Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Cooking in Peru

When I actually was living in Peru I felt a bit overwhelmed by it all. And I did not know what to cook. While travelling the country you taste the variety, every province has it´s own typical dishes and Lima has an abundance of good restaurants; Peruvian, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, sea food, creole, afroperuvian, fast food. But when you have to cook yourself, what should you do? And I love cooking, so this issue had to be solved. Two months after moving here, we visited a pre-Hispanic ritual in a huaca of more than 2,500 years old presided over by a real shamana. When she performed a private ritual for us, we could ask for something as well. That was not a difficult: inspiration.

Since then I have never been without inspiration. You can make easily all kinds of Italian dishes, Chinese dishes and even Dutch ones. All the ingredients for snert, the Dutch soup made from green peas, vegetables and various pork meats are available. It tastes just like home. As does cauliflower with a white sauce, cooked potatoes, meat balls and gravy. But we live in Peru. So we should eat Peruvian as well. The more simple Peruvian dishes are not a problem. Causa, papa a la huancaína, arroz con pollo and pie de limón are straight forward.

Many of the others look rather complicated. So I took a summer course Cocina Peruana at the Cordon Bleu Institute. That was fascinating. Preparing tamalitos verdes piuranos, tacu-tacu de mariscos, rocoto relleno con lomo, seco chavelo, yuquitas rellenas con langostinos a las huancaínas, arroz con pato a la chiclayana, cebiche de langostinos a la piedra, adobo cusqueño, cebiche de pato and cabrito al vino tinto con picante de pallares verdes. It went excellent, the only comment I got every time was ´not enough salt´. To me enormous quantities of salt are used here. And a lot of other condiments as well: peppers (aji), garlic (ajo), black pepper, cumin.

So after that I could prepare them at home and impress guests at dinner. The best place for buying food is the market. The market in Surquillo or the one in Surco. Even famous chef Gastón Acurio buys there. And they are wonderful, especially for the fish. Vegetables and fruit that you eat uncooked, like lettuce and strawberries you have to clean with a special bacteria killer, as sewage water can be used to water the fields. That does not appeal to me much. So I buy most things in the supermarket. Once I wanted to cook cabrito (goat) al vino tinto and I was not in the mood to go to the market. Let´s try Wong. And yes, after some waiting they came with a goat. A whole goat. And frozen. With the legs outstretched, much to the interest of the other waiting people. After they cut it in pieces I took it home, marinated it for a night and prepared a very nice dish.

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