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Peru – Part 2

Day 11. We survived Cusco. That story needs to be explained in person for effect! Back in Lima we had planned to go with Tia Rosa to the Incan Markets in Miraflores which have a lot of crafts and souvenirs, but first lunch. On my hit list was ‘eat at a Cevicheria’ or house of Ceviche and since we have previously had such great experiences at Gaston’s restaurants Panchita, Tanta and La Barra, why not add another to the list, so off to La Mar we went. Taxi’s in Peru are another interesting and new experience for me. They firstly do not have a GPS or even a street directory, nor do they actually need to know where to go BUT the benefit is that you negotiate the price before you go, so regardless of the traffic the price is what was agreed. This is actually good for Lima since the traffic is horrendous. So on this particular day the driver said yes yes yes, but then took a wrong turn. A half an hour journey turned into an hour and with four people stuffed in the back seat, my comfort levels were not very high. We arrived and all I wanted was to sit down at the table, no chance, a table was a 40 minute wait, so wait we did. At least we scored two bar seats after 15 minutes and chowed down on canchita (air dried corn seasoned with salt) and had a few drinks.

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The wait was well worth it! I ordered a plain ceviche with mixed seafood, Chris had ceviche with chicharron, Chris’ sister actually hates all seafood except tuna so she ordered causa, a potato and tuna stack with egg, and then Chris’ mum and Tia Rosa shared a mixed plate of goodies which we all tried to finish without success, it was huge!

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Although we were sufficiently stuffed there would always be room for dessert and it would not be right if we did not order Picarones. I was already disheartened after the last Gaston effort but had to give it the benefit of the doubt that this would be better. It was, they tasted as good and as crunchy as they look.

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So after the diverted taxi ride and long wait I can say that this cevicheria experience was just as flavoursome, colourful and enjoyable as I had hoped, well I finished with a coffee, that may have helped too.

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Absolutely full we hit up the markets buying handicrafts, more blankets, Chris even got some ‘alpaca’ slippers, lets see if they are as good as Aussie UGG once we get back.

A well overdue siesta was necessary before Brisas that evening, a dance performance that showcased many of the traditional dances and costumes from Peru. As most of you know I am an early bird and struggle to stay awake, well God help me, the show started at 10pm and we did not get home until 3:30am! Good effort I think, although the table was looking like a nice bed from about midnight. The dances were incredible as were the costumes. So much colour, detail and varieties for the different regions and styles of dance, most of which I have already forgotten the names.

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Once all the performances were finished it was our turn to get up and dance. I was being taught the Huayno dance which is a stamping dance from the country, looks easy but is so NOT easy. One leg stamps once then the other stamps twice alternatively. After realising that you should not lift your legs too far off the ground I was able to get a bit of rhythm and by the end of the night I got it for about 20 seconds until my legs got tired! Its incredible to see people doing it for countless numbers of songs. Their legs would be getting the best workout, no Gym needed here.

Sleep that night was not to be as I was cooking Sunday lunch for the family. I thought to myself “What is a good Greek dish that is different souvlaki or pita?”. Then it hit me, I could make a Pastitsiou, which is a typical Greek Lasagne, and who best to ask for the recipe than the Queen Pastitsiou maker, my Thea Betty. I have only ever made it once before as I have never needed to, Thea Betty always does. After receiving her recipe I went to the markets in the morning to buy ingredients and start cooking as lunch needed to be ready by 12pm sharp! Papa Raul expects lunch at 12 and I would not want to leave a bad impression.

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Unable to find good rigatoni or tubular pasta, I settled on a fat round pasta that will have to do. The meat was easy although I did not cook with onions as I was going to use some of the meat for a mini gluten free, onion free version for myself. The hard part is definitely the béchamel sauce. Basically you cannot leave the stove until it is done, that is how much you need to stir, stir, stir. Funnily enough I am not a patient person at all, but I am patient with food. I am happy to cook pasta from scratch for 2hrs or prepare bread over 4hrs as I know how good it will be and how happy it makes people. This patience comes from enjoying the process rather than just wanting the finished product. The béchamel needs to be done slowly with only small amounts of milk and egg added each time to allow for a smooth texture and to ensure that all lumps are whisked out of sight. My béchamel might have taken at least 30 minutes to prepare but it tasted heavenly. It’s lucky I am lactose intolerant otherwise I would have eaten far too much from the pot. I assembled the pastitsiou and was ready to bake it in the gas oven.

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I was told earlier that morning when I went to heat the oven that they do not know if it works, Papa Raul and Mama Celes have not used it as long as they can remember, if ever. Eeeek. Well worth the try in my eyes, I still remember the taste that a gas oven gave my Yiayia Eleni’s baked potatoes, there is nothing that ever compared or even reached the level of flavour they had. If this is the effect the gas gave my grandmother, then maybe I would be lucky and my Pastitsiou for Chris’ family would turn out perfect.

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An hour later the top was certainly browned and the edges nice and crispy, and with 15 minutes to spare as the clock ticked 11:45am. I set the table, called the troups and plated up. Sorry, I forgot to get the Inka Kola for the table.

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As I sat there with my gluten free pasta and onion free meat I envied the family who were about to eat the creamy and delectable pastitsiou recipe I prepared, thanks to Thea Betty (although I can say that as I did taste test a small piece and OMG crispy edged , creamy top and rich meaty sauce were heavinly). The response from the family? Well I think Papa Raul summed it up well, he asked me to give him the recipe so Mama Celes could make it for him. We all laughed, I was immensely satisfied and grateful it turned out so well. What better for a Sunday lunch than family, traditional dishes and laughter.

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Day 13 and the cooking classes did not stop as I was lucky enough to learn a dish called Papa Rellena from someone Chris holds dear to his heart, Della. Della used to help out the Alzamora family when they lived in a suburb only around the corner from where they live now called Matute. Christopher lived in Matute when he was 9 years old on his 4 month visit to Peru. He showed me around the ‘residential village’ that was his playground for those months, where he roamed free until the early hours of the morning when he would return and Della would make sure he was washed off before he went to bed. Now Della has a family of her own and lives in that same flat that the Alzamora family used to live in, so my cooking class would take place where Mama Celes used to cook for the family which was a nice feeling.

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I felt so terrible that Della was up since 4am preparing for this dish, which is understandable when we saw how many she was preparing as there were at least 40 large Papa Rellenas (enough for 20 people), some prepared and some waiting for me to practice on.

Basically a Papa Rellena is soft potato stuffed with a meat mixture, almost like an empanada but instead of pastry there is potato. Suits me just fine and for all those out there who are gluten intolerant. So the base is the same as for gnocchi, you boil the potatoes then mash, although Della has mashed each potato into individual balls so they are evenly portioned out. The meat mixture has the standard Peruvian base of garlic, cumin and aji (and for everyone else onion too). Then the side dishes are prepared – sliced boiled egg, olives and raisins, if you like them inside. Once ready to make you flatten a ball of potato in the hand, put two tablespoons of mince inside then add on top some egg, olive and raisin before closing the potato around the filling to form an egg shape.

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Before you fry you lightly cover the outside of the potato with flour then add an egg wash. Fry away until browned evenly and enjoy.

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MMMM so so so good. I cannot wait to make these at home and try new combinations. I am already thinking waygu bolognaise with mozzarella would be one of the first things I would do. YUM. I had to finish both balls but unlike most Peruvians who eat double carbs at every meal, I was fine without rice to accompany my papa rellena, I wanted to enjoy every mouthful without interruptions in my mouth. Plus I needed to leave room for dinner at La Rosa Nautica. Thanking Della we waked home, out of Matute and farewelling many new memories.

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Siesta complete we all got dolled up to go out for dinner. We were lucky that Tio Pedro who works at La Rosa Nautica was to join us for dinner as he is able to get a 50% discount. The prices once converted into Australian dollars is still very cheap but who wouldn’t pass up that offer.

We arrived just at sunset and took photos of the surfers enjoying some ‘colour’ in the sky.

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Once we sat down, the city lit up. Oh no wait, that is just the constantly bad traffic jams.

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Once we started to relax a large BANG that sit the building, a wave, and a common occurrence and the reason Tio Pedro’s wife, Herlinda, did not want to join us as she is too scared of the waves. Chris’ sister and I ordered main dishes – Lomo Saltado and Salmon with aji potatoes respectively – and Chris’ Mum, Tio Pedro and Chris shared a mixed platter of seafood, however that was only entrée for them. For main Tio Pedro had organised a hot seafood plate which included fillets of snapper, squid, prawns scallops and potato.

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I ordered a Malbec from Argentina which we all loved, but too bad, it was the last bottle. Then we moved over to Rioja in Spain and had a Temprinillo which in fact was even better! Chris’ Mum ordered a Chicha cocktail just to be different, and as we can see she enjoyed it very very much!

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How could we pass up dessert? I certainly could not, especially after polishing off every morsel on my plate. Us young gals ordered the chocolate fondant, although one each was probably an oversight, sharing would have been smarter. Chris’ Mum ordered the Lucuma dish expecting ice cream but a tart came out. Tio Pedro had to help her finish it, and also finish Chris’ Apple tart

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I must say that I was sooo impressed with the food and will make the huge statement that it was the best meal I had in Peru, better than all of the Gaston restaurants and better than the food in Cusco. The dishes were simple, not fancy and overdone, but had flavours that jumped out with every bite. I have not finished entire plates of a main and dessert in a very long time, lucky I was wearing black and my top was loose!

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Our last full day in Peru we spent visiting the city centre, something I am told we cannot leave Lima without doing. To be honest the temperature had dropped this day and the sky was still gloomy so I was not thrilled about leaving the nice, cozy, warm house of Mama Celes, but I did not want to regret staying home. The centre reminded me of the Rocks in Sydney, touristy, old and once you have seen a bit, you have seen it all. We decided to take a tourist bus to do a loop of the city so that we can see everything the centre has to offer.

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The only problem was we decided to go on the bus at 5pm when the roads were in grid lock, more than normal due to peak hour, and the temperature had dropped due to the sunset, so our outdoor seats were not looking so good. The one hour tour took an hour and a half. We could not get away from the bus quick enough and into a taxi to go and get dinner. What better send off meal than BBQ chicken with the family in a warm restaurant only a short Micro bus ride away from home. Perfect!

Here we said a final goodbye to Tia Rosa. I will miss her smiley face and I know she will miss me trying to translate words into Spanish. For example, she kept joking around one lunch and I tried to say she was ‘cheeky’ which is a harmless playful English word. My dictionary told me to tell her she was ‘descarado’, or even better I wanted to say that she was ‘rude’, but again in a playful way as English would allow. Nope, my dictionary told me to say ‘indecente’. The laughter amongst the family was so loud, I wanted to crawl into a hole for trying, but it was all in good humour. The final miscommunication was when I asked Tia Rosa before dinner whether “Tienes hombre?” Do you have a man?   but what I meant to say was “Tienes hambre” Are you hungry. She replies “No tengo homre o hambre” I don’t have a man and I am not hungry. I know these phrases are going to be joked about with the family for a loooong time to come. At least I got one right as we were saying goodbye “Eres decente” You are a proper and lovely person, a big hug and we were off on the Micro back to Mama Celes’ house.

The day of our flight we packed, had a simple lunch and said our goodbyes. It was so sad as I know that Mama Celes and Papa Raul cherished the visit, cherished the blessing we had at their church and appreciated us coming to celebrate the 88th birthday of Mama Celes. Chris’ Mum was also crying as we would not see her and the rest of the family until Christmas, so it was a sad time for all.

To say I was disappointed to leave is not correct. I was very much looking forward to our travels through Europe, coffee being available at every corner, carrying my camera around my neck to take endless photos and also have alone time with Chris, as we have been busy with family from the time we stepped off the flight at 2am to the time we were to board at 5pm. What I will miss are the people, the generosity, the love and the hospitality. Experiences like this cannot be bought as I was lucky enough to see many different sides of Peru and was able to put on my ‘tourist’ hat in addition to my ‘I’m part of the family’ hat, even ‘hablo terrible espanol’ hat, but I tried. I opened my eyes and saw a part of the world I had never seen before and for that I appreciate my life and how lucky I am so much more.

Now off to spain!

Peru – Part 1

Peru, a place unlike any other I have been before, a place full of extremities and little in between, but a place full of many unique and beautiful experiences.
From when we arrive the love and hospitality was evident. Our plane was an hour late so we flew in at 1:30am, that did not deter Mama Celes who at 87 insisted to meet us at the airport, flowers and hugs ready for our first meeting. The joy on her face spoke the emotions I am sure she had, seeing her Grandson and new wife for the first time after their wedding. The last time Chris had seen Mama Celes was in 2010, but that four year gap was insignificant as he picked up right where he left off.  Papa Raoul waited patiently at home for us to return, again with the same excitement and arms wide open.

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Lots of sleep was necessary due to the large time difference, 15 hours behind Sydney! Day 1 we spend locally,walking around the  suburb, markets and of course to change money from the guy standing on the corner of the intersection with a calculator, I am told this is the completely normal. A simple lunch with the family of grilled chicken, vegetables and rice showcased how flavoursome the ingredients are in Peru, something we are not so exposed to in Sydney with an array of bland flavoured produce. Dinner was test one for me, will I like the infamous Jamon del pais sandwich from the Japanese guy from around the corner. Waiting patiently in line we watched as he used his chopsticks to assemble the roll. Soft white bread rolls are filled with a smear of mustard, chunks of specially cooked pork, a mound of Spanish onions which are almost pickled in lime (lemon) juice, then to finish a slice of fresh aji (chilli). Due to the fact that I cannot eat onions I think there is no point even trying the sandwich as the onions are such a huge component of this sandwich, they add crunch and also the liquidy juices of lime break down the rich meat. I added some more aji verde paste when we got back to the house so that MY sandwich was not as dry and boring……..the verdict, its OK. Chris was horrified as we now cannot share one of his true loves. Test one, fail.

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After our local dinner we decided to head off for a drink and try one of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants, Panchita. So from one extreme of walking around the local suburb at night, without handbags or cameras just in case we got mugged, we set of for Miraflores, the Double Bay of Lima where a different class of people live. Fancy cars zoomed past, jewellery was out for show and handbags were hanging off all the women. The restaurant was full of chatter, full of laughter and it is obvious that jokes are welcome. We sat up at the bar to have ‘a drink’ and ended up consuming a mixed platter and picarones, how could we not. I did need to try as many traditional Peruvian foods as possible so the mixed plate went without question as it featured Tamale verde, Papa rellena, Chicharron, Choclo y Papates con huancaina, Causa and Anticuchos. Tick, tick, tick, my list instantly got a lot smaller, then add Picarones and I am almost ready to leave after day one. Unfortunately the picarones, which are rinds of sweet potato donut were slightly undercooked. This Greek girl knows a thing of two about donut cooking after cooking many locomathes (greek donuts) in my time. Disappointing but that is ok, I kept dreaming about the tamale verde which were stuffed with cheese that had melted through th already rich corn surroundings. Test two for me was Chicha morada, purple corn juice which in Australia you can really only get in the form of a cordial. Freshly made it normally has a twist of lime (lemon) in it to lift the strong flavour. OH noooo, yuck, eeek not to my taste at all. Chris’  Sister looked on unable to comprehend how I did not enjoy it. Test two, fail.

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We retired that night for to catch up on our sleep until 5am when the phone rang right next to my head, prank calls apparently were common, not a welcome start to my morning. After breakfast we headed over to Lince to visit one of my Mother in law’s friends. Since we did not have a car we decided to catch a micro today, as opposed to a taxi. A micro is a vehicle of any sort like a small van, mini bus, old school bus etc, that locals have painted a route on, drive around without any concern for rules, actually PARDON there are no road rules in Peru at all, and even if there were, no one follows them. These micros are private and basically do not have a timetable. They just race each other around the place to pick up people and fares, so you need to be prepared to jump on and off very quickly so you don’t slow them down. Well we arrived in Lince in one piece but had to be weary on the streets as it is not the safest suburb. People were on the street fighting, many homeless people were trying to sell the little items they could to raise some money too. Suburbs like this do however have their little glimmers of beauty. The apartment we were going to was in an old Spanish building made out of mud brick and still had the original timber staircase up to the first floor. Due to the tremors in Lima the staircase had sunk into the floor so that the treads were no longer at a 90 degree angle, but rather sloping down like mini ramps. As an architect you can admire buildings like this, especially standing on the solid timber balcony overlooking the streets. I wish I had photos but this was a no handbag, no camera type of place. It was even a place that I was nudged to remind me ‘no english’ as we do not want to draw attention to ourselves.

Lunch was a la Mama Celes, Quinoa and queso, a delicious and simple meal with the trio of Peruvian ingredients, garlic, aji and cumin. Tio Augus came to visit and took us to Jockey Plaza for coffee and a sneaky shop. I must say for me this was a little bit of a sanctuary, a place I was comfortable with after being exposed to ‘the reality of Peru’ as Chris’ Mother puts it. It had Zara, which I did enjoy some retail therapy in, and we had a coffee, my first since arriving, and what joy it brought coffee addicted me. Chris ordered Lucuma Ice Cream, another favourite of his. Test number 3. Bah-bow. No go. This was disguising. It was like a rough melon cream that had an odd tart flavour too…..well things aren’t really going to plan to enjoy Peru like Chris does when I dislike every ‘memory food’ he gives me.

Siesta tick, now time to eat again. Dinner was Pollo a la brasa (BBQ Chicken) which is a favourite of Chris and mine, a la Lebanese from Charcoal Kingdom back home, so this was something I was very much looking forward to comparing. The chicken was delicious, skin crispy as required, but what makes the dish is the generally the sauce, today we had yellow spicy aji sauce. Like toum which I can eat by the tubful, this aji sauce would be a welcomed permanent condiment to my fridge, but of course it is very hard to find these sauces in Australia unless you make it yourself with dried aji or aji paste, probably not the same. As you can see from the photo, no one drinks water except me. It is almost as if water is not required in your body, but instead your body cannot survive without Inka Kola. I am so astounded at the amount of sugar Peruvians consume on a daily basis and surprised more do not have diabetes.

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After dinner I met the lovely Tia Rosa who took us to the central park where there is a nightly water and lights show. The light show is projected off water fountains and showcased different cultural dances, all of which I was to see at Brissas, the local dance show. We ran around like kids, playing with the water, ooing and aahing at the colours and tried not to get wet as we followed the processions under the arch of water. What a contrast to suburban streets only two blocks away. Going to the bathroom is an interesting experience too. You pay 50c and get given a wad of toilet paper  to use, and you even get a receipt!

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Day 3 we had a private tour around the city, first stop the statue of The Unknown Soldier which is one of the highest points of Lima perfect for a 360 degree look. It only strengthened the idea of extremities being just streets away. In a suburb called Chorillos there is a hill where people just find space and build a small house. It looks almost like favelas of Brazil and if you move your head slightly to the left we have San Borja which is like the ‘old spanish town’ and a very touristy and pretty area to visit, not a slum at all.

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We then visited the Parke de Amor which is dedicated to love. Love is all around and I think it is impossible to miss the point with a giant statue of two people kissing and an organic wall with seats fully mosaicked in love quotes and names. It is a very beautiful park and adds some colour into the grim and sombre colours of Lima. It occurred to me that there is never sunlight in Lima due to a layer of smog above the city that cannot make it over the Andes. This smog acts like permanent cloud cover and is what I think London looks like for most of the year, grey and dismal.

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Our last stop was La Rosa Nautica, an iconic restaurant that overlooks the sea and I would call it that signature restaurant every city has with the best view in town. It was lucky for us that one of the family’s uncles, Tio Pedro worked there so we went past to say hello, and of course have a drink and snack. The bar has around 48 different piscos and does all kinds of variations on the classic pisco sour. Since we were looking out at the sea we decided to try a small ceviche, another tick off my list. It was perfect in my eyes, fresh and soft fish with the perfect balance of acidity from the lime (lemon) juice and strong chilli. I enjoyed the leche de tigre very much without the need to order it as a separate item off the menu.

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We were picked up for lunch by Tio Augus who due to the culture of long lunches was able to take us out for a couple of hours to try Cuy (guinea pig), another tick off my list. The restaurant/eatery we went to specialised in food from Arequipa which is a country region from the south. The cuy was deep fried and served with choclo, fried potatoes and onion salad, obviously to break down the large proportion of fat in the meat. Once we cut off the head it was not unlike other small animals we are accustomed to such as quail or wild hare, slightly gamey, but some might just say “tastes like chicken”. We then went on a hunt for a café so I could enjoy a coffee after my meal. For a coffee lover like me I am blown away that in a region that contributes so much to the coffee scene of Australia with high quality beans, there is not more café’s or a coffee scene at all, I actually started looking up Starbucks to add to the list of destinations we had daily as I knew there would at least be quality control and would satisfy my needs. I realise this is sad but what do you do when you are used to drinking two long blacks a day?

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Dinner was another Gaston Acurio restaurant, Tanta. A bit more casual than Panchita but no less impressive, and yes we still have to line up for half an hour for a seat. I had a bit of a food coma all afternoon due to so much frita frita frita. Everything is fried here too, so chicken salad for me went down very well! The others of course had to try the Lomo Saltado, as they do in nearly every restaurant, clearly a favourite, unfortunately I cannot have it as it is made with onions and soy sauce and it really would not be possible without these key ingredients, so I get a pass from this test. We were all so full after dinner we had to walk to digest so we walked down to Larco Mar, the big shopping centre on the water in Ritzy Mira Flores. It was funny watching the young line up to enter the night clubs, and it is not an unfamiliar scene to Sydney with girls barely wearing anything, having to change out of ‘normal’ clothes in the bathrooms into their outfits packed in backpacks. Ahhh how glad I am to be married and not go through such a scene.

Day 4 we visited Gamarra, a large central markets which yes was an experience, not all good though. Basically if I knew it was going to be that chaotic, that crazy, that scattered I would have said no, please take me to the shopping centre where people are calm, things are easy to find and there is no chance of getting mugged. For an outsider or someone who is not used to things like that, it is not all fun, especially when my hand was getting squeezed and I was getting nudged left, right and centre as a reminder not to speak English. Yes things were cheap and yes we needed to buy some items ahead of Cusco, but at the end of the day I would be happy to pay more for sanity than go back there and fight the crowds. For those who have not seen it, I would liken it to walking through Town Hall at 11am on Boxing Day to go to the sales in Sydney…. A nightmare.

By the end of the day we planned to get our hair done ahead of the big family lunch tomorrow, but as we arrived at the hairdresser, which you cannot book, we were advised that there were people waiting ahead of us. An hour later we left, another example for me of un-organization, something I am told Peruvians are not famous for, and as a Project Manager, something that is foreign to me.

Day 5 we rose bright an early to prepare for our wedding blessing and lunch with the family. This included doing my own hair and make up as shops do not open until quite late in the morning. Family rolled in from 8am we greeted and took photos with then left for the church around the corner.

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The ceremony was lovely and our blessing I know was appreciated by all that were there. Back at the house Chris and I even did a first dance and then continued to dance with many family members, like a mini reception. The day was not only for us, it was also the 88th birthday of Mama Celes. We seemed to do things in reverse as we cut a cake at the house then left for lunch at Gaston’s new restaurant La Barra at Casa Moreyra. The restaurant itself, Casa Moreyra is an old Spanish style house which was to be sold only to Gaston or not sold at all, we are told. La Barra or The Bar is like an semi indoor/outdoor space with plenty of natural light and a casual atmosphere about it.

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There was nothing casual about the service though, they were on top of every request we could possibly have had, none more annoying I am sure than the kitchen preparing an individual menu for me without gluten, onion or lactose. I had my own bread which was delicious, stretchy (i.e. did not fall apart like normal gluten free bread) and was actually soft and fresh (not frozen). I also had an individual portion of every dish of the menu as I know the others did not want to share my intolerances with me. Here is the food that we enjoyed on the day.

  LA BIENVENIDA (The Welcome)
Aceitunas olivar de San Isidro, maní acaramelado con curry, aceite de oliva, pan campesino, pan chapla, pan para Celiacos

San Isidro olives, caramelized peanuts with curry powder, olive oil with an assortment of breads

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DEL MAR (From the Sea)
ALMEJAS, chalaca, semillas de tomate confitadas, flores de cilantro

Clams with corn, tomato seeds and coriander flowers

CAUSA, bonito ahumado, aceite de escabeche, mostaza y piel de limón

Causa with cured tuna, pickled olive, mustard and lemon peel

TIRADITO, salsa nikkei, nabo, frejol chino, sésamo blanco, ají limo

Tiradito with salsa Nikkei, turnip, chinese beans, white sesame and lime chilli

CEBICHE, pesca del día, leche de tigre al rocoto, chicharrón de calamari

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DEL CAMPO (From the Country)

SALTADO DE QUINUA, langostinos cristal, verduras crujientes, naranja

Sautee of quinoa, lobster, green vegetable crudités and orange

ALCACHOFAS FRITAS, arvejas, jamón, huevo frito, hojas de menta

Fried artichoke with peas, ham, fried poached egg and mint leaves

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DE LA CIUDAD (From the City)

YUCAS ESCABECHE, jamón del país, alcaparras, cebolla, aji y hierba buena

Pickled yuccas with roasted pork, capers, onion and herbed chilli

AEROPUERTO, de pulpo y papada, pecanas, fideos fritos, huevo, frejolito

Stir fry with octopus, pecans, fried noodles and egg

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LAS FUENTES DEL DIA  (Large dishes of the Day)


LOMO SALTADO,

Stir fry of beef with fried potatoes, onions and tomatoes


POLLO ENRROLLADO, de hongos y hierbas, papa huamantanga con crema acida y ajíes dulces

Rolled Chicken with mushrooms, herbs, potatoes with cream and sweet chilli

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POSTRES DEL DIA (Desserts of the Day)


TORTA DE LÚCUMA

Lucuma cake, one without gluten or lactose (I am boring, but I was the only one who had a piece so at least everyone else got to taste the real cake, which I was told was delicious. Surprisingly my not so fun cake was soft, flavoursome and also ‘ricisimo’)

 

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We were all so full before we even got to the large plates that we had to take home quite a few doggy bags which we shared around with some of the guests. It was such a great lunch, not only due to the relaxing atmosphere, live music and sunlight streaming in but the great company. For me restaurants like this are quite the norm but for a lot of these people they would not dream to dine like we did. You could see how appreciative and just excited they were. Their faces beamed when we met Astrid, one of the owners of Astrid & Gaston and Casa Moreyra. A lot of the guests raced towards her hoping for a photo which she was more than happy to pose for. She gave us her time and best wishes and was such a pleasure to talk to. Like many of the guests meeting Astrid made my day too.

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We left all with food babies, probably twins, and retired for the rest of the afternoon…..but our rest was short lived as we had to pack for our next adventure, Cusco, which we were to leave bright and early the following day. That is a whole other story!

 

Cherry Frangipane Tart

Dinner with my partners extended family. I had only met his Tia and Tio once and I was still trying to make a good impression so I thought what could I take over as a thank you? Their Grandmother lives with the family and is from Uruguay so I was certain dinner was going to be fabulous and I am sure she would have all bases covered, therefore I felt there might be room to impress with dessert, plus I hadn’t baked something worth wild in a couple of weeks.
I did not want to take something too rich or chocolatey, it needed to be simple and delicious without being over the top. I thought fruit was a good place to start and I remember a couple of years ago baking a nectarine frangipane tart which was fantastic. Unfortunately it is the middle of winter now and all the good fruits are out of season. What could I be left with – apples, pears or cherries. The first two are boring and not packed with flavour. Apple is better in a crumble, pear is better with a chocolate frangipane, which is a good mix, but not something I wanted to recreate for this occasion, so by deduction Cherries it was to be.

I was surprised the cherries out, although $15/kilo, were so large, juicy and bursting with flavour, I thought to myself even from the get go this was going to be good. The frangipane itself was surprisingly easy to make, even though once someone commented that good frangipane had to be made a day ahead and left to rest for 24 hours before using it, I think people who believe this have no life and personally I think it would not make any difference as the tart I made turned out fabulous.

I had to make a few little tarts for my Mother who always wants to try my creations, but I had so much mixture that the mini tarts were basically overflowing with filling. One thing I was worried about once it was in the oven was the fruit burning but I was lucky that my oven did not decide to do its own thing and it baked evenly, did not burn and looked amazing. The only thing I forgot to do before I took it along to dinner was use some jam to make the cherries that little bit shiny and prettier, but I was confident they would like it none the less.

The result? THEY LOVED IT. I was soooo happy I have proved my baking abilities and impressed the relatives to be. Now I am sure they will have faith that I can take care of and cook for their beloved nephew. So that was one half of the satisfaction, but the other was my Mother’s reaction. Normally she always finds faults in my cooking, too dry, not enough stuffing, whatever, but her mini tarts were perfect. She could not stop complimenting them. PURE DELIGHT!

So the moral of the story is, this is the perfect tart to impress, serve with some ice cream, doucle cream or dab with some cognac when it comes out of the oven even for an adults only version, and you will be raved about for weeks to come.

Cherry Frangipane Tart
Pastry

25 cherries

115g butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 1/4 cups almond meal

1. Prepare pastry and bake then leave to cool.

2. While cooling pit all the cherries and cut in halves (you don’t want to bite into seed).

2. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.

3. Cream butter and sugar until light in colour. Add vanilla paste then eggs in one at a time and mix until well combined.

4. Take mixture off the paddles and stir in the almond meal with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour frangipane over cooled tart shell then arrange the cherries in a nice pattern, but make sure that they are pressed in so they don’t fall off once baked.

6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow to cool.

7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, double cream or dab some cognac over the top (while still hot). Enjoy

Chocolate Pear Tart

For Christmas this year I was lucky enough to get a Mix Master from my family. It is amazing and I could not wait to christen it, but wanted to do something special. It was also close to the birthday of a very close friend, so I thought it would be nice to bake her a tart. Really what better reason to cook but for others to enjoy it.

What would I cook though? Well Francine is always happy and bubbly and I know she likes chocolate as all the kids in my family and hers used to love eating a rich chocolate mousse cake at her house since we were young. But now we are older and I thought something a little lighter might be appropriate. I have always loved the look of tarts in which whole fruits were pushed on the top and then baked but did not particularly want to make a marzipan filling as I am not so fond of them, and honestly, how much more boring are they to chocolate. So I found the tart I would make…..a chocolate pear tart (and it is a tart as I am completely in love with pastry and now find it so rewarding to make perfect pastry that is crisp and crumbly, but not overly, just right).

This tart however is different to my signature chocolate caramel tart in which you cook the pastry before adding the filling as you cook the filling to so it all cooks together. I was a bit skeptical at the beginning as I thought the pastry would not cook enough and would be soggy but the filling rose quite a lot and was light so the pastry was able to cook through and go hard.

It looked beautiful when it came out, although the pears weren’t perfectly placed, but it was a little difficult to cut as you would need a very sharp knife to cut through the pear so you don’t pull them out of the filling. I was not game enough as I was out at a restaurant, so decided to give Francine (birthday girl) a whole line of pears and me none. I actually preferred that as I just wanted chocolate. As we were at an Italian restaurant we also got some vanilla bean and hazelnut gelato to go with the tart and I must admit I preferred the latter (surely I am not biased as it is my favourite flavour) but I really do think it just added a little bit more to the whole tart.

There was about 7/8 left of the tart so I sent it home with Francine for her family to enjoy.

Happy Birthday Francine!!!

Chocolate Pear Tart

Perfect tart pastry

3 Pears (ripe and firm)
8 oz good semisweet chocolate
3/4 cups of heavy cream
1/4 sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
Confectioners sugar for sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F
Peel, core and cut the pear into quarters. Cook it in a microwave until they are just about tender.
Take out and let it cool.
In a double broiler melt the chocolate with cream. Whisk thoroughly so that it all incorporates well.
Then add sugar to the chocolate and mix it till the sugar dissolves well.
Set it aside and let it cool.
Whisk egg and egg yolk in a mixer. Add vanilla beans or extract and mix it together.
Once the chocolate and cream mixture is cool enough pour it into the egg with mixer on medium low to combine everything together.
Take out the tart pan from the freezer. Arrange the pears and then pour the custard into the pan carefully not to pour on top of the pears but from the sides.
Place it into the oven and bake for about 45-50 minutes but I start peeking after 40 minutes.
When the chocolate custard is puffed and set, its done. It should be a little firm to touch and slightly cracked from the edges.
Take it out and let it cool before serving, only if you can resist!

Slow Cooked Rabbit

So it has been a fair while since I have posted. Lots has happened in the past couple of months including adjusting to my new job, breaking my wrist and trying to do anything with my cast on, and also getting through Greek Easter, graduation and Flaounes making which all happened on the same weekend.

It seemed as though when I cooked it was only quick dinners as time got past me, or the limited time to prepare anything for a party left me feeling ashamed of the non creative plate I was bestowing on the host. Finally though, a dinner party where I not only had time to cook, but also time to prepare something unique and delicious.

I had a week to devise something impressive but also something challenging to myself. Recently I have been going down to my local butcher, Pino’s Dolce Vita, and choosing something new to cook every week. They are specialists in sausages and cured meats but they also have a huge range of meat, poultry and game to whip up. I had a look at what was in the window and there were things like beef cheeks, veal cutlets and other more common meats, but I really did want something less seen, so I asked if they had rabbit……OF COURSE they do, but it is brought in fresh to order, and let me tell you, when I got my rabbit the flesh was so pink that you could tell how incredibly fresh it actually was. I was so excited at the challenge.

Rabbit is an animal I have wanted to cook again since my first attempt, which was a very “good effort” was overcooked and dry as I did  not know how to work with this delicate meat. When cooking the meat it requires your full attention because like poultry or other white meats, it is so easy to overcook and be dry and tasteless.

I have continually come across recipes which stated rabbit stew, rabbit terrine or even assiette of wild hare. There are many ways to cook rabbit more than simply applying to a heat source. I really wanted the meat to keep its juices and be succulent and flavoursome. I therefore decided to treat the meat as something I could slow cook, something that can soak up all the flavours from the juices it was in.

So I did just that, cut up the rabbit, threw it into a casserole dish with tomatoes, garlic, sausage, white wine and cinnamon quills. Simple. Lid on. Bake for 6 hours on 150 degrees  and ta da! Soft rabbit meat falling off the bone. DELISH!! I was so happy with my dish, I could not wait till my friend tried it. Finally something different I could take to a dinner party, something you won’t find commonly at restaurants and overall a very cheap meal.

The response was fantastic, and we even found a wine that matched perfectly, although a very unexpected pairing, an 2010 Arbois “Trousseau” from Jura mmmmmmmm

Slow Cooked Rabbit

serves 4

1 rabbit cut into 6 pieces (with bone)

1 can crushed tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 chorizo (or similar sausage)

2 cinnamon quills

2 cups dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C

2. Roast for 6 hours, turning every hour (if there is not enough liquid add some more wine and tomatoes)

to serve

3 large parsnip

50g butter

1 cup milk (use cream for a richer taste)

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

2 bunches dutch carrots

knob butter

golden syrup

1. Peel parsnip then chip into cubes. Roast until cooked through and slightly browned on outside.

2. Put cooked parsnip into a blender with the milk, butter and Parmesan. I wanted a texture that was not completely smooth, but if you wanted it to be smoother, add more milk. Set aside)

3. Peel carrots then boil until cooked (note that they will not all be the same size so you will have to constantly take out the cooked ones individually as you don’t want some to over cook). Once cooked put in a bowl of cold or iced water to stop cooking them.

4. When ready to serve put carrots into a pan with butter and golden syrup and cook until they start to get crispy.

5. Portion up the rabbit, parsnip puree and carrots onto a plate and enjoy with a glass of Trousseau.

 

Pino’s Dolce Vita

45 President Avenue

Kogarah NSW 2217

(02) 9587 4818

http://pinosdolcevita.tumblr.com/

www.pinosdolcevita.com.au

Mondays to Fridays  – 8:00 am -5:30 pm
Saturdays                  –  8:00 am – 2:00 pm

They have a full breakfast and lunch menu and beautiful coffee and sweets.