Recipe: Locro (Peruvian pumpkin stew)

I’m sure there are a million locro recipes out there because it’s fair to say this is an everyday staple in almost every Peruvian household. The way I make it is not the way my mum makes it, nor the way my aunties make it, nor the way my mother-in-law makes it. This is one of the few dishes Alvaro insists on keeping meat-free, with a fried egg (or three) on top. Works for me.

Locro (Peruvian pumpkin stew)
Yield: 4 servings

Locro

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 500-600g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 – 1.25 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 0.5 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tsp ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli) paste
  • 0.5 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 200g goat feta cheeese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

To serve

  • white rice
  • 4 olives
  • 4 fried eggs
  • coriander leaves

Directions

  1. Peel and cube pumpkin and potatoes.
  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. Add pumpkin and potatoes. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, then add stock and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until pumpkin and potatoes are falling apart. Feel free to mash them up as much as you want.
  6. Add corn and peas, cook for another couple of minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, add cheese, season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with white rice, topped by a fried egg and garnish with an olive and coriander leaves.

Recipe: Locro

Recently I read in a Peruvian food portal that locro and empanadas unite Latin American cuisines. There are certainly several other dishes that are common to our countries but according to the article, those are the first two dishes that were created as a fusion of native Latin American and Spanish ingredients. Don’t know if it’s true, but makes sense.

What is definitely true is that a dish can have the same name across countries and be entirely different. This is the case of locro. The Peruvian version is based on a variety of pumpkin called macre, which is less sweet and more yellow in colour than common Aussie pumpkins, but in general any pumpkin will do. It belongs to the category of home weekday dishes because it’s easy to make the sweet and non spicy taste is suitable for kids.

Locro is usually served with chunks of beef but both Alvaro and I prefer it with lots of cheese and a fried egg on top instead.

Locro
Yield: 4 servings

Locro

2 tablespoons oil
1 medium red onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon huacatay paste (optional)
1/2 medium to big pumpkin
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cob sweet corn
1 cup shelled peas (fresh or frozen)
200 gr queso fresco, Haloumi or feta
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper

Chop onion and garlic finely.

Chop pumpkin in small cubes (1/2 to 1 cm).

Cut the kernels off the corn cob.

Cube or crumble the cheese.

Put oil in a big sautée pan or pot over low heat. Cook onion, garlic for 5 to 10 minutes, until very soft. Add optional huacatay paste and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Add pumpkin and stock. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until tender. Then add corn and peas and cook until they’re cooked and the pumpkin cubes have lost their shape.

Add cheese and milk, cook it for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted down a bit. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a fried egg on top, and white rice and something green on the side.

Holidays in Lima (April 27 2010)

On Tuesday I deviated from my usual quinoa plus fruit and shake options. I had been shopping in the market on Monday, and I bought ciruelas criollas, creole plums, which I honestly don’t know if are truly related to the plums everyone knows. They are smaller and with a elliptical shape, edible thin red skin and juicy, sweet and tangy yellow flesh. I had a big bunch plus some almonds and a banana de seda* for breakfast.

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That day I finally had lunch with my parents in a very well known cebichería called La Red (the net). I had tried to have lunch there a number of times with no luck, it was always packed and I hate to queue for a table. This time was not different but I had to try this restaurants, so we waited. I said hi to my Buddhist friend César who works there as a waiter, he said he’d try to get us a table soon but the place was really busy. We checked the menu while waiting and chose our plates (then changed our minds, then decided again), so we ordered as soon as we were given a table. My mum and I shared a causa de pulpa de cangrejo (causa* with crabmeat), a tacu tacu de locro con camarones (tacu tacu** made with locro instead of beans, topped with shrimp and shrimp sauce) and a small jug of chicha morada***. Locro is a stew made with cubed pumpkin and potato, cooked until they collapse, mixed with milk and feta cheese, and served with corn, peas and usually beef. My dad ordered a saltado de pescado (lomo saltado**** made with fish instead of beef).

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Food was spectacular. I loved the taste, the portion sizes were enormous (except the causa, which was regular sized) and the prices were not very high, although all dishes featuring shrimp were 39 soles, around 10 soles more than the rest of them. I didn’t have room for dessert but I tried a spoonful of my mum’s suspiro a la limeña***, which was tasty but not as good as the one in El Rincón Que No Conoces, a famous creole restaurant where I have tasted the best suspiro in my life, followed by mine (of course!).

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After lunch I went shopping and then to look for creole sandwichs. Right next to the sandwich restaurant there was a garage where a lady with two giant pots was selling arroz con leche (rice pudding) and mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding, made by boiling purple corn with pineapple skin, cinnamon and cloves, thickening it with potato and corn starch and adding dried fruit), traditional desserts that are commonly sold in carts, stalls, etc., and that can be eaten alone or served together in a cup, changing the name of the dessert to combinado (combined). I ate the smallest combinado available, which was an 8 oz cup that costed 1 sol. Then I bought two butifarras (sandwich made with a special ham called jamón del país or country ham, with salsa criolla on top, ie thinly sliced onions with chili and lime juice) and one turkey sandwich. I asked the girl to pack the bread rolls, meats and sauces in different containers, to avoid the rolls from getting moist.

That night I went to Gloria’s apartment, one block away from my parents’ house. My sister was sick, but she did her best to have a good time and be a good host. She helped me with the preparation: cooked cocktail potatoes and broad beans in the microwave, skinned the broad beans, separated the corn from the cob and helped me wash plates and utensils. I prepared a solterito “reloaded”, a remake of a typical salad from a city called Arequipa. My version had lettuce, broad beans, corn, black olives, Paria cheese, avocado and lime juice. I also prepared ocopa sauce (a sauce also from Arequipa that has yellow chili, oil, peanuts, a herb called huacatay, milk, feta cheese and sweet biscuits) and huancaína*** sauce to dip the cocktail potatoes, corn and yuquitas fritas (yuca pieces that had been boiled and browned in butter). We also had the sandwiches I had bought previously.

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We spent the night chatting and drinking a really good Argentinian Malbec that Gloria and Aníbal had (from the Luigi Bosca winery). I didn’t go home too late to let Gloria rest. Before I left, we split the leftovers for the next day.

* The explanation about the types of bananas and causa can be found here.

** The explanation about tacu tacu can be found here.

*** The explanation about chicha morada, suspiro a la limeña and huancaína sauce can be found here.

**** The explanation about lomo saltado can be found here.