Peruvian Chicken & Coriander Soup (Aguadito de Pollo)

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I was really looking forward to the spring-like weather that had been announced for this weekend.  I got over excited that it said it was going to be around 14 degrees Celsius. My wishful thinking took over me and in that mindset I left the house in a lighter jacket. Wrong, wrong, wrong idea! I thought it would be a nice idea to go to a petting zoo, since the weather was going to be so nice. As weird as it may sound, I had wanted to pet a cow for more than a year now. I love animals and whenever I travel by train and I see the countryside and farm animals, I have an urge to go pet them. Crazy animal lover lady here!

Since our choice of transport here is by bicycle, we went to the petting zoo biking.  The sun was out and shining but the very cold wind was a bit too much.  I had left my gloves at home along with my winter jacket and the wind was actually hurting my hands as we biked.  It was still nice to go outside and get some fresh air.  The only cow we found at the petting zoo surely enjoyed her head being scratched. But because the wind was very cold, we ended up going back home earlier.  A soup like this is very welcoming after a cold day out.

This soup falls under the category we call “levanta muertos”. It means to wake up the dead.  It is called like that because many people have it at dawn or early in the morning after a night out drinking.  There are different versions of it, like with fish or mussels.

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I grew up eating this. It was something my mom would make often during winter.  It’s comforting and filling. And like a lot of Peruvian dishes, it is served with lime wedges. It is not the prettiest soup to photograph to say the least but it makes up for it in taste.  I had to look for a replacement for Aji Amarillo (Peruvian chili paste) because I am not always able to find it here.  I have started using Sriracha as a replacement in some dishes and for this it also works well. For the coriander rice version of this dish, you can click here.

This soup is ready in about 30 minutes. This recipe serves 3.

Ingredients:

2 bunches of coriander (without the hard stems)

200gr chicken breast, diced

10 cups of chicken stock

½ cup canned corn, or fresh

½ cup green peas, can be frozen or fresh

½ sweet pepper or bell pepper

1 red onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon of sriracha or Peruvian Aji Amarillo paste (yellow chili paste)

1/3 cup of rice

Salt

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Lime wedges for serving

 

Blend the coriander with the stock and set aside.

In a large pot, add the vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, sriracha or Aji Amarillo, and sweet pepper.  Cook for about 2 minutes. Then add the diced chicken and rice. Stir for another minute and add the coriander stock. Cook for about 20 minutes. Then add the corn and peas.  Let it cook until the corn and peas are done. Taste for salt. Serve with lime wedges.

Corn Pie with Beef (Pastel de Choclo con Carne)

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Living abroad I miss my family of course. But the second thing I miss the most is the food. I realize now, how spoiled (in terms of food) I was growing up. By that I mean; Peru is such a rich agricultural country. I grew up eating a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, seafood, etc. If there is something all Peruvians have in common is pride in our cuisine. I love to cook so of course, I find myself not missing everything. The things I can recreate here, I do make. But things like eating a fresh mango or making a truly Peruvian ceviche, I can’t. The mangos that you find here are shipped still green and of course you can taste the difference. And a ceviche without the very sour Peruvian lime, can be nice, but is not amazing. I remember when I was taking a cooking course in Lyon, one of the French chefs told me he smuggled some Peruvian lime in his suitcase.

One of the things I miss is our corn. The texture and flavor is very different to the yellow one you find everywhere else in the world. I miss eating it just boiled with some chili sauce on top. This is what it looks like:

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This corn pie is very popular in Chile and Peru. I loved eating it for the ‘lonche’ (tea time). Since in Peru you have dinner quite late.  I used to have dinner at around 9pm. Now whenever we are in Lima. We want to eat earlier, since here we eat at 6pm. My mom always jokes and calls me a granny for eating so early.  At least we beat the crowds whenever we are there and we want to dine out.

I have been making this recipe for years and if I make it in Peru, I don’t need to add the corn meal. The texture of the Peruvian corn is dense enough to hold the rest of the ingredients. But here, using the yellow corn, I do need to add some corn meal, otherwise the mixture is too soggy. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, cook the meat mixture in a pan and then assemble the dish like a shepherd’s pie in an oven dish. The filling is usually made with minced meat. But it is nicer to make it with steak if you can.

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Ingredients:

For the beef filling:

450gr beef steak, diced

1 red onion, chopped

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of tomato puree

1 teaspoon of sugar

¼ cup raisins

2 boiled eggs, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Olive oil

For the corn mixture:

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped

4 fresh corns on the cob

250ml cream

10 tablespoons of corn meal

1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce

40gr grated Parmesan

1 egg

Salt

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, sear the meat. Then add the onions, tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the minced garlic, raisins, olives, sugar, boiled eggs, salt and pepper. Stir until everything is mixed. Then turn off the heat and set aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cob. Place the kernels in a blender along with the cream and corn meal.  Blend it until everything is combined.

In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Over medium heat, cook the white onion until translucent. Add the corn mixture, sriracha and salt. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You want it to thicken and to dry a bit. After the 4 minutes are done, turn off the heat. Off the heat, add the egg and parmesan. Stir until everything is combined.

Pour the corn mixture over the meat in the skillet. Make sure to spread it out so it covers the whole surface of the skillet. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Causa with Spicy tuna

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This is a very popular Peruvian dish. My mom taught me how to make it as a little kid. I would make it so often, even when no one else felt like it in the house. I would just make a small portion for myself whenever I craved it.

It is usually served with 2 layers of potato dough with filling in the middle.  You can make the filling with many different ingredients.  At home it is usually served filled with chicken or tuna salad. In restaurants, you usually find options with tuna, shrimp, crab or octopus.

In Peru, there are a lot Japanese immigrants which led to Nikkei cuisine (Peruvian-Japanese fusion). This dish is an example of that.

For this recipe you need Aji Amarillo paste, which is a Peruvian chili paste, and you can find it at most Latin American stores or online. In Amsterdam, they sometimes have it at Tijns’s Toko. There is also a Peruvian store in Paris called EL INTI – La Boutique péruvienne which always has it and they deliver within the European Union.

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Ingredients:

For the causa:

1 kilo of russet potatoes

5 tablespoons of Aji Amarillo paste

Juice of 2 limes

½ teaspoon of salt

2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil

For the spicy tuna:

300gr of raw tuna

3 tablespoons of mayonnaise

½ teaspoon of wasabi paste, or more to taste

1 teaspoon of togarashi, or more to taste

Salt

Pepper

For the toppings:

1 avocado, diced

1 spring onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

 

First, boil the potatoes until they are very tender. Then peel and mash them while they are still hot. Make sure there aren’t any lumps.  You want it as smooth as possible.

Add the aji amarillo paste, lime juice, salt and vegetable oil.  Mix it with your hands. Because of the chili paste, I wear gloves.  Mix well until you have an even dough. It won’t be sticky any more. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Cut the tuna into small cubes.

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In a small bowl, mix the mayo with the wasabi and togarashi. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tuna and mix.

To plate up, take about 1 ½ tablespoons of the potato dough and form it into a small ball with your hands.  Repeat for all of the dough. Plate them and lightly press with your thumb on the middle of each ball to create a base for the tuna.  Place a few pieces of avocado and then add a bit of the spicy tuna.  Finally top with some black sesame seeds and sliced spring onion.

If you want to save time, you can also plate it the more homey way.  Just place a layer of the dough on a baking dish, then add one layer of the filling and then cover with a layer of the potato dough.  Keep it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap until ready to eat.

 

 

Peruvian Steamed Mussels (Choros a la Chalaca)

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Mussel season has just begun here and with the heat of the last couple of days, a cold dish with minimum amount of cooking was very welcome. This is a super easy recipe and a fairly cheap one as well. It is a very popular Peruvian dish. It is often ordered as an appetizer in Seafood restaurants (cevicherias).  It is usually served by the dozen but mussels in Peru are much bigger than the ones you find here.

Ingredients:

2 kilos of mussels

3 medium size red onions, finely chopped

2 large tomatoes (peeled, deseeded and finely chopped)

1 bird’s eye chili, finely chopped

Kernels of one corn, cooked

1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley

Juice of 3 limes

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Salt

Pepper

 

Rinse the mussels well under cold water, pulling off any beards. Discard any mussels that are broken or that don’t clamp shut when tapped.

Steam the mussels and remove from the pot as soon as they open. Discard the ones that haven’t opened. Break the mussels in half and discard the empty shell. Arrange on a plate and place in the fridge to cool.

Cook the corn for 3 minutes in boiling water. Drain and when it is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cob. Reserve in the fridge.

Chop the onion as small as you can. For me, any salsa tastes better if everything is cut very small because it allows the dressing to really cover all the little pieces. Peel, deseed and chop the tomatoes as small as you can.  Chop the chili.  Refrigerate all until the mussels are cooled and you are ready to serve.

To serve, chop some parsley and put it in a bowl. Add the tomatoes, onions, chili and corn. Squeeze in the juice of all the limes. Add the oil, salt and pepper. Taste and then spoon some salsa on top of each mussel. Serve immediately

 

 

Peruvian Coriander Rice with Chicken (Arroz con Pollo Peruano)

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A Peruvian variation of chicken and rice. Served with salsa criolla to add some freshness to the dish. Comfort food at its best. This is something my mom would make very often for dinner or lunch. For this recipe, you will need Aji amarillo paste which is a Peruvian chili paste. I sometimes find it at Tjin’s Toko in Amsterdam. There is also a Peruvian store in Paris called EL INTI – La Boutique péruvienne which always has it and they deliver within the European Union.

This recipe serves 5.

Ingredients:

Fort he Rice:

2 cups of rice

2 cups of chicken stock

2 bunches of coriander, blended with 2 cups of water or stock (don’t use the hard stems) Reserve a few leaves for the salsa

1 red onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, diced

2 tablespoons of Aji Amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili paste)

Half a can of Guinness or any other dark beer

Vegetable oil

For the chicken:

500gr boneless chicken breast (cut into strips)

4 tablespoons of flour

4 tablespoons of white corn meal (like P.A.N.)

Lemon pepper (optional)

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salt

Vegetable oil

For the salsa criolla:

2 red onions, thinly sliced

1 small red chili, finely chopped

Juice of one lime

2 tablespoon of white vinegar

2 tablespoon of olive oil

A handful of coriander leaves, chopped

¼ cup of corn, fresh or canned

1 bell pepper, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

 

For the rice:

In a pan over medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Once the pan is hot, add the onions. Cook until translucent. Then add the garlic and the chili paste. Cook for 1 minute and then add the rice. Stir it until it is translucent, about one more minute.

Then add the dark beer. Let the beer reduce a bit and then add the chicken stock, blended coriander and a dash of salt. Stir everything together.  Cover and let it cook on the lowest heat for about 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Stir only a few times, half way through the cooking so the bottom doesn’t stick. (If you stir it too often, the rice becomes a puree) Once all the liquid has evaporated, the rice should be cooked. Taste it to see if it is cooked, otherwise add a bit more water and let it cook a few more minutes.

For the chicken:

Cut it into strips. Then in a plate, mix the flour, corn meal, salt, pepper and  lemon pepper. Coat the chicken in the flower mixture.

In a pan, over medium heat, add about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Cook the chicken until golden brown.

For the salsa criolla:

Just mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Serve the rice with the chicken and top with some salsa.