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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pad Thai Cordillera Blanca Style

I've decided to expand this blog to some of the foods and unusual things we've been enjoying during our travels. I hope it is interesting. As you can imagine, we continue to treat 'our big trip' as 'our big meal'!

In Huaraz we had the fortune of a kitchen in our hostel. In between waiting for job interviews we hung out for a few days exploring the markets, laying in bed hoping I'd get better soon, and preparing a twist on pad thai with what ingredients we could find.

There are lots of cool different types of dried corn at the markets, very colourful. These are used shallow fried with salt as a kind of ubiquitous beer nut/ side dish or rehydrated in other dishes.

We couldn't resist the variety of different chillies, just a few cents for a pile.

These little fellas were just too different to pass by and were our beansprout substitute.

Cutting them open revealed big seeds, not what I'd expected. Luckily the mum at our guest house showed me how to prepare them. Surprisingly you peel off the outside bit with all the soft spikes and cut into strips. These are then used in salad or sauted with meat, or in this case, in pad thai!

So I give you pad thai, improvised in the Cordillera Blanca:

Take whatever noodles you can get (these are asain cup of noodle ones) and prepare per the packet.
Prepare a thin omlette and break up.
Add funky green vege, finely sliced chillis and noodles to pan and add lovingly carried pad thai sauce mix. Garnish with coriander leaves, rough chopped peanuts and lime wedges, and serve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Andean Potatoes

It's been a while since I had a proper kitchen but still have so many good memories of food in Salta.
I love markets and used to love the Salta Mercado Central for getting all manner of vegetables and tasty local goats cheese. So many lovely fresh things all laid out to select. It's also a place where you still see the seasonality of produce.

From our first few days in Salta I was drawn to all the unusually shaped potatoes we found at the market. There are said to be over 200 varieties of potatoes found in the Andes between Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina. This is the origin of what is now a global staple, carried back to Europe by the spanish conquistadors. It was usual to find at least 5 or six different types at the market in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Each have their own taste. The long finger like ones and the dark purple ones are sweet while the speckled ones are distinctly earthy.

The Asado is Tom's domain. The masculine art of fire and meat was one of his particular passions during our stay in Salta, learning from the masters like Mavi's dad Hector and Dr Roffo, as well as devoted practice on our balcony:

I am allowed to help with sides though and it was always hard to resist some sort of potato dish.
Simply rapped in foil and placed in the coals below the grill for 40 mins gives them a slight smokey flavour and brings out their natural sweetness.

Roasted and then dressed with lemon juice, wholegrain mustard and green shallots while warm is also good for a change.

The andean potatoes can also be used in place of regular potatoes in soups, stews and empanadas, or simply roasted or boiled as a side dish. We like to leave the skins on for the pretty colours but most restaurants (andean potatoes are a real fashion in hip Salta restaurants) peel them.
The andean potatoes aren't found at the regular supermarket in Salta so some of my workmates had never tried them before. Up in the mountains they are often the only potatoes available.

Chuños are a traditional way of long term storage of potatoes that is seen in the mountains of Salta and Jujuy and also very common in Bolivia, where you can even get them at the super market. With the cold nights of the altiplano the potatoes are naturally "freeze dried" sometimes after having excess starch leached out in a running stream. Thus treated they can last for centuries. Dry they look like strange shrivelled up pale versions of potatoes. Once rehydrated chuños are used in soups stews or shallow fried with seasonings. They have a slightly spongy texture similar to eggplant and take on surrounding flavours well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Pastafrola is a typical Argentine tart found all over the country. It's usually made with Dulce de Membrillo (quince paste) or Dulce de Batata (it's sweet potato sister). Dulces served with cheese are a classic desert but I like Pastafrola even better. My friend Diego doesn't like sweets very much but loves this tart. His wife Mavi does a great version of his mum's old recipe. It's a little lighter on the bottom in comparison to the delicious looking pie type version on Pip in the city but not as cakey as many that you see on street stalls around here.
So, in the next episode of "family recipes I've been given" I give you the Reservato family Pastafrola:


150g Margarine or butter
100g sugar
1 egg
1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
300g self raising flour (sifted)
Dulce de Membrillo (250g or more)

Mix together margarine and sugar into a paste. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine.
Rub in flour until you form a crumbly mixture. Spread 2/3 of this into a wide pan (a pizza pan works well) and press into form lightly.
Form a spreadable mixture by mashing the quince paste with a couple of spoons of boiling water and spread over tart crust.
Form remaining pastry into strips and decorate top of tart with a lattice pattern.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in tin before cutting into squares.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tropical delight

It's been a while since I last wrote. First we went to Brazil to visit friends and then Mum and Dad were here. With all that wining and dining there's been no time to write!
While I get my act together, here are some photos of the famous Mercado Central in Sao Paulo which we visited in Brazil.

There was a great variety of tropical fruits we hadn't seen in months so we made a tasty fruit salad for breakfast: Mango, cherries, strawberries and dragon fruit!

Monday, July 23, 2007


Well, this is a actually an Australian desert but I made a pavlova for an Asado with workmates the other week as it was Noelia, one of the nurses' birthdays.
The fresh fruit lightens the sweetness of the meringue and cream. What
makes this different to other meringues is the addition of vinegar and
cornflour giving a lovely soft fluffy interior and crisp outside.
This is a recipe I found on line rather than a family heirloom but it tasted good!

Two recipe notes:
- 18cm might seem small to mound all the mixture onto but the meringue will spread as it cooks so follow the instructions!
- make friends with someone with an electric mixer. I did this by hand with a standard whisk and do not recommend it!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Sol has unfortunately had to go away but I'm trying to keep the dream alive and have tried to make some typical biscuits. Maicenas
are a typical afternoon tea and feature the classic combination of
dulce de leche and desiccated coconut.
They are supposed to be melt in your mouth biscuits sandwiched together with dulce
and given a rim of coconut. Mine weren't quite "melt in your mouth" but
still were light with a good crumb and very popular at work.

This recipe is from a great recipe anthology called "Cien Años de Cocina Salteña" (One hundred years of salteñan cooking) that covers the whole range of traditional dishes.

500g Maicena (corn starch)
325g flour
250g sugar
250g butter (I used softened but have heard of people using melted since)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs (using farm fresh from a patient´s family gave beautiful rich yellow colour to my second attempt)
dulce de leche (as required)

Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage (punto de nieve
in Spanish - snow point). Add the yolks and sugar. Sieve the
dry ingredients and add to the previous mix stirring well to combine
but not kneading or overworking. Add butter.
Roll out thinly and cut with a round cutter. Bake in a moderate oven (180ºC).
Once cooled pair biscuits with a layer of dulce de leche. Roll the sticky edge in desiccated coconut if desired.

Post Script:
I tried using melted butter instead. The maicenas were a success, one hungover and hungry colleague even gave them a 10/10! Talking to many people around Salta the melted or softened butter question is open to personal preference.
Getting a uniform texture and not overworking the dough is difficult
with both melted and softened butter.