Andean pumpkin, potato and black mint stew
Its original name was rocro, in Quechua, and then it transmuted to locro. The basic version is a pumpkin stew with potatoes and chili peppers, and this is a wonderful vegetarian meal, but you could choose to add different ingredients like shrimps, beef, dried meat, lamb, hen, and seaweeds. It is the perfect marriage between native ingredients, like pumpkin, potatoes and chili peppers, with other flavours that came to our country via the Spanish conquistadors, like onion, milk and cheese.
Its appearance is not the more stylish, or as my good friend and wonderful photographer Amir would say: it’s not photogenic at all, like many of our most typical stews. But looks are deceiving even when it comes to food, as it is one of the most delicious and tasty entrees of our repertoire. If you like the sweet pumpkin flavor, this dish is perfect for you. They say that in Colonial times, many people had locro for dinner and then went straight to bed. We guess this was because the dish is not heavy like other popular dishes back then.
Besides its beautiful color, it is full of nutrients. You can add huacatay (black mint), if you find it. I have seen it in some supermarkets in the US in the form of paste, but I don’t plan on trying it any time soon because I really don´t like huacatay (I´m sorry, but it´s true, which probably proves I wasn’t born in Peru, as Peruvians adore this herb). For me, cilantro leaves are fine.
To upgrade this recipe, add 2 dozen shrimp tails, cleaned, lightly sautéed in a little oil or butter until they change their color.
As a side dish: always white rice (or brown rice, as my daughter used in the picture, if you prefer it).
Locro de zapallo (Serves 4)
- 2 lb pumpkin, diced. We use a type of pumpkin called “macre”, but if you’re not in Peru you can experiment with any pumpkin. In that case you may need to adjust the cooking time and method, to get a very soft, mashed pumpkin.
- 2 white potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste (optional)
- 1 cup giant kernel corn
- ½ cup green peas
- ½ cup unsweetened evaporated milk
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup white cheese, diced (queso fresco)
- Vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons huacatay leaves (black mint), or coriander leaves, chopped
- White rice, cooked
*In a saucepan with a little vegetable oil, sauté onion and garlic over high heat. Add pumpkin, potatoes, corn, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat, and cook, semi covered and stirring every now and then, until all the vegetables are tender. Add green peas.
*Add evaporated milk and white cheese. Stir and heat through but do not let it boil. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed; add herbs, and serve immediately with white rice.