A Taste of Peru and a Hint of Ecuador Via Wales


It was perhaps a strange dinner party to organise. After all, when it comes to planning ethnic food it sort of helps to have at least a semblance of original ingredients available and that normally means a well-established immigrant community with a specialist food market to cater for them. 

Well, Cardiff doesn’t have a vibrant Peruvian population, or, at least, if it does, they’ve managed to survive here without access to their most important ethnic cooking ingredient – the aji pepper.

Aji is the lifeblood of many Peruvian dishes (along with the potato which I’m happy to report at least you can find plenty of in Wales).

Nevertheless I soldiered on with an approximation of traditional Peruvian and Ecuadorean dishes retrieved from the memory of spending time there some, gulp, 13 years ago and a light dusting of Internet recipes.

The accidental beauty of not having a load of aji was that the food was a little under-spiced and so made perfect leftovers for the kids. For the adults I recommend some hot sauce!

Here’s the first of the dishes I made for the Peru/Ecuador feast. More to come in following posts


Nothing too complicated here – these are potato pancakes that I stuffed with haloumi cheese. Haloumi, I hear you ask? Since when did the Middle East enter into South American cooking? Well, Ecuador has a strong Lebanese population but even they’d balk at using haloumi instead of queso blanco. However, it was all I had.

You’ll need:

1.5 pounds of potatoes, peeled, washed and quartered for easy boiling.
8 slices of haloumi (or one packet)
2 tablespoons of butter
olive oil

First boil the potatoes until soft then drain, mash, cool, then refrigerate.

Shape the mash into silver dollar-sized pancakes. Make an indentation in the center with your thumb and place the haloumi slice in the middle. Add another thin layer of mashed potato and meld together to form a thin pancake.

Add a small amount of olive oil to a non-stick frying pan and saute the pancakes (four at at time) until golden on one side then flip and repeat.

When all are golden brown, serve.

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Slow Cooked Easter Lamb with Rosemary, Pancetta and Wild Garlic

Here's a leg of lamb recipe suggested by an Italian friend then adapted with a local and seasonal Welsh ingredient.

First thanks to Cristina for her garlic rosemary and pancetta leg of lamb recipe.

Normally leg of lamb cooks quickly but I cooked this joint at a very low heat over four hours to accommodate lamb eaters who like their meat succulent but not pink.

You'll need a 4lb leg of lamb, off the bone (I had mine butterflied by our local butcher). This will serve six people. Make 30 – 40 little incisions in the meat using a paring knife. Stuff the incisions with slivers of raw garlic, fresh rosemary and cubed Italian pancetta.

Keep two cloves of garlic and a handful of rosemary for the basting sauce (leg of lamb has very little fat so it's worth basting the meat every hour to prevent it drying out.)

Place the lamb in a deep roasting pan and add one bottle of white wine. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F (130 degrees C). Cook for one hour.

In the meantime, in a mini food processor, blend together the extra garlic and rosemary with two tablespoons of olive oil, a knob of butter and salt and pepper. (For my recipe I add 10 wild garlic leaves that are found wild in Wales this time of the year and have a wonderful rich and pungent aroma). The blended mixture should be spreadable but not runny.

After an hour, baste/coat the meat with the half of the mixture and return to the oven. Cook for another two hours basting each hour.

For the last half hour of cooking I added 1lb baby new potatoes, a sliced red onion and two large cubed parsnips to the pan along with chopped sage and rosemary, making sure first to reserve some of the pan liquid for gravy and then coat the root veg with the remaining pan juices.

After 30 minutes remove the meat and let rest while turning up the oven to 400 degrees and finishing the potatoes and parsnips at the high heat, stirring from time to time. The result is a wonderfully carmelized accompaniment to the lamb.

Serve the lamb, and root veg with sauteed kale or purple sprouting broccoli.

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Charlie & Lola Deconstructed

A few weeks ago we took the kids to Green Drops and Moonsquirters, an exhibition of Lauren Child's work at the National Museum of Wales. Her most famous creation is Charlie & Lola and the interactive exhibition allowed kids and parents to discover the inside story of Charlie & Lola along with other characters Ruby Redfort and Clarice Bean.

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato is personal fav in our house so it was great to see her Charlie & Lola food stories brought to life. The kids had fun playing in the Charlie & Lola kitchen but frankly the exhibition was more insightful for the parents who, through Child's notes and annotations, were able to learn how we developed her characters.

Green Drops and Moonsquirters is installed at Seven Stories in Newcastle, UK until September 2010.

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Gastrokids Say the Funniest Things

Loved this piece in the Guardian about the way adults and especially kids get confused over food terms.

Along with much mangling of the word jalapeno and a buschetta here's some of the priceless malapropisms from the mouths of babes according to Guardian readers polled on Twitter:

Emalade = Lemonade

and this beauty

When I was younger, in the supermarket with my dad seeing a whole octopus I yelled out "look at its testicles!"

What are the best and funniest food mistakes your kids (or grown ups) have made?

- Matthew

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Prime Rib Becomes Bubble n’ Squeak Hash


What to do with leftovers from a delicious two-rib beef roast that had been accompanied by potatoes, brussels sprouts, green beans and leeks?

Well in our house that’s a recipe for bubble n’ squeak with cold meat sliced on top…..except the other night I was inspired to do something a little different.

The and bubble n’ squeak (listen to it while it’s cooking in the pan and you’ll hear where the name comes from) I made as normal – the vegetables mashed up and fried in a non-stick saute pan with the aid of some olive oil and a little knob of butter.

Only this time I fashioned the mashup into a potato-like pancake and cooked it until it started to crisp around the edges. Next I added some freshly steamed spinach (with a little added hot red pepper flakes) to the perimeter of the pan.

The thinly sliced leftover prime rib went in with the spinach and, for full hearty effect, I added two fried eggs on top of the pancake.

A fancy fry up to be honest, but fun and fulfilling at the same time.

- Matthew



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Parentdish Q&A with Hugh

Picture 1

The excellent parentdish just posted a cool little Q&A with yours truly. While you’re there, scope out the rest of the site. Nice conscious parenting content. Check it out here.

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Do We Let Our Kids Have Too Many Snacks?

My kids would snack or graze until they dropped, whether its savory or sweet, healthy or downright bad for you (all in moderation of course). Christmas is particularly bad it seems because the snacks seem to be dominated by small repositories of holiday chocolate or candy they've squirreled away from various doting relatives.

So it's interesting to read Jennifer Steinhauer's piece in the NYT on the cult of kiddie snacking, particularly this quote:

"Between 1977 and 2002, the percent of the American population eating
three or more snacks a day increased to 42 percent from 11 percent,
according to a large study of American nutritional habits conducted by
the Agriculture Department with the Department of Health and Human

Further, researchers found, the percent of children
surveyed who said they had eaten three meals on the previous day went
down, while those who had had a snack went up more than 40 percent.

My kids still manage to eat their meals (most of the time) but I can't argue against the fact that the times when they haven't had a snack they eat with more gusto.

So are our kids snacking too much? Or are we simply given them mini-top ups to fuel their busy little metabolisms?

What do you with Gastrokids think?

- Matthew

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Salmon with Soy, Honey and Lime Sauce Becomes Sushi

Regular readers know that we love this sweet and savory grilled salmon dish that we feature in the Gastrokid Cookbook.

This past weekend I made the dish again with a bit of a surprise (for the chef at least). When I served up the salmon, marinated in mirin, soy and rice wine vinegar then grilled along with the rice and honey-lime drizzling sauce, my son Dylan took a taste and said:

“Can I make sushi with this?”

By which he meant he wanted to roll the rice and salmon in a small sheet of Nori (dried seaweed) that we keep for snacks.

What to say? “How dare you embellish my well thought out recipe!” or “Sure, why not, it might be tasty.”

I chose the latter and both Dylan and Zelda devoured the meal.

You just can’t stand in the way of progress.

- Matthew


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Jamon Redux


Just when you thought you'd learned all you need to know about cured ham along comes this handy Jamon Jamon guide to Spain's finest from the Guardian.

What's more the guide was enabled by our favourite Spanish food producer, London's Brindisa.

After this I promise I'll lay off the Jamon posts for a while, honest.

- Matthew

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Jamon Iberico de Bellotta

Acorn-fed Iberian ham…….I think I'm in love.

- Matthew

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