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.
Estofado de pollo

Recipe: Estofado de pollo (Peruvian chicken stew)

This is one of those dishes that I used to hate as a kid and now I crave when homesickness kicks in. I think the main reason I dreaded it was that my mum or aunties cooked it too often.

I think mum has forgotten my aversion to estofado because she didn’t tease me when I asked for her recipe last time I spoke to her. Turns out that her recipe is simpler than what I imagined, and I managed to make it taste virtually the same. Except that now I like it :)

Estofado de pollo (Peruvian chicken stew)
Yield: 6-7 servings

Estofado de pollo

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1.85kg chicken drumsticks
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.25 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 0.5 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a pot. Season the chicken drumsticks with salt and pepper and brown. Reserve.
  2. Lower the heat, add more ghee or oil if needed and cook the onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes until very soft and translucent.
  3. Add the tomato paste, chicken, chicken broth, carrot and potatoes. Stir, cover and cook until the chicken is done, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Add the peas and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with white rice and/or vegetables.

Recipe: Fragrant roasted chicken with cinnamon pumpkin and broccolini

I’ve been using this awesome recipe for roasting chicken for the past few months. It’s simple and fool-proof, and it gives you the flexibility of using any spices you want. I often use a mix of rosemary and sage salts or a mix of rosemary and lemon salts. This time I used a mix of Moroccan spices and paired it up with cinnamon-y pumpkin and broccolini. Delicious!

Fragrant roast chicken

Fragrant roasted chicken with cinnamon pumpkin and broccolini
Yield: 4 servings

Fragrant roast chicken w cinnamon pumpkin and broccolini

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 1 chicken (pastured if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Cinnamon pumpkin

  • 1/2 small butternut pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Broccolini

  • 1 bunch broccolini

Directions

Chicken

  1. Mix the spices to season the chicken. Follow Simone’s instructions.

Cinnamon pumpkin

  1. Peel and cube pumpkin.
  2. Place in a baking sheet, season with cinnamon and salt and drizzle with melted coconut oil.
  3. Bake at 180°C for about 40 minutes, until soft.

Broccolini

  1. Steam. Serve with chicken and pumpkin.

Recipe: Peruvian osso buco

Gastón Acurio is without a doubt the most important Peruvian chef of all times. In his Facebook page he promotes Peruvian restaurants back home and overseas, and shares recipes with his followers. Like Peruvian mums, he doesn’t use quantities. He might indicate approximates (e.g. “a lot”, “a pinch”), but you have to figure out exact amounts by yourself. This is not hard to do if you have any experience with cooking Peruvian dishes but can become daunting if you don’t.

The first time I made Gastón’s recipe for osso buco I eyeballed the quantities and the result was amazing. I didn’t write the recipe down so I “had to” make it again. The recipe calls for ají panca, which is a dried Peruvian red chilli. You can find it (whole or in paste) in some shops like Fiji Market, Tierras Latinas and online (just Google “buy aji panca”). If you can’t be bothered just use any red chilli paste.

Gastón recommends serving it with pasta. My (low carb) version features cauliflower mash, but you can make it starchier (and more Peruvian) if you serve it with cassava.

Peruvian osso buco
Yield: 4 servings

Peruvian osso buco

Ingredients

Osso buco

  • 4 pieces osso buco (about 1.5 kg)
  • 2 tablespoons fat of choice (tallow or ghee recommended)
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 celery stalks, grated
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ají panca paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup tomato passata
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon porcini powder (or minced dried and rehydrated mushrooms)

Cauliflower mash

  • 750 g frozen cauliflower
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Osso buco

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of fat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Brown osso buco and reserve.
  2. Lower heat, add 1 tablespoon of fat, carrots, celery, onion, garlic and ají panca. Cook until vegetables are soft (5-10 minutes).
  3. Add meat, season with plenty of salt and pepper, add passata, broth, wine, bay leave and porcini powder.
  4. Cover and let simmer until tender (about 2.5 hours). Towards the end of the cooking period make the mash (instructions below).
  5. Remove the meat the pot and, if desired, crank the heat up with the lid off to reduce the sauce.
  6. Serve with cauliflower mash.

Cauliflower mash

  1. Steam cauliflower until soft.
  2. Mash in a food processor, add butter, and season with salt and pepper.

Recipe: Cauliflower plov

My introduction to plov, a very simple dish made with rice, lamb and carrots, was in an Uygur restaurant in Sydney. Turns out this dish is traditional also in Uzbekistan and Siberia. I wanted to make a low carb version based on what I remembered from Kiroran Silk Road and my trip to Russia, plus a few recipes from the internet. The result? Well, cauliflower doesn’t absorb liquids as rice does, so it was more soupy and less oily in appearance than the real deal. I also used a ton of grated carrots instead of chopped, which made it a bit too sweet for my taste. So I kinda failed in reproducing the original dish but the result was just as tasty and comforting.

Cauliflower plov
Yield: 6-8 servings

Cauliflower plov

Ingredients

  • 1 kg lamb loin chops
  • 4 tablespoons lamb fat or tallow
  • 1 very large or 2 small heads cauliflower
  • 2 large onions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2-3 cups lamb bone broth
  • salt and pepper

Salad

  • green cabbage
  • cucumber
  • radishes
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • splash of olive oil
  • salt
  • dill

To serve

  • dill

Directions

  1. Cut lamb chops in cubes.
  2. Cut cauliflower florets and pulse in a food processor until it resembles rice.
  3. Peel and grate the carrots.
  4. Slice onions.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons fat in a large pot and brown lamb. Reserve.
  6. Lower the heat, melt 2 tablespoons of fat, and add onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Add spices, cook for another couple of minutes.
  8. Add carrots, cauliflower, lamb and broth. Cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Serve with chopped dill on top.

Salad

  1. Thinly slice the vegetables.
  2. Place the radishes and cucumbers on a colander and salt them. Let them release water, drain them and mix them with the cabbage.
  3. Add vinegar, oil and chopped dill.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This salad gets better with time.

Recipe: Chicken heart anticuchos

This is a tasty way to get more offal in your diet. Heart is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is fundamental for the electron transport chain of mitochondria (the energy-producing cells in your body). Get chicken hearts from pastured chickens if possible (Feather and Bone is a great source) and fire up your grill for this twist on classic Peruvian street food (the original version uses cow’s heart). If you’re not keen on eating heart you can try this version with kangaroo.

Chicken heart anticuchos
Yield: 2 servings

Chicken heart anticuchos

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken hearts

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ají panca paste (Peruvian red chilli
  • paste, or substitute with your favourite)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

To serve

  • 1 large piece cassava (approximately 125g)
  • ghee or butter
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Remove the thin membrane that surrounds the hearts and trim the upper fatty/vascular part. Slice them horizontally (you’ll end up with donut-shaped slices).
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients pour over hearts in a ziplock bag and marinate for at least 6 hours.
  3. Boil cassava for 20-30 minutes until soft.
  4. In the meantime, turn on your BBQ (you’ll be using the flat part) or heat up a stovetop grill pan.
  5. Drain cassava, discard hard bit in the middle, cut in pieces and fry in ghee or butter. Season with salt.
  6. Cook marinated hearts (no need to drain the marinade) for ~10 minutes, flipping them occasionally. Season with salt.
  7. Serve with fried cassava, salad and your favourite condiment (I served it with Peruvian chilli mayo).

Recipe: Speck, beef & mushrooms

No fancy story behind this dish. I was browsing Feather and Bone‘s weekly list to order meat and noticed they had speck ends for cooking. They are cheaper than bacon and ham, and come from the same top-quality piggies. Mega win.

Speck, beef & mushrooms
Yield: 8 servings

Speck, beef & mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 kg beef mince
  • 500 g speck ends, cut in chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bulbs fennel, sliced
  • 1 tbsp lard (optional)
  • 500 g mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary salt + 1/2 tsp sage salt (or 1/8 tsp dried rosemary + 1/8 tsp dried sage + 3/4 tsp salt)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • roasted Brussel sprouts, to serve

Directions

  1. Brown speck at medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Remove with slotted spoon, keep fat in the pot.
  2. Brown beef mince. Reserve and keep fat in the pot.
  3. Turn heat to low, add onions and fennel, stir to coat with the fat (you can add a tablespoon of lard if your speck didn’t render too much fat), put the lid on and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Add speck and beef mince, mix and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Add mushrooms, mix and cook for 1 hour.
  6. Season with herbed salts (or herbs + salt) and pepper.
  7. Serve with roasted Brussel sprouts.

Recipe: Carapulcra (Peruvian pork and potato stew)

This is very weird. I have hated this dish for most of my life. My mum and aunties are so nice that they actually cooked a different dish for me whenever they made carapulcra. When I went to cooking school my friends really trusted my palate and made me test their version before presenting them to the instructor for marking. I knew they were really well made but I still hated them. Last year Alvaro, Gladys, Vicky and I went to a Peruvian festival and I tried their carapulcra. I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much that I bought a bag of papa seca (dried potatoes, the main ingredient in carapulcra) online.

Carapulcra is a dish that hails from Chincha, a town South of Lima that received a big African migration. In Chincha they make it with fresh potatoes but somehow when the dish arrived Lima (and became extremely popular) the dried potatoes took over. I guess it was someone from the highlands who adapted it, since drying potatoes is a common preservation method in the Andes.

Anyway, apart from the potatoes, the other main ingredients in this stew are pork and peanuts. It also has a couple of flavour enhancers added at the end of the cooking process: chocolate and port. I’ve heard some people in Chincha add in a Sublime (milk chocolate with peanuts) but I prefer using dark chocolate and ground cashews instead of peanuts (what is wrong with peanuts? apart from being highly allergenic, they contain high amounts of phytates and are often contaminated with aflatoxins.)

Carapulcra
Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 500g papa seca (dried potatoes) or regular potatoes (Tasmanian pink eye recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon lard or ghee
  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 large red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 100g ají panca (Peruvian red chilli) or other red chilli paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 litres chicken or pork broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g cashews
  • 20g dark chocolate (85% or higher recommended)
  • 1/4 cup port

Directions

  1. The night before: toast the papa seca in a dry pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Rinse and soak in a container with twice its volume of water overnight. Skip this step if you’re using regular potatoes.
  2. If you’re using regular potatoes, cut them in 1-cm cubes. Reserve in a bowl, covered with cold water.
  3. Cut the pork belly in bite-size pieces. Chop onion and mince garlic.
  4. Melt lard/ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot at high heat and sear the pork (be careful, it spits). Reserve.
  5. Lower the heat, let pot cool down a bit and add the onion, garlic and chilli paste. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add cumin, cloves and cinnamon stick, stir. Add pork and drained potatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.
  7. Add broth, cover and cook for 1 hour.
  8. Grind cashews in a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle. Grate chocolate. Add both to the pot.
  9. Add port, turn heat off, discard cinnamon stick and adjust seasoning.
  10. Serve with cauliflower rice.

Recipe: Paleo patita con maní (pork trotters with(out) peanuts)

Patita con maní is a traditional creole dish from my city. Middle- and upper-class urbanites tend to look down on it because it’s made from feet (pata = animal foot). Silly, I know. Not only because animal feet are cheap, but mainly because they’re full of collagen, which is highly nourishing for the joints, skin, and gut. Sadly, Alvaro and I never got to experience patita con maní back home.

Now that I’ve found good sources of pork, I’m keen on experimenting with different cuts. Pork trotters were in my radar and when trying to decide what to cook with them I thought it was about time to give the Peruvian classic a shot.

Pork trotters

Pork trotters from Feather and Bone

Paleo patita con maní (pork trotters with(out) peanuts)
Adapted from this recipe
Yield: 5-6 servings

Paleo patita con maní

Ingredients

  • 6 pork trotters
  • 2 tablespoons lard, bacon fat or tallow
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ají amarillo
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds or cashews
  • 3 medium potatoes or 2 swedes
  • salt and pepper
  • cauliflower rice, to serve
  • salsa criolla, to serve
  • veggies of choice, to serve

Directions

  1. If you have a slow cooker and time, cook the pork trotters in water (cover them by 3 – 4 centimeters) for 8 – 10 hours. Alternatively, boil them in a pot until very tender.
  2. Strain pork trotters and reserve the cooking liquid. Separate the meat from the bones and nails, reserve.
  3. Heat fat in a pot or saucepan on low heat, cook onion, garlic and chili for 10 minutes.
  4. Add meat, ground nuts, vinegar and 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Serve with cauliflower rice, salsa criolla and your choice of veggies (we had Brussel sprouts and fennel roasted in bacon fat).

Recipe: Peruvian pork adobo

Let’s kick off this recipe with a few notes:

  • Adobo is a very popular word in all cuisines that have Spanish influences, but it means a different thing in every country (so Filipino adobo != Peruvian adobo != Mexican chipotles en adobo, etc.)
  • Peruvian pork adobo is a traditional dish from a city called Arequipa. Locals are notable for being very proud of their city and their people, so for Arequipeños reading this: I do know this is not the traditional version.
  • I use kombucha in this recipe. I know cooking with kombucha is borderline retarded (why kill all those good bacteria??) but I use it as a substitute for chicha de jora because a) it tastes very similar, b) it’s not made from corn, and b) I don’t have to go to Fairfield to buy it. If you don’t have or want to use kombucha, you can use chicha de jora, white wine or a mix of white wine and apple cider vinegar.
  • There’s an optional step of colouring the fat with achiote (or annato seeds), which doesn’t add much to the flavour of the dish. Feel free to skip it.
  • I use Peruvian chillies because I have them. I’ve seen the pastes in a few shops in Sydney (Tierras Latinas in Fairfield, Fiji Market in Newtown), and while I think using other chillies would change the flavour of the dish, you should use whatever is more convenient.
  • Most of the pork we buy is free-range and pastured. It’s way more expensive, but totally worth it. Pastured animals are treated more humanely, and because pigs are omnivorous, supplementing their diet with grass gives their fat a better composition (i.e. a more balanced omega-6:omega-3 ratio, which translates in less inflammation).
  • A small but interesting study published by the Weston A. Price Foundation (found here) showed that pork consumption alters the blood in an unfavourable way unless it’s prepared with traditional methods such using acidic marinades, and curing + smoking (e.g. bacon!). As an anecdotal side note, I used to be allergic to pork until I ditched the grains.
Peruvian pork adobo
Yield: 5-6 servings

Peruvian pork adobo

Ingredients

  • 1.2 k pork shoulder
  • 500 ml kombucha (you can also use chicha de jora, white wine, or 400 ml white wine + 100 ml apple cider vinegar)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 50 gr ají panca (red chilli) paste
  • 1 teaspoon ají amarillo (yellow chilli) powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 bunch fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon achiote (or annato seeds, optional)
  • 2 tablespoon lard, tallow or ghee
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon whole red peppercorns
  • 4 – 5 small sweet potatoes, baked, to serve

Directions

  1. Cut pork in 4 – 5 portions, place in a ziplock bag or container and add kombucha, garlic, chillies, black pepper, cumin, and oregano. Marinate overnight in the fridge.
  2. Heat fat at low heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. If you’re using achiote (or annato seeds), add them to the fat and let infuse for a minute or two, then drain the coloured fat, discard achiote and return fat to the pot.
  3. Crank up the heat, lift pork out of its marinade (reserve it) and brown on all sides.
  4. Add marinade, salt and onions.
  5. Wrap red peppercorns in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen thread or pop them in a stainless steel tea infuser, and place in the pot.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, until the pork is tender.
  7. Remove the lid, fish the pork and peppercorn package (which you can discard) out of the pot, and crank up the heat again to reduce the sauce if you like it thicker.
  8. Serve pork topped with sauce, with baked sweet potatoes and salad on the side.