Flavours, stories and colour came together in a wonderful blend at this month’s International Cooking Group gathering
One of the delights of expat life, especially when you have school-age children, is meeting new friends at the beginning of the new school year. I’ve written before about our International Cooking Group, but we had a meeting recently with new friends and wonderful new foods. This month, we were treated to food from Peru and Spain. Fabiola prepared several Peruvian dishes, and Belen prepared Spanish tapas. As woman arrived, one by one, we visited and talked, catching up on each other’s lives and admiring our hostess’s beautiful home. Represented in the group were women from India, Malaysia, Germany, Poland, South Africa, England, France, Switzerland, Peru, the Netherlands, South Korea, Surinam, USA, Estonia, Australia, and, of course, Peru and Spain.
Peru is a country in western South America, sharing borders with Equador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile, and probably best known as the home of Macchu Picchu, the ancient Incan city high in the Andes Mountains. Peru also is home to a section of the Amazon rainforest, and has a huge coastal region set right on the South Pacific Ocean.
Spain is a southern European country, just north of Africa, with Portugal to the southwest and France to the North. It’s a diverse land of coastal and mountain regions, set between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
As my wonderful readers so often enjoy learning about different cultures and perspectives, I thought you might also enjoy trying your hand at making some different foods. A link to each recipe is attached, so you may invite friends over and share a traditional Peruvian meal, or some lovely Spanish tapas, or both. Most could be altered slightly to make them vegetarian if you prefer, and a fun evening of sharing could ensue. Enjoy!
We met at one woman’s flat and, once everyone had arrived, Fabiola introduced us to her Peruvian foods. There was Arroz Con Pollo, a favorite staple of Peruvian cuisine, usually prepared with chicken or duck. It was full of familiar flavors like coriander (cilantro), garlic and rice, and most often is green -(http://perudelights.com/arroz-conpollo-green-is-in/). Next was Causa Limeña, a beautiful layered dish primarily of cold potato that’s unlike any other I’ve ever tried (http://www.limaeasy.com/peruvianfood-guide/typical-starter-appetizer/causa-limena). Causa Limeña can be made many different ways, but essentially is layers of smashed potatoes, seafood, corn, olives, eggs – really whatever you can imagine will taste great together. Next came my favorite of the day, Aji de Gallina, or spicy chicken. It was savory and creamy and loaded with flavour. A perfect comfort food. Then to finish off the Peruvian dishes, there were two slightly different cookies that were absolutely mouthwatering, sweet and buttery, called Peruvian Cornstarch Alfajores, soft crumbling cookies with dulce de leche filling (which I have seen now and again at Nature’s Basket) (https://prettysimplesweet. com/alfajores/). Such a feast we had in store.
After Fabiola finished, Belen introduced her Spanish tapas (appetisers or small portions). She made cheesy croquetas, savory empanadillas, a Tortilla de Patatas, Patatas Bravas and a Tarte de Santiago. Croquetas are much like the corn and cheese balls you often find here at street stands or kids’ parties, but soft and creamy -beautiful little fried balls of cheese and ham (https://www.spanish-food.org/spanish-tapas-croquetas.html). Empanadillas are hand-sized, savoury pastries baked with tuna, egg and tomato. You could get very creative with these, filling them with just about anything. But this recipe will give you an authentic taste – (https://www.expatica.com/new/es/about/cuisine/empanadillas-103271/). Tortilla de Patatas, also known as a Spanish Omelette, is made with egg and potatoes (https://www.thelocal.es/20170210/how-to-make-a-classic-tortilla-depatatas). It is a simple yet elegant dish that can be served hot or cold. Patatas Bravas are small, fried potato bites with a spicy, smoky sauce, which make a wonderful side dish or appetizer – (https://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/patatas-bravas).
Finally, Belen presented a beautiful and delicious Tarte de Santiago, which is a simple yet elegant almond cake (https://www. spanish-food.org/desserts-tarta-desantiago. html), named in honour of Santiago the Apostle (St James), and usually eaten on his feast day.
This is how 20 women from 17 different countries spent a few hours one late morning in Pune. I reflect on how incredible expat life can be as I shared food, fun, conversation and company with such wonderful people from so many different cultures, speaking so many different languages, all while sharing the common experience of living as foreigners in Pune.
Meg Harry is a tax consultant and educator