Monday, January 18, 2016

Hidden Treasures, Culinary Highlights and Natural Wonders-The Splendor of Peru's Southern Coast

The Paracas, Ica and Nazca region is probably one of the most exciting regions in the south of Peru.
A remarkable geography, tons of sunshine, stunning history and an exciting fauna and flora are the highlights of a visit here. 
And of course not to forget the outstanding gastronomy, regional, fresh and with surprising creations.
Nature has been generous providing the area with permanent sunshine, fertile soil and a sea rich in fish and seafood.
Asparagus, grapes and avocados earned here are top quality, so are the wines and Piscos
(The original Peruvian Pisco is a colorless, very aromatic brandy, made from grapes and can be consumed pure or in cocktails such as Pisco sour or Chilcano).
The recipe for a delicious Pisco Sour cocktail you will find here : Delicious Pisco Sour And A Very Special Father's Day Celebration
The finest textiles, produced by the Paracas culture and the until now mysterious Nazca lines are the object of investigation by archeologists worldwide.
These lines were scratched on the dessert surface of the ground between 500B.C and A.D.500 and have the incredible extension of about 450km.
The geoglyphis picture animals, plants and imaginary beings and are, due to their quantity, nature and size among history's greatest enigmas.
Most of them are several kilometers long and can be appreciated in their full context only when seen from a plane. How to explain this?
All Indiana Jones like hobby archeologists are challenged!
After all the adventure we had a wonderful stay at the Hacienda Vinas Queirolo, beautifully designed and decorated and surrounded by sheer endless vineyards producing a huge variety of grapes transformed later to wines and Piscos.
On our way home we stopped at the most incredible eatery, located at a gas station, recommended by friends.
First I was really suspicious cause of the unimpressive look and unusual location of the restaurant.
But of course, adventurous foodies as we are wanted to try the food and it was - delicious.
Later I did a little research on the Internet and to my surprise the place was highly recommended by Trip Adviser!
Life is full of surprises.
On our way back we encountered a strike of cotton workers, several police checkpoints,and took a not yet opened part of the new highway to avoid the strike.
Of course there were gravel roads, unfinished bridges (we had to go underneath them, thank heavens this is the dry season so no problem) and enjoyed our undertaking enormously.

 Starting our journey enjoying the view at the summer resort of Pucusana

Trying to get a snapshot of the famous pink flamingos at the National Reserve Paracas.
Imposible to get closer than that, they are clever birds! 

Fisherman at sunset

A visit to an asparagus plantation in Ica. Did you know that there are male and female asparagus plants?  Here you can see a male plant (The female plants produce red berries) 

The spears start to show and grow incredibly fast. These are ready to be harvested.

A visit to a vineyard, growing table grapes.

A lonley Baobab tree (Remember the little prince?) ,originally from Africa, growing splendidly in Ica. How did it come to Peru? A mystery.

Paracas textiles on display at the National Museum of Archeology

One of the most famous pictures of the Nazca lines: The hummingbird

View from the hacienda's terrace over the vineyards


Trying to identify the different fruit and spice flavors at the wine tasting

  So many flavors, so many wines, so little time

A special thanks to our very knowledgable guide and sommelier Fiorella

Enjoying sunset with a glass of sparkling wine

On the way home we stopped at the most incredible eatery, located at a gas station, recommended by friends.

Tacutacu (a kind of omlett made of beans, eggs and rice), fish and seafood salsa served with a purple corn refreshment

 Crisp fried potato balls filled with cheese

A national culinary treasure: Causa Limena, a kind of flavored, spicy mashed potatoe roll filled with chicken and mayonnaise

Cheers to you, my friends!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chicken Liver Parfait - A French Classic For The Hoilday Season


 The Holidays are ante portas and I have no idea why but despite of having organized everything in advance, there are still so many things to do.

We just came back from a short trip from Washington DC and enjoyed the Christmas spirit there a lot.
Gorgeous decoration at the National Art Gallery. 
Now we are back to Peru  and traffic is crazy these days in Lima, well, actually not only these days, it's ALWAYS crazy, but now worse than ever. If you want to learn more about Lima traffic, I recommend this video:  :)
But let's better concentrate on the Holiday menu. For me,it's a kind of therapy cooking.
As soon as I get in the kitchen and focus on preparing something creative and nice, I feel relaxed and at peace. Sorry, Dr. Freud , no need of a psychoanalysis.
And what about you?
Still looking for something special to surprise friends and family?
Chicken liver parfait is a classic for a festive table.
Elegant, easy to prepare and put together in no time at all, this dish looks like zou would have spent hours in the kitchen.
It's rich, silky texture will melt in your mouth and you won't regret a moment.
Here is what you need: 
300g butter, soft
1/2 cup of chopped onions
2 garlic gloves, crushed
2 spoonfuls of sage leaves
400g chicken liver, organic
2 spoonful Cognac
1 spoonful Madeira
 2 spoonful olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 slice of white bread to absorb the juices (optional)

Heat olive oil and butter in a large frying pan.
Add onions and crushed garlic and sweat them until soft.

 Then add chicken liver and sage leavesand cook with the onions.

 *Be careful not to overcook the chicken liver, to avoid that it becomes bitter.
The liver should still be slightly pink inside.
Add cognac and Madeira to the pan and cook for two more minutes.

 Season with salt and pepper. set aside to allow the mixture to cool down.
*In case the liquids have not quite absorbed, use a piece of white bread to absorb the juices.
It would be a pity to loose them, because all the flavors are there.*
Place the mixture in a food processor and blend.

 With the motor still running, add the remaining butter and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pass the mixture through a sieve pushing the liver through with a wooden spoon into a bowl.
This will discard all impurities.
Spoon into a terrine dish or a ramekins and smooth the surface with a spatula.

Top with orange slices and sage leaves.

 Place in the fridge and allow to cool down at least 2 hours.
Seal with clarified butter*

Instructions for clarified butter:
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan at low heat.

 on the top you will see a milky,foamy layer,on the bottom a clear yellow layer.

Remove the foamy, milky layer carefully with a spoon.

Then pour the clear layer carefully in a jug, leaving the milky layer in the pan.

Let cool down but not until soldyfying. Pour over the parfait to seal.

Store in the fridge until serving,
Serve with crisp baguette and mixed baby greens.
Tip: Chili Jam works great with it..
 For the recipe, click the link:  Chili Jam


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Sweet Taste of Christmas - Austrian Vanillekipferl


When you are Austrian, Christmas and Vanillekipferl goes together like Thanksgiving and turkey, or coffee and cream.
One of my favorite childhood memory is the delicious smell of these freshly baked cookies, together with the aroma of fresh pine tree and the imaculate white of the first snow.
I know, I know, this sounds like the worst kitch, but it's just  the way it was and still is.
These recipe is known as well as almond crescents and has been passed on from generation to generation. Each family has a slightly different recipe and some "secret ingredients"
they will hardley reveal.
Vanillekipferl are an all time favorite, they are wonderfully light, litterally melt in your mouth and are quite addictive. Just try  for yourself and you will see..
Ah, and before I forget, when you prepare this speciality, try to get in the mood with some Christmas music, I promise theyKipferl will  taste even better like this :)

This is what you need:
A dash of cool Christmas music
110g almond meal
 70g powdered (icing) sugar
210g unsalted butter, cut into 1|\2 inch cubes
280g sieved all purpose flour

For the sugar coating:
100g powdered sugar
2 packages vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Quickly mix all ingredients

  to a smooth dough 

and leave it in the fridge for about half an hour.
Tip: Keep the dough all time covered in the fridge so it won't try out.
Separate the dough into several parts, keep one to work with and set the rest aside in the fridge.
Divide the dough in small portions ( I used a melon cutter)

,roll out every piece in your hand (about 3-3 1/2 inch long) and shape into crescents.

Roll out the dough to a about 1cm thick roll. Cut the roll into small pieces, formong crescent shaped cookies.
Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. As they will grow when baking, place them at least 1/2 inch apart.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until light brown in color ( They should not be too dark)

Mix icing sugar and vanille sugar (reminds me of skiing!)

together and sieve, then toss the hot cookies carefully in the mix.

Uups,this one was too good to resist!

Store in airtight bcontainer or cookie box.

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