I always wanted to travel and see the world and after five-years of continuous employment in Autumn 2009, (anyone with 20 years plus service will surely recoil in horror at such a statement) I decided it was time for a short sabbatical from the world of work.
I set off on a five-month back packing adventure with a like minded friend to explore South America and the United States.
We spent three-months in Cusco, the old Inca capital of Peru, nestled high in the Andes Mountains volunteering at an orphanage.
This was the perfect base to explore an area steeped in history and the highlight was overcoming my fear of heights to complete the four-day trek to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu.Our self-catering digs above the orphanage where basic. We had a two ring gas hob, a kettle, one saucepan and a few plastic plates, cups and cutlery.
This was primitive living but a humbling experience which made me appreciate home comforts and appliances we take for granted like the oven and fridge.
Close to our accommodation was a market with an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruit and spices. Access to these ingredients and my two ring hob brought out my creativity and inventiveness when preparing meals and Peru strangely is where I began to hone my curry making skills.
I feel in love with avocado in Peru and one of my favourite lunch time treats is still avocado and cheese on a fresh baguette.
For this cut the avocado in half, remove the inner stone and scoop out the fleshy inner part.
Choose avocados that are dark green in colour and almost going brown as this means they are ripe.
Mash this up with a little salt to taste and serve with cheese. A mild cheddar is perfect or for a proper Latin American twist, try with Sainsbury’s Mexicana cheese.
This also works well with crackers if you want a party nibble with a difference.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
The busy Plaza De Armas in the centre of Cusco has lots of nightclubs, bars and hostels and most offer free rum and cokes to entice tourists in.
The free drinks coupled with high altitude meant awakening many a morning with a sore head in much need of comforting, greasy food.
At the market a little food stall served fried egg rolls and an orange and pineapple smoothie to nurse us back to health.
The cook would sprinkle salt over the egg once it was placed on the pan and as an advocate of using salt during the cooking process rather than as a post cooking condiment this is a trick I would implore you all to try for the perfect breakfast bap.
Lomo saltdo is a traditional Peruvian dish served in most restaurants and market food courts. This loosely translates as beef stir fry and served with rice it is a popular dish which combines Peruvian flavours and Asian influences.
I have been working on my own version and will admit it is not completely authentic and is an adaptation to cater to my particular tastes.
Have a go at my recipe, I believe it works a treat (well I would obviously) but if you want to a traditional version check out Peruvian chef, Martin Morales recipe which he cooked on Saturday Kitchen last year.
- Four sirloin steaks cut into strips with excess fat removed
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
- 1 red chilli diced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 250g of passata
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- A large bunch of fresh coriander finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced long ways
- Basmati rice, 60 grams per person
Place the steak pieces into a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Mix the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, cumin and oregano together and pour over the steak.
Leave this to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.
While the steak is marinating start preparing the vegetables. Thinly slice the onion and red pepper, dice the chilli and peel and slice the potatoes long ways so they look like a thick crisp.
Add a few drops of olive oil to a pan and fry off the onion and peppers and if you like a little touch of extra heat throw in some of the chilli seeds.
Once the onion has softened, add the steak and any of the remaining marinade to the pan and stir fry on a medium heat until the meat has browned.
Add the passata to the pan and turn the heat down to allow the sauce to simmer and reduce slightly, this dish does not require a lot of excess sauce. This stage of the process should take about 20 minutes over all.
But don’t stand watching the pan there is more to do.
Depending on how healthy you desire to be fry or roast the chips in the oven on a high heat until they are golden and crisp.
Cooking times for the chips will vary depending on your method (so basically don’t blame me if you put them in the oven now and they are still raw when the rest of the food has cooked), I like to use a Tefal ActiFry it produces perfect chips every time with only one tablespoon of oil…magic.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the rice as per packet instructions this should take about 10 to 15 minutes, to enhance the flavour I add a Knorr vegetable stock pot.
About five minutes before serving add a handful of finely chopped coriander to the dish. Martin Morales recipe calls for 25 grams but I don’t really measure how much I throw in and usually keep adding a little at a time until I have the desired flavour.
Once the chips are golden and crisp they can be added straight into the steak mixture, although I prefer to slot them on to the plate (see picture above) so they don’t become soggy.
Drain the rice and bring all your ingredients together on the plate and disfrutar… that’s enjoy, in Spanish.
Stayed tuned for my guide to making the perfect Pisco Sour for an after dinner Peruvian treat (there have been a few failed attempts and is still under construction).