Second week of cooking classes

Huancayo Travel Blog

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The kids are fascinated by Sofie's camera.

Monday: Ceviche. Now, this is a dish that I will definitely be replicating at home, especially as Sydney has such fresh seafood. Ceviche is raw white fish, or you can use mixed seafood, marinated in lemon &/or lime juice and whatever else you want (usually chilli, salt & pepper, and herbs). Left for 30-60 minutes, the acid from the lemon and lime juice actually cooks the fish, which is then served with spanish onion. The girls boiled up some potatoes and popped some corn to eat with the ceviche, and we also had algae (a treat from the people I bought the fish from, which I couldn´t really bring myself to eat). This is a pretty simple dish, and if you like seafood, I would highly recommend trying it.

Wednesday: Empanadas.

Sweet faces.
So much for trying to teach the girls about international cuisine; when I suggested we make spaghetti, they turned their noses up at it and we finally decided on empanadas, which is sort of the Peruvian version of a meat pie. You can put whatever you want in them, I suppose, but meat is always more fun. We also made the pastry, which was a first for me, and turned out surprisingly well, although the girls ended up putting almost twice the amount of butter needed. Basically, you fry the meat (beef) with onions, garlic, and other things, add sliced boiled egg, olives and nuts (the olives were mostly eaten by the girls, and I didn´t buy nuts), then roll out circles in the pastry and seal the filling inside. (This is where my ´practice´ from helping my mum make curry puffs came in handy, for making the fancy twisty seal).
Natalie teaching them games.
They turned out quite nice, although took about 4 times longer to cook than in the recipe, I suspect due to the butter content.

Friday: Black forest cake. Sounds ambitious, I know. I figured I was in for another long walk around town to find cherries (either fresh or sour, in a tin, but not the glacé ones) and fresh cream. In fact, I didn´t have too much trouble finding cherries, except they may not have been cherries, but a very similar fruit that´s not as sweet. Oh well. They looked like cherries, and that was more important. Fresh cream, I´m told, is sold by one man who owns some cows somewhere, but not in the markets or supermarkets. Now, is it at all possible to make whipped cream from fresh milk? I didn´t think so (if there is, please tell me), so I had to change the recipe so the cream that goes on top was actually more like cake frosting. Ie. way too much icing sugar and butter. But, the cake turned out well (a recipe without cocoa, to save me more grief). By ´well´, I mean, it had a hole in the top where it had sunk, but we filled it with cherries and made it look good. Anyway, it tasted great (qué rico! is a phrase I hear a lot in the kitchen, whether it be melting chocolate or frying meat), if a little on the sickly sweet side.

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Playground at the orphanage. Spot Sarah, who's just as little as the kids!

Chupaca & Ahuac: Last Saturday, I once again found myself in Chupaca, this time with two Danish girls and a Canadian girl who are taking Spanish lessons with Incas del Peru. We were provided with Miguel, a friendly local guide, and a ´boxed lunch´ (bottle of water, piece of bread and ham again!) for free, as part of the Spanish lessons, and well, just because I´m around all the time, I guess.

We got off the kombi at the animal markets that, a week earlier, Dave and I had not managed to find. One of the first sights to greet us was a sheep being beheaded. (Imagine it in slow motion. It was maybe 20 metres away, and I saw a sheep with its front and back legs tied together, so it was struggling a lot. Then a man picked it up and took it to the side, and slit its throat.

Local women at the markets.
And then kept sawing, so that the whole head eventually came off, with lots of blood - very red from where we were - spilling on to the ground. The body kept convulsing for awhile longer.) After a quick walk through the markets, we caught a taxi to Ahuac, which is a tiny little town at the foot of the mountains. We walked along back country roads (where there´s hardly anyone around, yet we saw 2 ice-cream trishaws???), then up a bunch of stairs to the ruins of some sort of fortress with a fantastic view of the Mantaro Valley, and the Andes in the background with snow-capped mountains. We then walked to a lake where we had freshly cooked trout (another meal up there with the best so far).

Torre Torre: These are geological rock formations about 30-45mins walk from the hostel, heading into the mountains.

Sarah wanted a picture of all of us with the corn fields in the background.
I went along with Natalie, a girl from Israel recently arrived at La Casa. It´s a nice walk, open but deserted, and the rocks themselves are interesting; I don´t know much about rock formations but some pretty hardcore erosion went on years ago, and now there are two very tall, terracotta-coloured obelisk things sticking up, as well as a sort of grate-like formation in the cliff face of the mountain. Very cool.

Hualhuas: is the little town where a lot of textile weaving is done. It´s not much more than one long street where you can browse up and down looking into people´s shops/workplaces. This is the place to buy rugs, corridor runners, wallhangings, llama wool mittens, beanies, etc etc.., as well as natural jewellery and trinkets. I got it into my head at some point earlier that I wanted to buy a wallhanging (or rug), so I ended up with two.

Celebrating Sarah's birthday with a "Te Quiero, Mama" cake.
Now, while people come to Hualhuas specifically to buy textiles, it still remains, like everywhere in and around Huancayo, refreshingly untouristy. Unfortunately, this means it was impossible to find a place to eat a hearty meal. So we decided to catch a taxi to the nearby town of San Jeronimo, but got sidetracked by a pachamanca stall on the way (see my review...)

San Jeronimo: is a somewhat bigger town, where a lot of silver jewellery is made. Now, several people I´d met at the hostel said the jewellery in San Jeronimo is nothing special; you can buy it anywhere. That´s quite true (although it´s a lot cheaper, of course). However, they do some amazingly delicate work, so fine that the silver is still white.

The tiny little singer at one of the bars we went to.
Again, I don´t know much about silver and I didn´t quite understand what the guy said when I asked, but all the finely worked silver pieces were beautiful. I have a little butterfly brooch to prove it.

Cochas: On Thursday, I caught the big yellow bus - it can actually be called a bus - to Cochas, a village where gourd-carving is done. For those of you who don´t know what a gourd is (I didn´t), in Peru at least, it´s the dried wood-like shell of a fruit, usually a pumpkin. Very intricate, and sometimes not so intricate, patterns are carved onto the gourd and coloured with inks. You can find many a sugar pot, mask, serviette holder and canasta covered with beautiful designs. You can find gigantic gourds that tell the story of the ancient peoples in the area - very tempting to buy (but essentially useless, apart from the aesthetic aspect).

Parque de la Identidad Wanka: is a fanciful park containing hundreds of native Peruvian plants and flowers and with statues of famous old singers and scholars, and constructions of houses from ancient times. It reminded me of Park Güell in Barcelona, with a similar curving style and lots of stone mosaics. A man who worked in the park as a photographer befriended me and showed me around the park, explaining the flowers and plants and the statues - actually very useful, not only to learn about the local history, but also for my listening skills in Spanish. Unfortunately, they tend to play traditional music in the park, to give it atmosphere, I suppose, but like everywhere else in this place, it blares out of the speakers and sounds awful. Someone get Huancayo a sound engineer.

Nightlife: To celebrate Sara´s birthday on Saturday night, we went out after dinner to a pizzeria restaurant-bar called Antojitos. The feature of the live band was a sort of midget woman (a very womanly midget woman) with a great voice. The crowd was older, and couples danced every now and then. It was hard to stay inconspicuous when you´re sitting with three blonde girls and another girl with dreadlocks, and they tried to get us to dance, but we snuck away. Next stop was Galileo´s, where I went a week earlier, but there were no spare tables or chairs and it was too smoky anyhow. We ended up chatting in a quiet little bar that offered MTV as entertainment - but we were only looking for something quiet.

On Monday night, everyone was in the mood to drink, so we started at the hostel and ended up at Taj Mahal, (which is, according to a local girl, the best disco in town). A big contrast to the weekend though, as it was completely empty except for a young couple. Oh well. The upside is that you get good bar service and the DJ will listen to your requests (I didn´t bother though, because I figured his collection would be somewhat limited).

La Cabaña has live folk and traditonal music Thurs - Sat, and yesterday we were lucky enough to see two traditional Peruvian dances - from the jungle and from the mountains. They were kind of cool, and the dancers (3 girls and 3 boys) were cute in their ´traditional´ outfits. It´s very common to have laughing and shouting in Peruvian music, and I suspect that the kids across the road from the hostel are learning traditional songs and dances every weekend morning and that´s what I wake up to...

The kids are fascinated by Sofies…
The kids are fascinated by Sofie'…
Sweet faces.
Sweet faces.
Natalie teaching them games.
Natalie teaching them games.
Playground at the orphanage. Spot …
Playground at the orphanage. Spot…
Local women at the markets.
Local women at the markets.
Sarah wanted a picture of all of u…
Sarah wanted a picture of all of …
Celebrating Sarahs birthday with …
Celebrating Sarah's birthday with…
The tiny little singer at one of t…
The tiny little singer at one of …
photo by: voordax