South America has always fascinated me. From Machu Picchu to the Galapagos Islands, there is so much of the mysterious continent that I want to explore. One of my favourite episodes of “No Reservations” features Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Peru (check out the clip in my previous post). I love the quote at the beginning of the episode: “Don’t tell me what a man says; don’t tell me what a man knows; tell me where he has traveled.”
Bourdain reflects on the purpose of travel in this episode. He asks, does it make us smarter, wiser or more enlightened? I say yes to all of these things. In moments of travel, I have found happiness, excitement, adrenaline and sometimes panic. I have learned not just about far off lands, but also about myself. I grow with every plane ride I take and every “Departures” sign I pass.
We were thinking about a trip to South America this past summer; however, it is not the place to go for a weeklong getaway. South America is an adventure that takes time and patience. Like Bourdain said, there’s no better place to find enlightenment than Peru. For this challenge, I decided to, well, challenge myself. If a trip to South America has to be held off for another year or so, then why not prepare myself for the adventure now?
I decided to try two classic Peruvian dishes. The first dish, "Ceviche," is the staple dish of Peru. Ceviche comes in many varieties in North America. In Peru, the dish consists mainly of raw fish marinated in citrus juice and seasonings. The acidity of the lemon and lime juices “cooks” the fish.
First of all, the selection of fresh fish in our area is rather limited. Secondly, I wasn't sure about the “cooking” process. The juice somehow alters the proteins of the fish giving it that raw, flavourful taste, but sometimes doesn’t rid the fish of all its bacteria. I didn’t want to risk making myself sick, so I decided to make a shrimp and mango ceviche using cooked shrimp.
The second dish is “Papa Rellena” or “stuffed potatoes.” Potatoes originated in Peru around 2000 BC and were the principal food of the Inca Empire. Basically, Peruvians know their potatoes and how to cook them well. Papa Rellena consists of mashed potatoes stuffed with ground meat, spices and various other stuffings.
Papa Rellena (stuffed potatoes)1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped onion
5-8 yellow potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil (plus more for frying)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp cumin, paprika, cilantro
1 cup ground beef
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:1. Cook the potatoes until tender in a pot of boiling, salted water. When the potatoes are cooked, mash them thoroughly, season them with salt and pepper and let them chill in the fridge until cold.
2. Soak raisins in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.
3. Saute the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil until golden.
4. Add the seasoning (cumin, paprika, cilantro) to the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
5. Drain the raisins and add them to the onion mixture. Add the ground beef.
6. Add the beef broth and simmer until the liquid has absorbed.
7. Take the potatoes out of the fridge and add the egg and flour. Knead the dough with floured hands until smooth and soft.
8. Place about a 1/2 cup portion (or your desired size) of the potatoes in the palm of your hand and make a well in the centre.
9. Place about 1 tbsp of the filling into the well and fold the potato over so none of the filling shows.
10. Repeat step #9 until all of the potatoes and filling are gone.
11. Fill the pan with about an inch of oil (or 2 depending on the size of the pan). Fry the Papa Rellena until golden brown for about 10 minutes.
Shrimp and Mango Ceviche:1/3 cup olive oil
6-8 cooked shrimps
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped mango
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus one lime for garnish
1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp hot sauce
Directions:1. Place the shrimp in a pot with 2 tbsp of lime juice. Bring them to a simmer.
2. Once the shrimp have warmed/defrosted, peel the shells off and place them in a bowl with 1/2 of the remaining lime juice. Chill in the fridge for about an hour.
3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the shrimp. Serve with a lime wedge in a small bowl, shot glass or martini glass.
My final thoughts:
Even though the Papa Rellena process was quite tedious, it was well worth the effort. They tasted light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, which is a perfect combination in my books. I had two on my plate and I could barely finish one. Traditionally, Papa Rellenas are served with a type of salsa, so the tartness of the ceviche contrasted nicely. I can't wait to go to Peru and try the real thing.
If you enjoyed this post, then don't forget to vote for me for Round 2 starting tomorrow.