28 June 2015

a dash of peru

F O O D S C H O O L || Taste Tripping Event

This week saw me learning all about Peruvian cuisine from chef Julio Brujis of Panka and team Grace Foods [aka the makers of Encona sauces] at the gorgeous Cactus Kitchens in Clapham [home of the Michel Roux Jr Cookery School]. Encona have recently released a Peruvian Amarillo chilli sauce as part of their Americas range and wanted to showcase their new saucy addition through a Peruvian cooking class. We attempted to make two classic dishes [fish cebiche and prawn quinotto] with the expert guidance of Peruvian chef Julio and the Cactus Kitchens team. Both dishes were super easy, healthy, fresh and tasty! Read on to see more of the venue, learn about Peruvian food and see how I got actually got on when let loose in the kitchen. Beware: many limes were hurt in this post :,(

where || Cactus Kitchens, 1 St Luke's Avenue, London SW4 7LG

Welcome to Cactus Kitchens

In the heart of Clapham, you will find a little converted chapel and vicarage which is now the home of Cactus TV and their cookery school. After weaving your way through the building, climbing a couple of windy staircases, you'll find yourself in the chapel eaves where you're greeted with an open, airy, beautiful cooking space with twelve expertly kitted out stations. I had major kitchen envy at this point - it was such a welcoming and lovely space to just be in, let alone cook some delicious food!

We had two hours to cook two dishes, with a few talks in between from chef Julio [on each dish as well as a little history on Peruvian cuisine] and Sam from Encona [about the new range]. There were a lot of people on hand to watch, help and ensure the evening ran smoothly.

Cebiche masterclass by Chef Julio of Panka

Before we were let loose in the kitchen, chef Julio talked us step-by-step through the first dish: cebiche "Aji Amarillo" style - adapted especially to go with the new Encona sauce.

A few tips when making cebiche from chef Julio:

  • Adding lots of lime [juice] is important - it helps to cook the fish
  • If you're eating raw fish, you need to wash the fish properly [squeeze a little as you do]
  • Adding an ice cube as you mixed everything together as it takes the edge off the lime a little

My favourite part was getting to use this giant Peruvian corn called choclo corn which was delicious and not something I've had before or in a cebiche!

Cebiche by Cathia 

  • 150g white fish fillets
  • 5 limes
  • 1 tbsp Encona Amarillo chilli sauce
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp grated garlic
  • 1/2 red onion finely sliced
  • 1/4 choclo corn (cooked)
  • 1/2 finely sliced red chilli
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • salt to taste
  • 1 ice cube
Get two bowls. Bowl one: add the finely chopped red onion and 2cm cubed fish fillets [I would make them thinner if I were to do this again - personal taste]. Bowl two: mix the choclo corn, coriander, chilli, garlic, ginger, chilli sauce and salt. Next, wash your fish and onions in bowl one, add the juice of 5 limes and then add in the mix from bowl two. At this point, make sure you put in your ice cube [I forgot!] and mix everything together. Taste taste taste [add a bit more salt if needed] until you're happy with the flavour, plate up and eat up!

Prawn Quinotto by Cathia

  • 10 raw king prawns [de-poo'ed!]
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1/2 diced red pepper
  • 1/2 diced courgette
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp Encona Amarillo sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Firstly, chop everything you need to chop [makes it all less stressful in my opinion] - I went for pretty fine slash small cubed chopping of the onion, garlic, courgette, red pepper, tomato and parsley. Add olive oil and the onion into a hot pan, a couple of minutes later add the garlic, then red pepper, then courgette. As that cooks, splash a dash of the Encona chilli sauce on. When everything looks a little more cooked [softened], add the tomato, quinoa, [stir a bit] and then the stock. Simmer for a couple of minutes and add in your prawns [make sure they are de-poo'd, no one wants that all up in their tasty quinotto]. Stir, stir, cook, cook… until the prawns have gone pink and curled up. Add the salt, pepper and a bit of the parsley to taste and voila! Plate up with a dash of olive oil and some diced parsley.

Thank You to Encona / Grace Foods, Satellite PR, Cactus Kitchens, Julio Brujis & wider team

From arrival to departure, all the teams were friendly, attentive and helpful. It was a smooth operation - between the two dishes, stations were cleaned, tools replaced and new ingredients set out without me hardly noticing - all making the experience that much more relaxed and enjoyable. If only real-life kitchens could be as clean, organised and prepped every time I wanted to cook! I liked that we had enough buffer time to actually get to enjoy our dishes in between too [and take a doggy bag if you're a slow coach like me!]. We ended the cooking class with a few bubbles and strawberries [a nice touch] and then were given a beautiful bag each with some Peruvian goodies [not all pictured but included the Gastón Acurio PERU cookbook, classic game Perudo, various Encona sauces, Mellow Yellow oil and all the recipes so we can try out again at home]. Big thanks to all involved and those who organised such a fun evening. Peruvian cooking here I come! Anyone want to be my guinea pig?! : D

hope you're all had a super rainbow love filled weekend #happypride


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