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: Chapana (Peruvian cassava dessert)

This is not a super well-know Peruvian dessert but is as authentic as it can get. In fact, apparently it’s been around for way longer than the popular desserts that appeared when we were a Spanish colony.

I’m usually biased toward chocolate when it comes to sweets, but this is an exception. I think this is in part because there are childhood memories attached to chapana. I recently learned this is one of my father-in-law’s favourite desserts, too. I guess we have more in common that what I thought :)

Frozen grated cassava

Chapana is made with grated yuca (cassava), chancaca (basically cane sugar that has been boiled and solidified in a block) and aniseed. It’s wrapped in banana leaves and after cooking it acquires a chewy consistency. Grating cassava is a pain in the ass, so when I found frozen cassava in an ethnic shop (can’t remember which) I bought it immediately with cassava in mind. I used coconut sugar instead of chancaca for a hipster version (and also because I don’t know where to buy chancaca in Sydney!), adjusted the ratio (usually 1:1) to make it less sweet and did my best in wrapping the parcels (I’m very sloppy with that kind of things).

Chapana

Chapana
Yield: 4 servings

Chapana

Ingredients

  • 450g frozen grated cassava
  • 200-225g coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp aniseed
  • banana leaves
  • kitchen twine

Directions

  1. Thaw cassava in the fridge overnight.
  2. Wipe the banana leaves clean.
  3. In a bowl, mix cassava, coconut sugar and aniseed.
  4. Divide mix in 4 parts and wrap each in banana leaves in a rectangular pillow-like parcels, wrapping the leaf over itself in 2-3 layers without breaking it if possible.
  5. Tie the parcels with kitchen twine.
  6. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the parcels and bring to a boil.
  7. Pop the parcels in the pot and boil for 30 minutes.
  8. Fish the parcels out of the water and let cool down enough to unwrap and enjoy.
  9. Chapana is usually eaten warm, although some people enjoy it cold or at room temperature.

Recipe: Pimiento relleno (Peruvian-style stuffed capsicum)

Full disclaimer: this in not an authentic Peruvian recipe. The traditional dish is called rocoto relleno, rocoto being a special type of Peruvian really really REALLY hot chilli that I haven’t been able to find fresh in Australia. You can find them jarred but IMO it’s not the same. They jarred version is wet and soggy, characteristics that are particularly unappealing when talking about vegetables you’re about to stuff.

*Real* Peruvians (i.e. not my husband) like their food spicy, so they don’t mind their rocoto relleno to have a bit of a kick. Wimps and kids might prefer to have their rocoto boiled multiple times in water, vinegar and sugar to minimise the heat or have pimiento (capsicum) instead of rocoto.

Rocoto relleno is a dish typical to Arequipa, the white city. The filling is the almighty Peruvian filling based on beef mince, onion, garlic and chilli. The cheese in traditional recipes is paria, a salty fresh cheese. The closest substitution I’ve found here in Australia is sheep and/or goat haloumi. Rocoto relleno is commonly served with a side of pastel de papa, basically a potato bake. I recommend serving it with a leafy green salad instead.

Pimiento relleno (Peruvian-style stuffed capsicum)
Yield: 4 servings

Pimiento relleno

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tbsp ají panca (Peruvian red chilli paste – you can sub any chilli paste)
  • 4 large capsicums
  • 4 olives, pitted
  • 2 boiled eggs, halved
  • 8 slices (about 240g) sheep and/or goat haloumi cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to a moderate-high temperature (180-200°C)
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan. Add meat and brown.
  3. Add onion, garlic and ají panca. Cook until meat is fully cooked and onions are soft.
  4. Cut the top off each capsicum and carefully remove the internal membranes and seeds.
  5. Fill each capsicum halfway with meat, add 1 olive, 1/2 boiled egg and cover with more meat.
  6. Top filling with 2 slices of cheese and cover with the capsicum “lid”.
  7. Pop in the oven until the capsicum is soft but not soggy and the cheese has started melting. Serve with a green salad.
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.

Coca Peruvian Cuisine – take one: Sangre Nueva

When someone asks me or my Peruvian friends where to find good Peruvian food in Sydney we often reply “come to my house”. Not that we have great cooking skills but, seriously, until a short while ago, there were no better options around. Luckily, that is slowly changing, as talented Peruvian chefs are starting to showcase what our country has to offer.

Peru has exceptional cuisine, and people around the world acknowledge it, but is a pity that Australia is so far away nobody knows about it. That’s what made a bunch of friends: Diego Muñoz (Bilson’s), Martín Arrisueño (Awaba), Diana Manrique and Marco Amprimo (aSukar Patisserie) plan a Peruvian dinner in our independence month.

The idea as a whole was born under the name Coca Peruvian Cuisine, showing respect for the coca leaf, which has been a faithful companion for the Andean people for thousands of years. This particular dinner, titled Sangre Nueva (new blood), the first of hopefully many to come, took place in Balmoral Beach’s Awaba restaurant.

I shared a table with my Peruvian friend Beto and his friends Ron and Sharon. They seemed pleased to have locals explaining them the contents of the dishes, although I must admit we got over-excited at times. A well-prepared pisco sour (our national drink made with pisco, lime juice, egg whites, syrup and a dash of bitters) got us ready for what was about to come.

Pisco sour

Pisco sour

Forget about bread dipped in olive oil, our dinner started the proper way: with boiled new potatoes with ocopa (sauce made with chilli, queso fresco, milk, huacatay, peanuts and vanilla biscuits), rocoto-stuffed olives and yuca (cassava) chips with huancaína (sauce made with chilli, queso fresco, milk and soda crackers). A small saucer with rocoto (very hot red chilli, similar in shape to capsicum) sauce kept us company throughout the night, as in most Peruvian tables.

New potatoes with ocopa sauce, rocoto-stuffed olives, cassava chips with huancaína sauce

New potatoes with ocopa sauce, rocoto-stuffed olives, cassava chips with huancaína sauce

The first course blew our minds. For Beto and me, it was hands-down the highlight of the night. Blue swimmer crab parihuela (a thick seafood soup) served in an espresso cup and a cold crab salad served in a spoon next to it. Visually pleasing, yes, but it wasn’t until we tried both components that we had our expectations surpassed. We found crunchy bits in the soup and it wasn’t until Marco mentioned the dish had quinoa that I realised it was the same toasted quinoa I had eaten in the prawn course at Bilson’s. It was a very welcomed unorthodox addition to the dish. I’m usually the first to say that Peruvian food tastes better in Peru but honestly this was one of the best parihuelas I’ve ever had.

Blue swimmer crab parihuela

Blue swimmer crab parihuela, matched with 2010 Oliver’s Taranga Fiano, McClaren Vale SA

The next course was a tiradito (seafood cut sashimi-style, usually served with lime juice and chilli sauce) featuring Australian sea produce: super fresh calamari, fish, scallops and oysters. The sweet potato that often complements the dish was present in a puréed version, forming a long strip across the plate. The fresh taste of coriander was also there, as well as a mild yellow chilli sauce, and a slightly excessive amount of ginger. I liked the dish but prefer it more “creole”, that is, with more lime and chilli, and no ginger.

Australian sea tiradito

Australian sea tiradito, matched with 2010 Cherubino Riesling, Great Southern WA

Continuing with the seafood theme we were served a Crystal Bay prawn causa (mashed potatoes mixed with lime juice and chilli, and served usually layered with seafood or chicken, mayonnaise, avocado, etc). The causa was very nice, it went very well with the silky avocado cream on the bottom of the plate and the ultra fresh prawn. The foreigners liked it, but for me a bit more of lime juice and chilli in the causa would have been better.

Crystal Bay prawn causa

Crystal Bay prawn causa, matched with 2010 Clonakilla ‘Nouveau’ Viognier, Canberra NSW

The beef dish was the one that received better comments from the non Peruvians in the table: Black Angus oxtail papa rellena (potato mash stuffed with a beef filling, shaped into a rugby ball and deep-fried), served with solterito (broad bean, onion, olive, rocoto and queso fresco salad). This time the almighty all-purpose filling wasn’t made with minced beef, but very cleverly with melt-in-your-mouth oxtail. The beef was extremely flavourful (the dish as a whole was) and it certainly left a lot of people craving for seconds. We did have a confused waitress bringing seconds to our table but were honest enough to say we already had that dish.

Solterito & Black Angus oxtail papa rellena

Black Angus oxtail papa rellena, matched with 2008 Greenstone Rosso di Colbo Sangiovese, Heathcote VIC

Arroz con pato (rice cooked with coriander and served with duck) is one of my top Peruvian dishes and this one didn’t disappoint. The seasoning was spot-on, the duck was perfectly cooked in its two presentations (medium-rare on top of the rice and well done below the salsa criolla (onion, coriander, chilli and lime juice salad). If I was given a chance to ask for a minor adjustment, it would be the rice. They used basmati, which lends to grains that don’t stick together, but for this dish I prefer a slightly overcooked, almost soupy medium-grain rice.

Grimaud arroz con pato

Grimaud arroz con pato, matched with 2009 Coates Touriga Nacional, Langhorne Creek, SA

The savoury journey had ended and the sweetness was about to hit us. Diana did an amazing job with the lúcuma tres leches (sponge cake soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream, plus the fruit lúcuma in this case) by lowering down the sweetness and adding a thin layer of dark chocolate on top.

Lúcuma 3 leches

Lúcuma 3 leches, matched with 2010 Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW

Dinner came to an end with coffee and petit fours: maná (a sweet similar to marzipan sans almond meal), alfajores (cornflour biscuits with caramel in the middle) and chocolate truffles, all of them excellent. Our only complain was that coffee was served with chilled milk, quite unusual and a bit upsetting for our already overloaded stomachs. Other than that, the food and matching wines were simply brilliant. Looking forward to take two.

Alfajores, truffles, maná

Alfajores, truffles, maná

Coca Peruvian Cuisine: Coffee

Coffee

Coca Peruvian Cuisine
www.cocaperuviancuisine.com