In Peru most of our life revolves around food. And the beauty of it all is that we don’t need a special occasion to eat something fancy… it’s just part of our every day. However, special occasions do call for changes in our eating habits and I want to share a recent personal experience to show it.
I’m “the son who got married”; you may have read about me in some posts here, such as “Lima in my heart – a walk through the market”. My marriage was the reason why my mother and many other family members traveled to Peru for a few days in July.
Coming to Lima for whatever reason is a good excuse to engage in serious dining experiences. And local hosts have a blast catering for visitors with either a homemade meal or a night out in one of the many spectacular restaurants the city has to offer. As you would expect, we spent many hours sharing with family and friends around the table in the days previous to my wedding, enjoying must-have dishes (just to mention some of them: cebiche, causa, ají de gallina, and pisco sours), and spending lots of quality time together.
Once the wedding was over things started to go back to normal for everyone, but my wife and I had a couple of adventures waiting for us. As it turns out, my closest friends surprised us with honeymoon trip as a wedding present, so just a few days after getting married we were on our way to the Colca Canyon in Arequipa. I don’t want to talk about Arequipa here because it would distract me from the topic of this post, but you definitely have to check it out. It’s a gorgeous place just one hour from Lima by plane.
My friends had everything arranged, so a bus picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel. After almost four hours of traveling through the Andes and viewing some of the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen, we arrived at Las Casitas del Colca. Being from Peru I’ve heard many people talk about this place before, but I never really paid attention… I don’t do well in heights so I wasn’t planning to visit any time soon.
I won’t even try to describe the beauty of this place and the luxury of the hotel. I’ll just say that it exceeded any expectations I may have had, especially in customer service and food. Actually, I found out later on that their restaurant is very recognized… something my wife and I figured out from the moment we sat down to enjoy our first meal.
One of the multiple activities the hotel offered was a cooking class. As you might imagine, after tasting their food we didn’t need any extra motivation to sign up right away. When we arrived at the class, the restaurant’s head chef was waiting for us with everything ready to prepare a quinotto with alpaca salteada. What does this mean? Well, quinotto is a risotto-like dish made with quinoa instead of Arborio rice. The alpaca salteada is a typical Peruvian-Chinese sautée (featured in a previous post here) but prepared with alpaca meat, a regional staple, instead of beef. It was delicious.
After a couple of months we decided to try it here in Virginia, making some logistic adjustments (it is difficult to find alpaca meat in Charlottesville!). We had it for dinner and loved it as much as the first time.
I hope you get to make your own quinotto (it takes less than 20 minutes) and enjoy this wonderful dish as much as we did in Colca and are still doing today.
- ½ white onion, diced
- 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup Heavy cream (we used half and half)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt and Pepper
- Sirloin fillets (0.250 lb each)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- In a heavy saucepan cook the quinoa with 2 cups water, uncovered, at high heat, for 10-12 minutes (it has to be cooked but the grains have to keep their shape). Drain the excess water.
- In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil at medium-high, and saute the onion and garlic until transparent. Add cooked quinoa and pour the cream little by little, stirring constantly.
- When you have used all the cream, season with salt and pepper, add the Parmesan, stirring until it has melted and mixed completely.
- In another pan, heat the rest of the oil at high heat, and fry the steak (previously seasoned with salt and pepper) until it’s cooked the way you like it.
Eduardo Escardó is my son, (Morena‘s brother), and an avid reader of Peru Delights. He is an enthusiastic writer and lover of Peruvian gastronomy.