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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Peru is where the best eats are... (via east london)

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Here's a culinary visit to Peru (the first time I've taken a virtual trip here), via a trendy London eatery specialising in south American dishes (but luckily not serving guinea pig). Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Alpaca are on the menu in Peru. This farm is in Buntingford, Hertfordshire - but these animals
are used for their wool and sold as impressive livestock.
Over Christmas I was invited to a few parties and at each one someone seemed to be talking about the wonderful food from Peru. My knowledge of Peru is limited to Paddington Bear who was a fan of marmalade. I assumed that was a code to mean in the "deepest, darkest jungles of Peru" (I'm quoting THE bear) food wouldn't be so good. And maybe it isn't in the forest. But the Peruvian urban centres have quite a reputation for delicious food amongst travellers and the south American expats I met at these various parties.

Dreadful pic, sorry, but here you have plantain (green banana)
chips on the left and deep fried and breadcrumbed plantain on
the right. Both were delicious and served at Andina.
So what's going for Peruvian cuisine? And where can I try it?  Turns out that it's super popular in trendy east London. And it's not just the hip crowd who are there, as it's suitably British-palate friendly offering more indigenous potatoes you could shake a chip fat pan at. It's also the original home of quinoa which is either a super food or a food of the gods, depending on which blogs you follow. I just think of it as pricey but then three work colleagues led me to the fabulous tapas-type dining at Andina in Old Street (just near Shoreditch High Street overground) and tasted near-perfect Peruvian ceviche, quinoa salad with avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds etc. The quinoa had a bit of crunch, so tasty. There was quite a bit of meat on offer - marinated, grilled and served with a sauce - which I don't eat so can't give you feedback on this. But... it seems that Peru has something for everyone: the veggies, the pescatarians and the carnivores.

Plus there's meant to be amazing Chinese food - brought to Peru by railway workers - which tastes just like it did 100 years ago because the locals liked Chinese tastes, whereas in the UK noodles and sauce needed adapting to suit our famously conservative palate. It's a lovely idea to think of a dish like lomo saltado (stir fried beef) being pure to its origins - and still able to offer a - delicious - taste of a different time.

According to the National Geographic if Peru had a national dish then it would be ceviche - raw fish marinated in lime and red onion and then served with sweet potato and choclo (maize with super big kernels).

They are an adventurous lot in Peru - guinea pig (cuy) is often on the menu. You definitely shouldn't try this at home on Chocolate (or whatever cute name your pet has) but when roasted they do still have a lot of bones so it's a dish for chewing and spitting. But you could try making causa - alternate layers of avocado and thinly sliced potato which is given extra interest by adding tuna fish (often from a tin) and hard boiled egg.

Strangely I spent xmas day just by an alpaca farm... In Peru the alpaca is famous for making good dried jerky. It's fun to have learnt so many things about Peru. Of course people know it best for Machu Pichu. Now i just have to decide what's a comparable destination in the UK to this famous altitude-splitting hike? Let me know in the comments...


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