Rocoto Relleno, plated with string beans and potato salad.
I love peppers, I like meatloaf and I love the idea of stuffed bell peppers, so why am I usually a bit disappointed with them? The stuffed bell pepper recipes I have eaten my whole life from the States are usually stuffed with ground meat and rice and then topped with a can of tomato sauce. Bland! I never liked the rice part and have tried breadcrumbs as well as zipping it up a bit with oregano, chopped onion and parsley, but always in the back of my mind I was disappointed. This could be better! This could be bold and be packed with flavor! Ah, now I live in Peru, home of the pepper and potato and their rich culinary traditions. And, I’ve since met the Arequipan dish Rocoto Relleno. It is everything I always yearned for a stuffed pepper to be. Oh, I’m in love. One of, if not my favorite, dishes in all of the world.
The secrets that make this stuffed pepper dish so good are removing the starch from the meat mixture (and placing it on top in the form of a potato), enriching the meat mixture with ground peanuts and a very, very mild pepper paste (Panca Pepper Paste) and then topping the whole thing with cheese and a really good foamy cheese sauce that bakes into a crispy, drizzly, cheesy delight. If that wasn’t enough, every Peruvian cook has their own way of embellishing the dish and hiding little treasures inside the meat mass. So there is this surprise element. What will be in there? Egg? Olive? Nuts? Fruit? A wedding ring? Ha Ha. The juxtaposition of the potato wedge in there is brilliant. All of that excitement and the bland starchiness makes this a real comfort food for me. My favorite thing is to take a stuffed pepper the next day and slice it to fill sandwiches. The meatloaf sandwich just got better too!
All the ingredients that go into making Rocoto Relleno
Not that Rocoto Relleno is difficult to make or contains particularly elaborate ingredients, just a little prep, that is all that is needed.
Best Stuffed Red Pepper
By JK Peru,
August 13, 2013
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 14 Servings
21.6 grams fat
This is a classic Peruvian, baked, stuffed pepper, entree recipe that takes a bit of prep and a total of75 minutes to make, but is so over the top–great!–that it is worth the time. Kind of fun to make and is an ideal special occasion or prepare in advance and freeze meal. Guaranteed to not disappoint! Note: this is a double recipe, but doesn’t take double the time. So eat half, freeze half and you will have two special meals!
Fresh Rocoto Peppers
- 1.5 lb. Ground Beef
- 14 Rocoto Peppers (see Rocoto Red Pepper Alternatives)
- 1/2 cup roasted coarse ground peanuts (or pure peanut butter)
- 2 Large Red Onions, diced
- 4 cloves minced Garlic
- 1/2 cup Panca Pepper Paste (aji panca molido) or 1/4 cup mild chili powder (see Ground Panca Alternatives)
- 6 Hard-boiled Eggs
- 2 Raw Egg Whites
- 3/4 cup raisins, chopped dates or chopped dried prunes, or double and try two of these!
- 14 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted (Peruvians use whole, but I don’t want any broken teeth!)
- 24 whole roasted nuts like: hazelnuts, pecans or cashews or 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
- Two Large Potatoes
- 1 lb. Andean Farmers Cheese or mozzarella (see Andean Cheese Alternatives)
- 2 T. Olive Oil
- 3/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup Vinegar (any kind)
- 3/4 cup salt (for the water to boil the peppers)
- Optional: 1 cup cooked coarsely shredded beef or pork
- 1 T. Ground Cumin
- Black Pepper to taste
Ready to make these taste mild!
Prep the Peppers: First we need to render the Rocoto Peppers Mild and edible to most everyone! Using gloves and eye protection (I’m not kidding!) cut off the top of all of the peppers (leaving a nice little top hat, keeping on the stem of it has one) and completely deseed and devein them. Deveining removes all traces of the super hot white parts attaching the seeds to the outside pepper pod. A small teaspoon works nice to scrape everything out. When you are done, carefully wash everything down and don’t touch your eyes! Set aside two of the Rocoto Pepper bottoms, and boil the rest: 12 Rocoto Peppers bottom’s and 14 tops in successive salt and vinegar water baths for five minutes each until the peppers are mild enough for your taste.
Quick bouts in boiling salted water removes the heat.
Generally, I like two successive baths (a bit spicy), but three baths is usually good for everyone. Four baths and the peppers generally are really soft and super mild. The salt in the boiling water purges the peppers of their heat and the vinegar tends to keep them from disintegrating. If the peppers get super soft and lose their shape (or fall apart a bit) don’t despair! Finally, soak the peppers in a big bath of cool fresh water for at least 15 minutes to allow any salt to exit the peppers. Boil the potatoes (I do it in the second water bath) until done and set aside to cool and then peel (if desired). Slice the potatoes into 14, 1/2 inch round slabs (roughly the diameter of the Rocoto Peppers).
The raw Rocoto Relleno Meat Filling
Prep the Filling: Saute onions until golden, then add the garlic, and when the garlic is golden as well add in the ground cumin and Panca Pepper Paste (or whatever alternative you have chosen) and continue to fry the sticky, red onion mass for about five minutes more. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed to keep everything from burning. Take half the cheese and cut into 14 slices, cube the other half and set aside. Separate the egg yolks from the hard-boiled eggs and cut each yolk in half, set aside and then coarsely dice the cooked egg whites. Mix the raw ground beef, fried onion-garlic-pepper mass, chopped parsley, ground peanuts, raisins, and chopped egg whites in a bowl.
An Egg Yolk stuffed into the center of Rocoto Relleno
Stuff the Peppers: To stuff each pepper start with a golf ball sized amount of filling and make a flat hamburger shaped patty. Place half a cooked egg yolk in the center, along with two nuts, the two Kalamata olive halves and a bit of any of the optional shredded meat and then form a ball of meat around the little goodies. Now press the ball into an empty pepper cavity. Note: if your peppers fell apart during boiling just reassemble the pepper pieces (jigsaw style) around the meat ball. Line up the stuffed peppers in a greased baking dish. There is usually some extra filling so I form two balls out of it and top them like the peppers. Top each pepper with a slab of potato, a slice of cheese and the little pepper hat. In a blender blend two raw egg whites, the two raw Rocoto Pepper bottoms (use only one or one half if you don’t like a little heat) the evaporated milk, and the remaining half of the cubed cheese until foamy (about 30 seconds). Pour and spoon this egg mixture over all of the stuffed and topped peppers.
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Baking: If your pan is crowded and not super deep, take some long strips of folded foil and create an extension to the sides to prevent the tops, cheese and potato wedges from slipping off during baking and out into your oven. Bake for 40 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until golden brown and bubbly (or until the internal temperature of a stuffed pepper reaches 170 degrees).
Variation: Some Peruvian recipes don’t use the other half of the cheese in the egg white mixture, rather they use three egg whites instead. Also, I’ve included a great deal of items for variation in this recipe. The surprise little goodies each cook hides inside mean: Be creative!
Note: Please consider looking at the nutrition information. It is a good habit to get into and I do my best to give you real options. 😉
FYI, we have included the nutritional facts for the recipe and the variation with no cheese in the sauce.
Rocoto Relleno Nutritional Facts
FYI – This is a big rich entree item. It is totally possible to slice each rellano, turning each portion into three. I’ve done this many times along with a nice hefty salad and some brown rice or a cooked vegetable. It makes a really striking presentation; the slice reveals all the layers. I usually embellish with a few olives, raisins and nuts thrown on top so the jewels are spilling out. If I freeze the dish and, then thaw it out, I slice each pepper into thirds and lie them out on a cookie sheet. Then, I remake the foamy egg sauce and spoon it over half the slice and then bake until bubbly. This turns the dish into 36 portions! In reality, one pepper is quite a lot.
This dish is high (or very high) in nutrients like: iron, selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.
The main recipe scores a Nutrition Grade of “B+” and the alternative scores an “A-“.
FYI – For such a substantial entree item, this is fairly good for you. The key would be, based on the size of your peppers, to reduce the portion as mentioned earlier. A full portion is 426 Calories and a high proportion of those calories are from fat, 45%, so for added health serve with healthy portions of raw and cooked vegetables. Say a yogurt or vinegar based coleslaw and Asperigas or Green Beans. The good news is that this dish is high in iron, selenium, and very high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C. One of these Pepe’s packs three times the USDA RDA for Vitamin C. The not so great news is that it is high in Cholesterol and Saturated Fat. Being high in Cholesterol isn’t normally a big deal, but being high in Saturated Fat is, because Saturated Fat causes High Cholesterol in your blood. And, for the sodium conscious, I would caution you to rinse the boiled peppers well to reduce salt and to avoid adding salt as there could be a small amount of salt remaining in the cooked peppers.
Rocoto Relleno Nutritional Facts, No Cheese in the Sauce Alternative, Nutritional Facts
FYI – All of the nutritional info I have just given goes the same for this Variation. However, you do save about 11% in caloric content by eliminating the cheese in the sauce (the egg, Rocoto and Milk do fine on their own). Many Peruvians like it this way. What is key is that you reduce the Saturated Fat content by 26% this way and that is important for those watching their cholesterol.
BTW – This sauce is a very handy thing. Having learned it I now use it to top meatloaf (wait until I post my Rocoto Relleno Meat Loaf Recipe), and baked cauliflower (just this sauce and cauliflower florets in a baking dish and voila!).
Statement by the Economist is off by up to 1000%
In a slowly progressing series of global media blunders news agencies like the Economist†, Bloomberg* and our own beloved Peru this Week†† made outlandish claims about Peru having the highest density of fast-food restaurants in the world. Thankfully for Peru, all such claims were and still are untrue. However, the real story that the Fast-Food Industry has their sights set on Peru and has targeted large subsets of its wealthier population in ways never seen before never made it to light.
Bloomberg news organizations sensationalizes its own data causing a worldwide misinformation creep.
Last year Bloomberg, a news organization, put out what it calls a “Ranking” of “Fast-Food Density” * which is a table entitled: “FAST-FOOD FIXES PER SQUARE MILE” showing the following columns:
- Total fast-food establishments
- Stores per urban agglomeration square mile
- Distance to travel for fast food (miles)
- Stores per 100,000 urban agglomeration population, adjusted for urban poverty
In this Ranking it names Peru as #1. So what is Peru #1 at? What does this table mean? In truth, unless you are an industry insider not much! It is all about marketing, not consumer demand, consumption or popularity! The so-called ranking is neither a scientific study nor a non-scientific grouping of useful outside the industry data. Frankly it is a poorly constructed list that is faulty in nearly every way and can’t even be considered useful or raw data for the industry. Peru is in no way first in anything related to do with fast-food, except that in certain pools, of certain customers living close to certain stores the industry has targeted those specific Peruvians in a greater way than in other similar places. Very conditional data, extremely, complex (and inaccurate at that) only intended to be used to say a specific thing about industry marketing and store proximity. Unfortunately, news agencies (including Bloomberg) either did not read the table carefully, misunderstood what is fundamentally faulty and misleading or just wanted to sensationalize assuming because it comes from Bloomberg that it must be OK.
Quoting bad info, “Peru this Week” furthers unfounded claims about Peru’s love for fast-food.
I’m all for stopping the spread of fast-food everywhere, especially in my backyard. I doubt that Bloomberg, a news agency for Wall Street is interested in curbing fast-food consumption. If the data were true I’d be all over it. Bloomberg has put out some industry related data and then sensationalized it to mean something it is not. Too bad they did because many other news agencies have picked up the so-called story and added their own inaccuracies to it. To further exacerbate, even more news agencies pickup the stories by the secondary news agencies and repeated the now twisted false conclusions and yet twisted them again!
Just because fast-food is bad for you, the environment, the economy, culture, and the planet doesn’t mean that shoddy reporting is acceptable. So shame on Bloomberg for putting out sensationalized data, then further sensationalizing it in their own media, and shame on the other news agencies like the Economist and anyone else that didn’t check their facts. The Economist falsely claimed that “Peru has the highest density of fast-food joints in the world.” (sic) which is a complete and utter fabrication of facts. One could say that Peru has the highest density of fast-food joints, in certain areas, targeted to very specific markets compared to only 34 other specifically targeted countries.
Sloppy reporting misleads readers and many other news agencies.
A Look at the So-Called Ranking
Though if carefully read, and if not taken very seriously, the original report, which is largely a table and some dense disclaimer text, is not incredibly inaccurate. The problem is that report headlines and table headings do not clearly state that the data only reflects rich people living in poor countries. Further when told by an arm of the agency that authored the report very sensationalized and misleading statements were included opening a window of opportunity for others to pick up and propagate the misunderstood data.
- Neither a study nor scientific, the ranking only includes what it calls emerging consumer market countries and it fails, miserably, to readily give a full basis and clear description for what that criteria is. The criteria is paramount to understanding the data set. Rather, Bloomberg relies on a complex subset of what the industry seems to have named as emerging markets. This alone would make any claim that any of the countries listed rank anywhere specifically when compared to the rest of the world, untrue. Nonetheless, news report after news report all across the globe have included headlines and statements to the effect that Peru leads the world in some way related to fast-food and they directly or indirectly rely on this ranking. Assuming the information published in the ranking is correct, which you will see it is not, one could only (falsely) draw the conclusion that of the countries in the data sample Peru was the leader (of what exactly?). Why aren’t the massive fast-food consuming countries even listed? Because this list includes only a subset of nations that are NOT developed, and with further limitations only 34 countries qualify for this sample. So claims about the world can hardly be drawn from this small target!
- The Ranking does measure how close stores are to consumers and specifically only those customers that they think have enough money to buy their fast-food. They say: “To best measure the impact of fast foods on these markets, the population data were adjusted to exclude urban poverty.” which means if you included the poorer people, the ranking stores would be much further from everyone. Peru is still a third world country, though they are considered by fast-food to be an emerging market. So again, a higher density of certain people (with money) are closer to fast-food in Peru compared to 34 other countries. But if you compared all Peruvians or all countries in the world, such as the United States, Peru would be nowhere near the top, they would be near the bottom. Probably, less than 31% of Peru’s population qualifies to be listed in their urban agglomeration (I can’t even say that) and then the target population would be further reduced by poverty. As one can quickly see, the targeted population is a small percentage of the total population. Claims than most Peruvians live within a kilometer of a KFC doesn’t hold water. I don’t, I live five times that distance and it is the only KFC for hundreds of kilometers (in Huancayo, Peru). Yet, for my income I’m pretty close to one and I am well targeted. But Huancayo has five of their target Fast-Food restaurants which are roughly one per 100,000 people. This is very low. In the USA there are places where there are more than five McDonald’s per 100,000 people. Huancayo Peru could never support 25 McDonald’s restaurants (it doesn’t even have one), let alone all the other chains combined, so claims made by reporters are so obviously off the mark I wonder how anyone would believe them?
- The Ranking uses multiple sources for differing countries to pool stores into urban agglomeration population clusters. This is a big NO, NO** as the differing sources use differing criteria. This alone sets this data apart from science. It is by this standard that the data must be flawed. They say: “SOURCES: “The 2011 Urban Blue Book” published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; 2010 Census of China; Demographia World Urban Areas, 8th Annual Edition, 2012; PBS Frontline report on Iran (2011); The World Bank; “World Urbanization Prospects, The 2011 Revision” published by the U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs”. Sure for marketing purposes it might fly, but to make definitive claims–absolutely not. No reporter should touch this except in the context of a marketing report.
Report includes only rich citizens in poor countries and excludes nearly all the worlds population.
So What is this Ranking About and What Does is Really Say?
The Ranking was intended for the fast-food industry only, and has been unfortunately sensationalized in the media, a trend started by Bloomberg itself. The data points to the degree of ‘agglomeration’ that has been used (to likely achieve efficiencies in target marketing and distribution) by fast-food firms in locating near each other within pools of highly dense areas of targeted customers only. When you strip away all of that target marketing speak, the data says ZERO about the amount of fast-food Peruvians consume, ZERO about how close all Peruvians are to fast-food (even in cities), ZERO about how much Peruvians spend on fast food, ZERO about how often they consume it, ZERO about the degree to which fast-food restaurants are located in Peru compared to other places, cities or markets, ZERO about the health impacts of fast-food consumption in Peru, or anything else that many of the various news reports claim.
To sum it up, the ranking should not be used to show that Peru, or its cities are any more or less affected or centered around fast-food except to say they have certain people in certain places that are being marketed too more densely (on a location basis) than a group of other countries of high growth interest.
So yes Peru, be afraid, be very, very afraid because you are the leader in target marketing. Big horrible businesses that want to infect your culture and your citizen’s bodies have set you squarely in their sights and you are willingly welcoming them!
I don’t ever eat at fast food chains. Ever! I can’t stand the horrible food and the health scourge that they represent to the whole world. Sure, I do not always eat healthily, but I do my best to minimize the consumption of junk food, fast food, prepared food, and restaurant food. I want to control what goes into my body as closely as possible and as often as practical. So if I’m going to eat fried food, fat laden food, sugary sensations, I’m going to do so infrequently and in personally meaningful ways. Sitting in a KFC is never meaningful to me.
How much money can you save?
Look at all of the locally produced, farm fresh, wholesome fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese and bread you can get for S/. 61.10, which at the time of posting was $22.04 USD, in Huancayo, Peru!
Andean Fresh Farmers cheese from the Mantaro Valley (Huancayo area).
A lot of foods are a great deal cheaper in Huancayo than anywhere in North America, and actually less expensive than many other places in Peru, like Lima. But why? Huancayo is the breadbasket to Lima, and it’s proximity to the jungle, and ideal climate (for vegetable growing) mean that all of the above items are abundant and cheap. Of course, we are nearly at the top of the Andes, so some things (those items not produced in close proximity) are more expensive than many other places. So we’ll start with the good news and then we’ll level the playing field a bit and explain what other goods cost in a furute post.
For me, and others here in the Andes, we get by just fine without having to purchase a lot of those more expensive items. It is a matter of simple-lifestyle. Eating a great deal of really healthy foods, produced locally and served within hours of harvesting far outweighs the cost of more expensive technology, or fuel. I mean where on earth can you get farm fresh made, farmers cheese for $1.14 per pound? We’re working on a post all about cheese so stay tuned.
How Much Food is that and what are the costs?
- 6.6 lbs. Organic Potatoes S/. 2.10 ($0.76)
- 2.2 lbs. Organic Limes S/. 2.50 ($0.90)
- 2.2 lbs. Organic Passionfruit S/. 4.00 ($1.45)
- 2.2 lbs. Organic Bananas S/. 2.50 ($0.90)
- 2.2 lbs. Organic Chirimoya S/. 6.00 ($2.17)
- 1.1 lbs. Organic Plums S/. 2.00 ($0.72)
- 10, 100% Whole Wheat, Stoneground Rolls S/. 1.00 ($0.36)
- 3.5 lbs Organic, Fresh, Farmers Cheese S/. 11.00 ($3.98)
- 50 Organic, Grazing Hen Eggs S/. 15.00 ($5.38)
Total: S/. 61.10 or $22.04 (!)
Organic, Jumbo Peruvian, range, eggs costing $3.38 per 50, or $1.29 per dozen
Looks like a lot of food, and it is. Fifty eggs seem like a lot to buy, but eggs are inexpensive and (unless you are allergic) good for you. You can, however buy just as many as you need in the market. These are also much fresher than eggs you would typically get in the USA or in Supermarkets just about anywhere, even Peru. When you buy eggs from a farmer, you are likely getting eggs than were laid within the last few days. Not a month ago. Unlike USA eggs, eggs in Peru are unwashed as they are in most of the world, such as the EU by law. Ask any farmer, and they will tell you that unwashed eggs are better. Why? Because the egg comes naturally coated with nature’s own preservative, which is really a biologically produced shield genetically designed to prevent moisture and carbon dioxide loss and to ensure that other contaminants don’t penetrate the shell. Called the cuticle or bloom, this natural shield is a good thing.
Washing a laying egg will kill the chances of the chick hatching. It also quickly diminishes freshness and requires immediate refrigeration. Eggs in the USA are generally old and biologically dead. Literally, the USA requires eggs to be chemically treated with a sanitizing agent. Unwashed, natural eggs are shelf stable and require no refrigeration (stored at moderate temperatures typical in a home). Farm fresh eggs produced from hens that graze on natural food (worms, grubs, seeds, etc.) are like night and day different from factory produced eggs where chickens are stuffed in cages, fed antibiotics, hormones, and fed a mono-culture diet of genetically altered corn. Yuck! Crack a real egg open and you will see a deep orange (not pale yellow–a sign of the feed) yolk that stands up tall with a high rounded cresting center (doesn’t lie flat–a sign of an old egg). Here is a good Forbes article on US and EU eggs that I found surprisingly accurate and if you can’t tell already I like the subject of eggs so I found it interesting as well.
Eggs in Peru are often consumed hard-boiled, which is a healthy way to eat an egg. Though they do fry and scramble them as well and that is never a good way to eat eggs, health wise that is. Personally I like soft boiled or poached eggs, also healthy ways to prepare eggs. Ask any knowledgeable doctor or nutritionist, and you will learn that eggs are not in themselves a cause of high cholesterol. It is a misnomer that cholesterol naturally found in food contributes to high cholesterol in the body. Rather, it is the fat commonly used to cook eggs (fried, scrambled, as an omelet) that causes a condition of high cholesterol in the body. To reduce cholesterol in your body reduce fried food, butter, margarine, fatty meats and oils in general. So eat farm fresh eggs from naturally grazing hens and cook them without fat!
Over 16 pounds of farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
Over 16 pounds of organic, farm fresh, fruit and potatoes with an average price per pound $0.43, and a total cost of $6.90–what a deal!. Nowhere in the USA will you pay fifty cents a pound for organic produce. Even if you factor out the heavy nearly free potatoes you are only paying $0.56 per pound for organic fruit. This isn’t what is called conventionally produced fruit in the USA. Here in Peru, where organic is king, conventionally most food is organic (though we have unconventional farmers growing factory food as well).
The potatoes are called white, but they are the color of a Yukon Gold and are particularly all purpose. The potato in the back (partially covered) was the largest potato I ever saw! It weighed 1.5 pounds and made fries 9 inches long! You can’t beat organic potatoes for $0.31 per pound.
Pictured in the upper right of the photo, the golden colored fruit with a stem, is one of the three varieties of Passion Fruit, the sweetest and easiest to eat, called “Granadilla’. Pronounced “Gran-ah-dee-ya”. You can crack them open and suck or spoon out this gelatinous seedy flesh, which you consume seeds and all. But because the seeds are coated with jelly, and you don’t chew, but drink, it isn’t an issue. On a hot day you can pick one (they grow wild in many places), or buy for 18 cents in Huancayo, and the inside will be cool, sweet and very refreshing!
Just below that is my very favorite fruit in the whole world, Chirimoya, which is an amazing enzymatic, sweet juicy fruit with big black slippery seeds and a thin green skin. It tastes like a pear and a banana combined with the enzyme like sensation of papaya and a touch of strawberry, pineapple and peach and flavors as well. Clearly the most expensive thing I bought, by weight costing nearly a dollar a pound (people complain about the high price of Chirimoya) and worth every penny. Unfortunately, it doesn’t transport all that well so you are only bound to find it in specialty fruit markets outside Peru, not in your supermarket. High in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Magnesium and dietary fiber it has real value to offset its high sugar content. I’m going to go to the Chirimoya festival next time and will do a whole post on them. Don’t leave Peru without trying it!
Bananas in Peru are quite different from the mono-culture bananas produced by countries like Ecuador for expert to the rest of the world. There are many, many kinds all with distinct flavor. Once you try a Peruvian banana you are never going to really enjoy a “Chiquita Banana” again. Sorry! This variety is a little less sugary than the mono-culture bananas I grew up eating, and they are so much more flavorful! There is even a hint of tartness, but still ever sweet. The flesh is orange and a bit triangular in circumference.
The plums found in Peru, as the apples, are nothing special. They are good, but lack the sophisticated qualities that selective breeding in other places of the world have produced.
A bowl of particularly large and yellow Limóns
The Limóns are not “Lemons”! They are really limes, but not at all like a lime from the USA. The Peruvian Limón has its own flavor and highly acidic qualities. I read where some say that the Peruvian Lime is the same as a Key Lime, and that is so not so. Having grown up in Southern California, walking through citrus orchards daily, I come to differentiate citrus flavors and the Peruvian Lime is much more sour and acidic than the Key Lime, and has a very strong flavor. I’ve made what is equivalent to a Key Lime Pie with Peruvian Limes and the result is not great. So yes, if you can’t get a Peruvian Lime, use a Key Lime (and twice as much) as a substitute, but don’t think they are the same!
Small dense stone ground hearth oven baked whole wheat rolls
Finally, the 100% Whole Wheat, Stoneground Rolls taste really great and are quite inexpensive costing only 3.8 cents each roll. All breads in Peru are comparably cheap to comparably wealthy foreigners. I recently read a lot from foreigners in Peru about bread and I’m about to do my first post on the subject so not to spoil it, but Peru has a great wealth of breads, whole wheat included. However, if you are looking for bread typical to the USA and the EU supermarkets or bakeries your out of luck. Be adventuresome, try some of the dozens of kinds of bread I see every day in the Andean markets when you are here.
Peruvian Dancers Entertain at Huaca Pucllana Temple in Lima
For the second year in a row, Peru was named South America’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards, which is considered by some to be ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’.
2013 South & Central America Gala Ceremony Poster
Last December the same organization named Peru the ‘World’s Leading Culinary Destination’. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the organization accepts votes from the general public and travel industry members. This is good news for Peru and there can be no doubt now, after a ground swelling of international awards and accolades that Peru has emerged as the greatest place for foodies to travel to. Earlier this year, the leading British magazine Stylist named Lima one of “the ten locations where the culinary-minded should be heading this year.”
Accepting Two Awards, Maria del Carmen de Reparaz of PromPeru
PromPeru, the Peruvian Commission of Export and Tourism, was named the continent’s leading tourist board. Peru’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Claudia Cornejo told the Andina news agency: “There is greater confidence to consolidate tourism as the country’s second largest source of foreign currency, in view of the efforts deployed to further increase visitor arrivals in the country,”.
For the fifth year in a row, Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport was acclaimed South America’s Leading Airport along with the Ramada Costa Del Sol Lima Airport Hotel which was named South America’s Leading Airport Hotel. In addition to this top honor, some of Peru’s other hotels got top honors too. The Swissôtel Lima was named South America’s Leading Business Hotel, the Miraflores Park Hotel was named South America’s Leading City Hotel and the JW Marriott Hotel Lima was named South America’s Leading Hotel. The up and coming has arrived as the Hilton Lima Miraflores was named South America’s Leading New Hotel. Additionally given awards, as leading hotels in Peru, the Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado was named Peru’s Leading Resort and Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley was named Peru’s Leading Boutique Hotel.
PeruRail’s Andean Explorer wins the 2013 “South America’s Leading Luxury Train” award
To round things out nicely, PeruRail’s Andean Explorer was named South America’s Leading Luxury Train for the second year in a row. PeruRail is the Peruvian-British company of the Orient-Express Corporation, which operates luxury train destinations to Cusco, Urubamba Valley, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Puno & Lake Titicaca. This was a doubly sweet award for Orient-Express as they also won an award for their Miraflores Park Hotel.
A wonderful backdrop for Peru winning yet another award for travel and food!
The awards were held at the pre-Inca Huaca Pucllana Temple ruins located in the Miraflores district of central Lima, on July 20th, 2013. The ruins were an impressive backdrop for the awards given, which in addition to Peru, the city of Quito, Ecuador captured the title of South America’s Leading Destination. Graham Cooke, president and founder of World Travel Awards, said: “The Central & South American region continues to serve as an example of innovative and passionate tourism promotion as well as offering the most unique hospitality products and services. Peru strives to set the highest possible bar to raise the standards of excellence in travel and tourism and it has been an honour to hold the Central & South America World Travel Awards here for the first time.”
Who decides who will win the World Travel Awards? You do. To vote in the future go to their website and cast your ballot for best in the world. I hope you visit Peru and cast your ballot favorably!
Photo Credits: (from top to bottom) 1. Peruvian Dancers courtesy World Travel Awards, 2. Poster courtesy World Travel Awards copyright PromPeru, 3. Maria del Carmen de Reparaz courtesy World Travel Awards, 4. Andean Explorer courtesy PeruRail/Orient-Express Corporation, 5. Huaca Pucllana temple ruins courtesy World Travel Awards.
Below is a brief overview of coffee growing in Peru, followed by photos and instructions on hot and cold brewing using a “La Cafetera”.
Coffee Growing in Peru
Shade grown coffee is usually a sign of small scale production
Peru is by far the largest supplier of Fair Trade certified coffee to the United States†. Their coffee is largely organically produced, mostly by small family growers with 2-5 acres of coffee trees. A large number of those farmers grow shade coffee, which is coffee grown under the canopy of other taller trees. One of the reasons that the farmers grow their coffee in the shade is that the coffee trees are spread out in small patches mixed among other productive trees such as pacay, achiote, papaya, avocado, etc. which is the traditional, biodiverse, way they have been farming for generations. The concept of clear cutting, was introduced by europeans, and many farmers continue to reject this kind of agriculture. Additionally, because the growers are small and lack resources, their ability to remove all non-productive trees, shrubs, vines and plants is limited, thus the jungle tends to continue to reclaim space, commingling with coffee trees. Shade grown coffee is better as it supports biodiversity that is known to sustain long-term agricultural and support environmental health. According to farmers, the observed benefits are:
- Disease and pests are kept in balance naturally; widespread loss of all crops is unlikely.
- Supports an ecosystem where birds and other animals thrive, which supports soil health.
- Filters sunlight, slowing coffee bean growth, which in turn provides a denser, better bean.
- Provides protection to the worker from prolonged exposure to sun.
- Provides additional crops in the same space (coffee growing under the shade of a papaya tree).
- Resists soil erosion, promoting healthier soil.
In Peru, when coffee was controlled by foreign land barons, local inhabitants worked for little or no real pay, and they had no say in what farming practices were used, which eventually led to environmental and agricultural issues.
After turmoil in coffee prices sent most of the barons packing, the local inhabitants, whose land the barons had taken, and sometimes forced them to work on, was returned and some of them continued, but grew the way they wanted. Other plantations fell into disrepair and disappeared back into the jungle.
Peruvian coffee grower, owner, picks his shade grown beans.
Today, the modern Peruvian farmer struggles with balancing the past and the future. Trade aid for farmers worldwide is often tied to monoculture practices, which farmers in Peru know isn’t a long-term positive strategy, so they often reject aid. Without aid, farmers continue to struggle to develop a market for their coffee, which is desirable because of the organic, biodiverse way it is grown, but to have enough resources to get their coffee to faraway markets (where it commands a higher price) they are often asked to do things they think would be unwise. Slowly, Peruvian coffee is becoming more appreciated worldwide, and growers are learning how to access markets themselves, hopefully ensuring that future generations will have a biodiverse ecosystem to farm within.
Brewing Coffee in Peru using a “La Cafetera”
“La Cafetera”, the Peruvian Coffee Maker
Brewing coffee in Peru is accomplished differently than in North America and unlike most anywhere else in the world, for that matter.
There are two methods: hot and cold brewing.
Cold brewing produces a low acid cup, and takes 12+ hours to produce.
Hot brewing, a method shared with the rest of the world, is efficient in the amount of flavor extracted and the amount of time it takes to extract it.
Hot brewing is far and away the preferred method everywhere including here, but cold brewing is still alive.
What is common to both methods is that, in Peru, an espresso like concentrate is made.
The concentrate is called coffee, though it is much stronger than most prefer to drink straight, so it is often mixed with hot milk or water.
The concentrate takes time to make, so a whole day’s supply is usually made in (or in the case of cold brew, for) the morning.
Then, the concentrate is used to make individual cups throughout the day.
Peruvian Coffee Maker with Strainer Holes
To cold brew coffee take one cup of ground coffee and mix with two cups water and place in a large screw top jar.
Twelve hours later the coffee is ready to be strained in a similar method to hot coffee.
Shaking the brew jar, a few times if possible, during the process helps.
Here photos of a La Cafetera, which is used to either strain the cold brew, or make hot brew.
La Cafetera, loaded and ready to go
The simple two chamber La Cafetera has an upper chamber to hold the ground coffee and a bottom reservoir to accept the slowly dripping brew.
Rather than pass a lot of hot water through to extract the flavor, a little bit of boiling water is passed through a lot of coffee.
The fewer successive boiling water passes, the “shorter” the extraction.
“Short” extraction concentrate is used for making certain kinds of coffee drinks and “Long” extraction for others.
The hottest water makes the best coffee.
The strong coffee concentrate is made by filling the top the La Cafetera 3/4’s of the way full with coffee grounds and periodically pouring boiling water into the small remaining head space.
The initial pass, tends to create quite a volcanic effect with the possibility of coffee foaming up and over the sides.
So initially only enough water, to wet the grounds, is used followed by a few minutes of rest to allow the coffee to expand.
Generally, an equal volume of dry coffee grounds produces an equal volume of strong coffee.
Fresh brewed coffee concentrate
The holes of the La Cafetera are very small, and without the aid of any paper filters, the bottom chamber is filled drip-by-drip over the course of about 10 minutes.
The espresso is allowed to sit a few minutes to allow the sediment to settle.
Then, the coffee is poured through a strainer to catch any stray grounds or sediment.
Part of my daily coffee ritual
Once brewed, the coffee concentrate is stored for use throughout the day.
Over the course of an hour, any heavy particulates settle to the bottom of the jar and this produces a nicer cup.
The last “la taza desesperada” can conversely, be strong and is by some, discarded.
A thermos, coffee concentrate and evaporated milk: my coffee maker replacement.
For coffee service throughout the day, or at a place of business, hot water is often stored in a vacuum canister or vacuum dispenser to avoid having to boil water for each cup.
Evaporated milk is the commonly used coffee lightener which here, high in the Andes, doesn’t need to be refrigerated, as the kitchen is usually as cold as the inside of a refrigerator, except when cooking.
That is what my coffee experience looks like.
The first cup from an electric, automatic drip coffee maker is nice, but the second and third (microwaved) cups aren’t so good.
Making a concentrate produces a fresher tasting cup throughout the day.
The concentrate isn’t continuously heated on a burner, so the concentrate retains the flavor better over time.
Here is an excellent Peruvian Chifa fusion dish. It’s different because serving Linguine (Tallerines) with Huancaina Sauce topped with a Chifa Saltado (a uniquely Peruvian Stir fry) isn’t something people would publicize doing (but I know they secretly like it). I’ve had people admit their mothers prepare pasta like this at home, looking at me to see if I will judge them harshly. What a great idea mom! I’m all for it, a cheesy pepper sauce pasta dish! And, here I’ve added a twist on classic Chifa Saltado–it’s now a healthier vegetable stir fry. Often Peruvians will make a Tallarin Saltado, with meat, and then spoon Huancaina Sauce on their plates–but this looks and tastes better because it is decadent, yet mostly healthy! Switch the cheese for tofu (see: Vegan Alternative below), and make the soy sauce low sodium, and you will have a wonderfully healthy combination.
Tallarin Saltados are basically stir fry pasta dishes that is, you stir fry some vegetables, make a quick sauce at the end of the stir frying and then cook briefly with some al dente pasta. In this recipe I have in essence taken the stir fry, and placed it over an already dressed pasta. This leverages one of the things that is so good about Lomo Saltado, the saucy vegetables dripping over a fatty starch. I think you can only have so much fried food, and Peruvians seem to agree because the basic “Lomo Saltado” popularly becomes “Tallarin Saltado con Lomo de Res” (Linguini with Stir Fried Beef). I believe one can always do with less beef, for many reasons (pick one), so this is a great opportunity to save money, reduce saturated fat, reduce your carbon footprint, save a cow’s life, and exercise your palate a bit by going for the amazingly great taste of sauteed Portobello Mushrooms instead. I’ve provided a great deal of alternatives here, and I hope after cooking this your horizons will be broadened a little. Most of this kind of cooking is very forgiving. You can substitute kale or savoy cabbage for Swiss chard, you could even substitute cauliflower for the pasta (we do it all the time).
So how healthy is it? The big portioned, 411 gram, combined stir fry topped dish has 386 calories, and 15.5 grams of fat, with the vegan alternative having 342 calories, and 13.2 grams of fat. When comparably portioned, a Linguine Alfredo dish has a whopping 1730 calories and 126, artery clogging, grams of fat! So this extremely flavorful dish, comparable in flavor profiles with Alfredo has less than 1/4th the calories and 1/8th the fat. Enough blabbering, on to the cooking!
Mushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado
Peruvian-Chinese Fusion Stir Fry
By JK Peru,
July 17, 2013
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 Servings
7.3 grams fat
This adaptation of a healthy Peruvian Chifa stir fry, traditional, entree recipe takes only40 minutes to make and is great over pasta, rice, or cauliflower or as a filling for fajitas or wraps.
- 1 lb. Portobello Mushrooms, thick sliced
- 2 Heads (20 leaves) Swiss Chard, cut into 1 inch ribbons
- 3 large Roma Tomatoes cut in to wedges (1/6 or 1/8th’s)
- 2 Large Red Onions cut into wedges (1/8th’s)
- 2-3 cloves minced Garlic
- 2 large Aji Amarillo Peppers, seeded, deveined, cut to approx. 1/5th x 2″ wide strips
- 3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons Red Wine (Burgundy will do)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce (try low sodium)
- Black Pepper to taste
Wok Method: Saute the mushrooms, onions, peppers, and pepper with oil until golden brown, add the garlic and continue to fry until it is golden as well. Add the tomatoes and saute three more minutes. Add the Swiss chard and saute five more minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, soy sauce and saute until the sauce thickens a bit.
Regular Pot and Pan Method: Saute each of these in batches: mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic–all in oil until golden brown–setting the browned ingredients aside in a medium pot. Saute the Swiss chard and black pepper with oil until done, about five minutes. Add everything including the wine, vinegar and soy sauce into the pot and cook on medium until the sauce thickens a bit.
Linguine with Huancaina Sauce
Zesty, Cheesy, Andean Pasta Dish
By JK Peru,
July 17, 2013
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 Servings
8.2 grams fat
This is an adaptation of a classic Peruvian stove top, home cooking, entree recipe that takes only40 minutes to make and tastes great.
- 1 lb. Linguine
- 2/3 cup cubed Fresh Farmers Cheese
- 2-3 cloves Garlic, smashed with the side of a knife blade
- 2 large Aji Amarillo peppers, deseeded, deveined and coarsely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3/4 cup Evaporated Milk
- Black Pepper to taste
Saute the onions, peppers and pepper in oil until golden brown, add the garlic and continue to fry until it is golden as well. Add this to a blender, along with the cheese and milk blending for five minutes until silky smooth. If you have ever made Huancaina Sauce, this will be much more watery comparably, to allow the pasta to soak some of it up.
Final Preparation and Assembly
Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente (i.e. slightly undercooked), drain quickly retaining about 1/2 cup of the salted cooking water with the pasta (do not rinse) and return it to the still warm pasta pot. Immediately toss in the Huancaina Sauce. Plate right away, by placing a swirl of pasta in the center of a plate and carefully mounding Mushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado on top. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Optionally serve with Peruvian Salsa Macha for added zip.
I’ve made Huancaina Sauce using tofu many times in the states, once for a big dinner serving over 100 environmentalists. It was a hit! Firm Tofu can be used as a direct substitution for the cheese, then replace the evaporated milk with half as much soy or rice milk, doing so reduces the calorie count to 215 and the fat content to 5.9.
Note: Please consider reading more as I’ve tried to provide some easy to understand information on how healthy these recipes are, or aren’t, in an interesting way. 😉
FYI, we have included the nutritional facts for both recipes and the vegan alternative pasta sauce.
Mushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado Nutritional Facts
FYI – the stir fry prepared without the pasta dish can be served alone! So I wanted to show the nutritional facts for this alternative. It has many benefits, and if you use reduced sodium soy sauce (or omit it altogether!) you will be going super healthy. The alcohol is cooked off, and frankly can be omitted as wine often can be in stir fries. This dish has no cholesterol and more importantly, rather than meat we are using the wonderful meat alternative: “Portobello Mushrooms”, which frankly taste like steak! Not using meat reduces the bad fat content considerably and that is what will cause reduced cholesterol in your body.
This dish is high (or very high) in other nutrients like: iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C and is high in dietary fiber.
This is a good meal on its own, but getting some to eat vegetables is a challenge and that is why I’ve paired this with cheesy pasta. Together you have the comfort food (basically a healthier Mac and Cheese or Alfredo Sauce) and a large amount of vegetables, minimally cooked–except the mushrooms with need to be sauteed to the golden brown stage so they taste like bacon! In all, this gets a Nutrition Grade of B. Try this and gradually work toward those A’s!
Linguine with Huancaina Sauce Nutritional Facts
FYI – the pasta dish is a much healthier alternative than it may seem, when weighing the alternatives: Macaroni and Cheese and Alfredo Sauce. Both of which usually contain much more saturated fat. Sometimes you want a little bit of comfort in your food, and when the nutritional content isn’t enough, comfort, it might be time for some real comfort food. If you are making the above Saltadao, consider serving it plain or over plain, whole grain pasta. Otherwise, enjoy what is clearly a lesser evil, reduced fat. This dish only has 259 calories, and 8.2 grams of fat, and that isn’t too bad (google some other cheesy pasta alternatives and see what true artery horror is). Pasta is a good source of protein and by all means cook a whole grain alternative. Had I have been able to find a whole grain Tallerin (Linguini) at the market, I would have offered that in this recipe. After all, you are dressing the pasta so it might fly with those usually less enthusiastic about whole grains! This dish gets a Nutrition Grade of B-. Not sure how they do the grading because the next vegan alternative has less carbs and it gets the same score (that might be because soy milk is usually high in sodium).
Linguine with Huancaina Sauce, Vegan Alternative, Nutritional Facts
FYI – and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve served my soy based, vegan version of Huancaina to a large discriminating crowd of tree huggers and they loved it. I think the fact that because the Aji Amarillo, onion and garlic add so much flavor, the use of actual cheese is much less important than usual, for a cheesy dish. This is low in saturated fat, low in sugar, and if you also substitute whole grain pasta it would have a pretty good glycemic index (medium compared to high now). If you have a need to be highly sodium conscious, take a look at the labels on the soy milk you buy, and look for something lower in sodium. I’m sure some other milk alternative would work well because you aren’t cooking this sauce, just dressing the pasta with it. As always with Huancaina, if you find it too thin add a bit of bread or a saltine cracker to the sauce in the blender to thicken it–but the idea is to get the room temperature sauce over the piping hot noodles–so they absorb some of the remaining liquid within a few minutes. This dish only has 215 calories and 5.9 grams of fat. Nice!