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.

Recipe: Puré de espinaca (spinach mash)

This is such an easy and middle-class recipe that I’m almost ashamed of posting it. But it brings warm memories of my childhood and of food from home. Eat with roast chicken, burger patties, fried eggs… whatever you fancy!

Puré de espinaca
Yield: 4-5 servings

Puré de espinaca

Ingredients

  • 0.5 kg potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 0.5 cup chicken broth or milk
  • 1-1.5 cups spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel, cube and cook potatoes.
  2. Mash potatoes while hot, add butter and mix.
  3. Heat up broth/milk, pour over spinach in a blender and blend until puréed.
  4. Add spinach mix to potatoes, mix well and season.

Recipe: Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo (smashed plantains, mussels and chorizo)

Last time I went to Tienda Latina to buy food for my birthday I noticed they had sliced and pre-cooked ripe plantains in the freezer. I grabbed a bag without even asking for the price and started thinking what to do with them.

Frozen sliced ripe plantain

It didn’t take me too long to decide: I wanted to make a version of majarisco, a dish from the North of Perú that features plátano majado (smashed plantains) and seafood. To keep things simple, I used frozen mussels and chorizo (also bought at Tienda Latina) for this version.

Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo
Yield: 5-6 servings

Majado de plátano con choros y chorizo

Ingredients

  • 500g frozen pre-cooked plantains (or 500g fresh plantains, sliced and cooked in fat)
  • 500g chorizo
  • 1-2 Tb fat of choice (I used ghee)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb chilli paste (I use Peruvian ají panca but any kind will do)
  • 1kg frozen mussels
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup fish (or vegetable) stock
  • 2 Tb apple cider vinegar

To serve:

Directions

  1. Smash plantains with a pestle or similar heavy object.
  2. Slice chorizo.
  3. Chop onion and garlic, cook in fat on medium heat until soft. Add chilli paste.
  4. Add chorizo, stir until completely cooked.
  5. Add plantains, stir.
  6. Add mussels, wine, fish stock and vinegar, reduce until a thick sauce is formed.
  7. Serve with greens and salsa criolla, garnish with coriander.

Recipe: Vegan causa

Yes, vegan. Before you think I’m crazy for bastardising one of my national dishes, let me explain. I made this version for an assignment for which I had to modify a recipe for social (i.e. religious, ethical, etc.) reasons. I thought of causa because I know people make vegetarian versions all the time (not me, I love it with seafood) but I have never seen a vegan version out there. Not only I had to ditch the main protein, but also the eggs used as garnish and in the mayo. I combined a few vegan soy-free mayonnaise recipes I found online and the result was awesome! Also so much easier to make than regular mayo. I served this vegan causa to a bunch of friends and everyone (including Alvaro) liked it.

Vegan causa
Yield: 8 servings

Vegan causa

Ingredients

  • 8 (1500g) floury potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp (60ml) ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli) paste
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 4 Tbsp (60ml) macadamia oil
  • 1/2 cup (80g) finely chopped red onion
  • 500g white mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil
  • vegan mayonnaise (see below)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4g salt
  • 8 (20g) black (preferably botija) olives
  • 1 (65g) heart of palm

Vegan mayonnaise

  • 3/8 cup (50g) raw cashews
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) avocado oil
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) water
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tsp (4ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) mustard powder

To serve

  • cherry tomatoes
  • lettuce

Directions

  1. Blend the mayonnaise ingredients.
  2. Place the chopped onion in a small bowl with the juice of 1 lime and season lightly with salt. Set aside to marinate while the potatoes cook.
  3. Cook and mash the potatoes, let cool down. Mix with chilli paste, juice of 3 limes, macadamia oil and salt.
  4. Slice mushrooms and sautée in olive oil. Let cool down, mix with mayonnaise (method below).
  5. Oil a ring mold. Press half of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Cover with the mushroom mixture in a smooth layer. Top with slices of avocado. Layer the other half of the potato mixture on top and smooth the potatoes with the back of a spoon. Top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and olives.
  6. Serve chilled with lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes.

Review: Peruvian Gastronomic Festival (Café Opera, Intercontinental Sydney)

I love the Sydney Rumbles section in Sara’s blog Belly Rumbles. It’s a great monthly compilation of food events happening in Sydney. The latest edition announced a Peruvian Gastronomic Festival prepared by the very well-known (in Perú) chef Adolfo Perret, owner of the Punta Sal seafood restaurants.

Welcome message

The festival was really a buffet in the fancy Cafe Opera at the Intercontinental Hotel that ran for the week preceding our Independence Day (i.e. July 22 – 27). Prices varied depending on the time of the day and whether it was a weekday or a weekend. We chose to go on a Monday night ($70 per head) because it suited Alvaro’s work schedule.

Peruvian nativity

There were some neutral/international elements in the buffet (e.g. a standard salad bar, prawns, oysters, sushi, some of the desserts) but in my opinion the food selection was varied enough to give guests a feel for our cuisine. Needless to say, a good number of dishes were seafood-based (the chef’s speciality). The three Peruvians at the table (my sister, Al and I) thought entrées and desserts were better than mains, and our Venezuelan friend said she enjoyed the seafood dishes and the carapulcra.

Here’s a brief recap with my humble opinion about the dishes I tried:

Entrées – favourites

  • Pulpo al limón y olivo (octopus in lemon and olive oil) – great flavour and tender
  • Choritos a la chalaca (mussels in a creole sauce) – very tasty, I had quite a few
  • Causa de pollo (potato mash with chilli and lime juice, filled with chicken and mayonnaise) – best causa we’ve had in Sydney

Cold entrées

Cold entrées

Entrées – good

  • Cebiche mixto (fish and seafood cebiche) – good flavour but not sour enough for my taste
  • Cebiche atún Nikkei (Japanese/Peruvian tuna cebiche) – nice Asian flavours but not outstanding
  • Ocopa (potatoes with a hot pepper and huacatay creamy sauce)
  • Salpicón de pollo (chicken and mayonnaise salad)

Potatoes & ocopa

Potatoes & ocopa

Entrées – average

  • Cold seafood – prawns, mussels and oysters, not that great

Cold seafood & sauces

Cold seafood & sauces

Entrées – not tried
Salad bar, bread, etc.

Salad bar

Salad bar

Salad bar

Salad bar

Mains – good

  • Carapulcra (dry potatoes casserole) – very nice, even for me (I used to hate this dish)
  • Lomo saltado (beef stir-fry) – good flavour, very tender

Salsa criolla, cancha & carapulcra

Salsa criolla, cancha & carapulcra

Lomo saltado

Lomo saltado

Mains – disappointing

  • Cau cau de pollo (chicken, potato and turmeric stew) – didn’t taste like cau cau at all
  • Chicharrón de chancho (fried pork) – very dry and underseasoned

Cau cau de pollo

Cau cau de pollo

Chicharrón de chancho, cancha & salsa criolla

Chicharrón de chancho, cancha & salsa criolla

Mains – not tried
Sushi, soups, arroz a la jardinera (rice with vegetables), Chicharrón de pescado (crumbed fried fish), escabeche (fish or chicken – don’t know which – in an onion/vinegar sauce), Asian-style fish, etc.

Sushi

Sushi

Hot dishes

Hot dishes

Soups

Soups

Some dish with asparagus and cherry tomatoes

Some dish with asparagus and cherry tomatoes

Chicharrón de pescado?

Chicharrón de pescado (I think)

Desserts – favourites

  • Suspiro de limeña (caramel, meringue and cinnamon dessert) – one of my favourite desserts back in the day, this one was tasty
  • Merengado de chirimoya (custard apple meringue) – not my favourite but the other three people in the table really liked it
  • Berry compote – not Peruvian but delicious with a huge dollop of cream

Desserts, round 1

Desserts, round 1

Desserts – good

  • Crema volteada (creme caramel) – not very sweet, which was good, but a bit lacking in texture, IMO
  • Mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding with dried fruits) – a bit too thin/watered down

Desserts

Desserts

Desserts

Desserts

Desserts – not tried
Quinoa zambito (pudding traditionally made with rice and dark cane sugar), jam and sweet sauces (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry), apple pie, lollies, cheese board, cakes, slices, etc.

Lollies

Lollies

Cafe Opera
Intercontinental Sydney
117 Macquarie Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 1396
restaurant.reservations@interconsydney.com
www.sydney.intercontinental.com

Punta Sal

Review: Peru on the Road (Peruvian food truck by Morena, Wynyard Park)

Food trucks are quite popular in Sydney these days. I’ve been meaning to try a couple of them, but life gets in the way every time. When I received Morena‘s newsletter announcing their upcoming food truck close to my office, I knew I had to be there.

The truck

The chef

Chef Alejandro Saravia plating out street food

Peru on the Road showcased fancier versions of Peruvian street food at Wynyard Park on July 22 – 23. The menu included:

  • Anticuchos de alpaca (grass fed Millpaca Alpaca skewers marinated in a traditional anticucho sauce – mix of Andean roasted peppers, vinegar and garlic – served with chimichurri – fresh aromatic herbs macerated in oils and apple vinegar)
  • Pork chicharrón (twice cooked crispy suckling pork belly served in a bun with caramelised sweet potato & orange puree, pickled daikon and malagueta chillies)
  • Quinoa salad
  • Cassava croquettes
  • Arroz con leche (rice pudding served with poached green apples, pineapple and quinoa caramel)

I ordered a chicharrón with no bun and anticuchos de alpaca. The chicharrón was delicious, perfectly seasoned and cooked, with crispy crackling, and nicely paired by the sweet potato cubes and salsa criolla. The anticuchos were very tasty, too, although more similar to koftas than to traditional anticuchos due to the use of minced meat (traditional anticuchos are made with diamond-shaped beef heart chunks). The seasoning was tasty, and the chimichurri was closer to the typical Peruvian ají sauce with green onions than to real (i.e. Argentinian) chimichurri.

My gringo friend really enjoyed his chicharrón in a bun. He also had a quinoa salad, which looked more like a chickpea stew served with a side of quinoa than a salad. My friend found the presence of snow peas rather un-Peruvian, but I thought it was a symbol of the big Chinese influence in our cuisine. I found the combination (chickpeas, snow peas, celery and dried botija olives) very odd.

Pork chicharrón

Pork chicharrón ($12)

Pork chicharrón with no bun

Pork chicharrón with no bun ($12)

Anticuchos de alpaca

Anticuchos de alpaca ($9)

Quinoa salad

Quinoa salad ($7)

Also on sale was our super sweet national soft drink Inca Kola at $3 per can. I bumped into a few Peruvian friends but noticed that the crowd in the queue was mixed. Hope they all enjoyed the experience.

Inca Kola

Inca Kola ($3)

Due to the big success of the food truck, Morena is offering dishes inspired in Peruvian street food during August and September. Check out the menu here.

Morena

15/425 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 0405 902 896
www.morena.com.au

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).