Focusing on food

 

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We were keen to be back to Hotel B on time because we had some great plans for the afternoon: cooking with Christian and Yurac in their SkyKitchen.  Before we did any cooking, though, we needed to know a little about some of the ingredients and so off we went to the market with Christian to see what’s what.

 

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So, our first stop at the Market #1 was the fishmongers.  Christian identified several of the fishes and explained a little about each type; in particular, how they could be used.  Surprisingly, in view of the temperature, the shop didn’t smell at all bad, possibly because this was the freshest of catches and in a fairly wealthy area where the highest quality goods would be sold.

 

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Having got to grips with the fish, we went inside where there was stall upon stall of fruit.

 

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Now, this was where it became interesting, because though we recognised some, there were others which were totally unfamiliar to us.  Not only that, but there were different varieties of fruits which we’d consider to be everyday – half a dozen different types of banana for example – and Christian would explain the differences and how each could be best used.

 

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Of course, there were some that he advised us not to eat raw at all!

 

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Then, having exhausted the fruit, we moved onto the vegetables.  Now, these were mostly familiar to us though once again, different varieties were available for specific purposes.

 

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I mean, a couple of thousand varieties of potato?  We could relax though, because only a couple of dozen or so are in regular use and readily available here.  Even so…

 

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The choice of chillies was extensive too, though the popular one here is the small orange one which we don’t seem to have at home.

 

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There was purple corn – we’d eaten sweets made from this a few times last week.

 

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White corn, too, with really big kernels.

 

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From there, we left the greengrocery behind and began to see more “ingredients” rather than produce.  The woman on this stall had several home made sauces and pastes available to buy, as well as a few specialised regional products.

 

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There were dry goods stalls too, selling quinoa, rice, spices and herbs.

 

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Then finally, by the door was one stall selling things we’d associate more with Chinese cooking.  Christian explained that there is a significant Chinese heritage here and many ingredients such as soy sauce, beansprouts and chinese cabbage are commonly found in Peruvian dishes too.

 

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Well, I said this market was in a fairly upscale district, which could explain the “luxury” goods such as asparagus – though Peru grows most of the world’s supply of asparagus, it’s hardly eaten here.  Then there are brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and edible flowers!

 

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Off we went, back into the car and through the streets of the city to Christian’s kitchen in the sky – where we’d meet Yurac and Carolina and do a bit of cooking.

The kitchen had quite a remarkable view!

 

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Did I mention we’d enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the horse show the other day?  Well, when we heard we were going to learn to cook three of the dishes we’d enjoyed so much we were delighted.  Add ceviche to that list and we were happy.

 

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First of all, a little tasting of those fruits we’d been introduced to in the market.  Whilst we were there, Yurac had washed and prepared some samples for us and we worked our way through several plates, me scribbling down names as we went.  The significant item on the first plate was the lucuma – the large orange-fleshed fruit at the bottom left.  This tasted perfectly good but had a weird texture and wasn’t in the least bit refreshing.  Christian told us it’s a popular flavour for smoothies and ice cream here – we must look out for it.

 

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There followed plates of citrus, of mango and other reasonably familiar flavours, all beautifully prepared and very appetising!

 

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Of five different varieties of banana.  Yes, they really did taste very different from one another.

 

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And some rather different varieties of passion fruit which tasted almost the same as the deep purple wrinkly one we know, but different at the same time.  That little one was incredibly sour!

 

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OK, now it was time to get cooking.  All the ingredients for each dish were presented so beautifully, it was a real visual feast.  Step by step, Christian and Yurac took us through each recipe whilst Carolina cleared up behind us and reset the table for the next course.

 

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First, we made causa, which we’d enjoyed at the Hacienda and which Christian tells us we’d find on most Peruvian menus in some shape or form.  It’s made with yellow potatoes and avocados and in this case with chicken, though that can vary.  The sauce is from the orange pepper and the resultant dish is so delicious, we tucked in immediately.  That’s my effort in the picture – I had the blue chopping board!

 

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Next up was ceviche, made with mahimahi and served with white beans, two varieties of potato, plantain chips, dried corn kernels and garnished with seaweed.  It was yummy too – though this portion was a little too much for me to manage!

 

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Then it was to the stove, to create lomo saltado, one of these Chinese influenced Peruvian dishes.  Again, we’d eaten this yesterday and really enjoyed it, so needless to say, we were pretty pleased with the results.

 

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This was served Peruvian style with chips and rice!

 

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Last but not least, Yurac showed us how to form the pecarones.  These doughnut-like rings are made with a yeast dough which we’d put together as soon as we’d arrived, earlier in the afternoon.  Now, the dough had risen and was ready to be shaped in the hand, with the fingers and then fried in hot oil.

 

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Yurac was very adept at this, of course; we less so – but triangular fritters taste the same, don’t they?  Served with a spiced molasses sauce, these really are the business and we enjoyed them Peruvian style by eating with our fingers.  Yes, very hot indeed, and yes, extremely sticky!

 

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Feeling utterly stuffed and buzzing with all our new knowledge, we heard the phone ring and Christian return with the news that our driver was downstairs waiting for us.

 

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There was just time to add to the visitors book, to take a quick photograph of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and to offer our thanks to them all for a marvellous afternoon.

Guess what we’ll be cooking for our next party when we get home!?

On a high!

Must. Keep. Up!