every time I cook a Peruvian-themed meal. What makes it Peruvian? The avocado, palmitos, botija olives and the fact that is seasoned with lime juice and olive oil. Serve as a side for pretty much anything.

Ensalada de palmitos y palta (hearts of palm and avocado salad)
Yield: 4-6 servings as a side dish

Ensalada de palmitos y palta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of lettuce, leaves torn
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 3 radishes, sliced
  • 5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 palmitos (hearts of palm), sliced
  • 10 black olives (preferably botija)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Prep ingredients and place in a salad bowl.
  2. Season with lime juice, olive oil and salt.

Recipe: Peruvian ceviche

Classic Peruvian ceviche (cebiche or seviche are the proper spellings that nobody uses anymore) consists of 4 ingredients: fish, lime juice, onions and chillies. It is normally served with sweet potato and choclo (Peruvian white corn). Less common accompaniments include potato, yuca (cassava), yuyo (seaweed), rice (!). Cancha is normally served as a snack, although some restaurants serve some as part of the dish. Buen provecho!

Peruvian ceviche
Yield: 5 servings as an entrée

Ceviche

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 500g white fish fillet, such as snapper
  • juice of 5-7 limes
  • red chillies, such as birdseye, sliced (optional)
  • salt, to taste

To serve

  • coriander
  • choclo (Peruvian white corn) or regular corn, cooked
  • sweet potato, cooked

Directions

  1. Finely slice onion and soak in cold water. You can do this step a few hours in advance. When ready to start preparing the fish, drain onions in a colander.
  2. Cube fish, mix with onions and place on a serving platter. Season with salt.
  3. Cover with lime juice. Serve immediately or reserve in the fridge if you like your fish more marinated.
  4. When ready to serve, check the seasoning and garnish with coriander. Serve choclo and sweet potato on the side.
Macro Natural Nut Mix

Product Review: Macro Natural Nut Mix

Woolies has recently launched a snack pack called Macro Natural Nut Mix. The bag contains 5 single-serve packs 5 and costs $3.99, making a convenient and reasonably-priced snack. Sadly, convenience also means extra packaging.

Each pack contains 30g of nuts (almonds, blanched peanuts, walnuts and cashews), which is the recommended serving size in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Note that the nuts are either raw or blanched and unsalted, making them healthier than the roasted and/or flavoured varieties.

Nuts contain healthy fats (mainly monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated fatty acids), as well as some protein and fibre. They also contain appreciable amounts of micronutrients such as vitamin E, folate, magnesium, calcium, and selenium. When tolerated, nuts should be consumed regularly in sensible amounts as part of a healthy diet. I prefer to freeze nuts for texture and to help protect the fats from going rancid.

Each serve provides:
Energy: 777kJ
Protein: 6.7g
Fat 16.5g
Saturated 1.7g
Carbohydrate 2.0g
– Sugars 1.6g
Fibre 2.5g

For more information about the health benefits of nuts, visit Nuts For Life.

Recipe: Ají de atún with lupin flakes

Ají de atún is a lesser-known version of the traditional Peruvian chicken stew ají de gallina. It uses canned tuna instead of chicken, which makes it cheaper and easier to prepare. This dish was in semi-regular rotation at my aunties’ so I assumed it was fairly common, but it turns out Alvaro had never heard of it. I haven’t asked where they got the recipe from but I bet it came from the Nicolini cookbook.

Ají de atún is normally made with white sandwich bread and evaporated milk. I could have used gluten-free bread but decided to go one step further and make the dish more nutritious by using lupin flakes instead. I might post a more traditional (but gluten-free) recipe in the future, so keep your eyes peeled. For now, I leave you with the higher protein, higher fibre, lower carb ají de atún.

Ají de atún with lupin flakes
Yield: 3 servings

Ají de atún with lupin flakes

Ingredients

  • 1 (425g) can tuna in springwater or brine
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ají amarillo paste (or other chilli paste)
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp lupin flakes
  • 4 tbsp cream
  • salt to taste
  • parsley, chopped

To serve

  • 1 1/2 boiled eggs
  • 3 black olives (preferably botija)
  • cauliflower rice, rice and/or potatoes
  • parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Heat up stock until warm and add lupin flakes. Reserve to let flakes absorb stock.
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan at medium-low temperature.
  3. Add onion, garlic and ají amarillo. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Drain tuna and add to the saucepan, along with hydrated lupin flakes. Cook for another 2-3 minutes add cream and season to taste.
  5. Serve with cauliflower rice, rice and/or potatoes. Garnish with an olive, 1/2 boiled egg and chopped parsley.
San Remo pulse pasta

Product review: San Remo pulse pasta

I came across San Remo pulse pasta at the Gluten Free Expo a few weeks ago. Even though I very rarely eat pasta (in fact I never buy or cook it because I prefer using vegetables as the vehicle for sauces), these caught my eye because they are not just an empty source of refined carbohydrate, but actually pack some nutrition. Because they are only or mostly made from pulses, they are higher in protein, lower in carbs and higher in fibre than regular pasta.

They come in three shapes: spaghetti, penne and fusilli. The spaghetti and penne are made out of equal parts of pea, chickpea, borlotti bean and lentil flour. The recommended serve is 125g (half a pack), which I think was a bit too much. Our serves were about 80-85g. The macros per serve for these are:
Protein: 28.8g
Fat 3.8g 3.0g
– saturated 0.5g
Carbohydrates 57.5g
– sugars 3.8g

The fusilli is made of chickpea flour (75%) and potato starch. The recommended serve is also 125 g and these are the macros per serve:
Protein: 22.5g
Fat 4.4g
– saturated 0.6g
Carbohydrates 71.3g
– sugars 2.8g

I tried the pasta with three recipes that remind me of my childhood: tallarín saltado de pollo criollo, tallarines blancos con atún and tallarines verdes.

Tallarín saltado de pollo criollo

Tallarines blancos con atún

Tallarines verdes

I was very pleased with the flavour and texture of the three shapes. They reminded me of whole wheat pasta in both fronts but felt a lot better digestion-wise. I found the flavour did not overpower the main ingredients in either of the dishes.

San Remo pulse pasta is available in major supermarkets. I recommend you give it a go whether or not you’re sensitive to gluten, the nutritional value is worth it.

Visit the following link for more information about San Remo gluten free pasta, including the pulse varieties.

Recipe: Tallarines verdes (Peruvian pesto pasta)

This is a revised version of the tallarines verdes recipe I posted several years ago. What’s the difference? This recipe is closer to my aunties’ recipe and features gluten-free pasta.

Like tallarines blancos, this dish was in rotation at my aunties’. The difference is that for a long period of time I didn’t like the pesto sauce but loved the white sauce. My uncle was the opposite, so on pasta day only one of us was happy. Obviously, I grew out of my pesto aversion and now love it.

Once again, I didn’t get to ask my auntie Sumi for the original recipe before she passed away. I have tweaked the current family recipe to approximate the taste I remember. My aunties used penne, I used fusilli because I think this shape works better with pesto.

Tallarines verdes (Peruvian pesto pasta)
Yield: 2-3 servings

Tallarines verdes

Ingredients

  • 1 (250g) pack gluten-free pasta, preferably fusilli (I used San Remo pulse pasta)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup English or baby spinach
  • 75g queso fresco or feta cheese (I used goat’s feta)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
  2. Process or blend basil, spinach, cheese and parmesan, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water to achieved desired thickness. Season to taste.
  3. Return pasta to pot, coat with sauce (heat a bit if needed) and serve with a side salad.

Recipe: Tallarines blancos con atún (pasta with white sauce and tuna)

This is one of the dishes that were in rotation at my aunties’ but I never got sick of it. In fact, it was one of my favourites. Sadly, I never got the original recipe from auntie Sumi. This is my best attempt to approximate the dish using my taste memory and the current family recipe.

Tallarines blancos con atún (pasta with white sauce and tuna)
Yield: 2-3 servings

Tallarines blancos con atún

Ingredients

  • 1 (250g) pack gluten-free pasta, preferably penne (I used San Remo pulse pasta)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 cup milk (any kind, I used A2 full fat)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 (185g) cans tuna
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Heat up milk until warm. Don’t let it boil.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan or pot. Add rice flour and stir until smooth. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Continue stirring as you pour milk slowly until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Turn off heat, add parmesan and tuna, mix well and season to taste.
  6. Add pasta, coat with sauce and serve with a side salad.

Recipe: Tallarín saltado de pollo criollo (Peruvian stir-fried noodles with chicken)

Let me introduce you to lomo saltado‘s cousin, tallarín saltado. Both dishes came to life thanks to the fusion that happened due to the large influx of Cantonese people in Perú between mid 1800s and early 1900s. They share the same core ingredients: beef, tomato, red onion, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, with the main difference being the starch: rice and potato chips in the case of lomo saltado and noodles in the case of tallarín saltado

Yes, I know I said one of the core ingredients of tallarín saltado is beef, but this recipe has chicken in it. This is a fairly common variant and is the one I grew up eating at the Japanese-Peruvian club we were members of. I also find it easier to make with a conventional stovetop, making good stir-fried beef requires a level of heat that is difficult in most homes.

For this recipe, I used a pack of San Remo pulse pasta that I grabbed at the Gluten Free expo. I will be reviewing the pasta later, so I won’t say much here. You can use any type of long pasta for this dish, e.g. flat rice noodles.

One last thing, the “criollo” bit of the name is to differentiate between this version of the dish and the one you typically find in chifas (Chinese restaurants), which is closer to the stir-fried noodle dish most people are familiar with.

Tallarín saltado de pollo criollo (Peruvian stir-fried noodles with chicken)
Yield: 3 servings

Tallarín saltado de pollo criollo

Ingredients

  • 1 pack gluten-free spaghetti (I used San Remo pulse pasta)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 500g chicken breast or thigh fillet, sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut in thick slices
  • 2 tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 6 green onions, cut in 3cm pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1cm piece ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 tbsp tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to pack instructions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or large saucepan at high heat. Add chicken.
  3. When chicken is fully cooked, add red onion and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add tomatoes, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Add pasta and sauces, mix well and serve with a side of vegetables.

Product review: Maggie recipe bases

Before you declare I have sold my soul to Big Food, let me throw in a disclaimer: I have received multiple free samples of these recipe bases in a couple of events and I’m an advocate of making good use of free food.

Mince cottage pie

Not all Maggie’s recipe bases are gluten free, but of course I tried the ones that are. All of them make 4 servings and need a few basic ingredients added in.

Beef Stroganoff

Once again, gluten free does not automatically makes a food product healthy. Some of the bases have ingredients I normally avoid such as “vegetable fat (vegetable fat, rosemary extract, sunflower lecithin)”, “flavours” and sugar. All of them have citric acid as preservative.

Chicken Chasseur

The bases are fairly easy to use and, in some cases, include instructions for a few different cooking methods (e.g. stovetop, oven, slow cooker). I’ve tried the Chicken Chasseur, Mince Cottage Pie, Beef Stroganoff, Satay Chicken and Chilli Con Carne. While I still prefer making my food from scratch, these can be handy when time is a constraint.

Satay chicken

You can find the ingredients lists and nutritional information for the full range at their website.