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Monday, November 02, 2015

A Farewell To A Great Chef

At times, certain people knowingly or not will leave an unforgettable mark upon your life. Perhaps in their conduct, their writings or simply in a word spoken at the right time.  They are great because of their accomplishments in overcoming diverse trials; some are great because of the honor that they created upon their name, while others are so because of the change they have made in the lives of many for the better.
Such a man was Chef Paul Prudhomme, from a sharecropper family of thirteen children chef Paul gleaned his love for the great fresh food upon the strings of his mothers apron.  Later he traveled the highways and byways of American refining his craft in style and in knowledge returning to Louisiana to head some of the great Creole kitchens of the world. Never limiting himself, he considered the earth his table, he believed that only what was of quality was worthy of his culinary styling. The complexity of cuisine was found in itself and therefore required just a little coaxing to make that ingredient shine. He perhaps was the father of the farm to table movement now most popular in the restaurants of today.

As a Cajun cook, Paul knew that value of combining cultures, it matter little whether the cuisine was native American, French, Latin, West Indian, Asian, Eastern European or any other culture, food of that culture meant flavor combinations that could lead to the “wow” factor upon the palate. His “fresh is best” convictions lead him to such exceptional awards as: “Restaurateur of the Year”, “Culinarian of the Year”, Diplomates Award, Louisiana Public Broadcasting Legend Award, “Fine Dining Legend Award” along with many, many others. He was an actual legend in his own time.

As a culinary author Chef Paul created cookbooks that reflected his strong belief that good food is found within the hands of whom ever is cooking it. They simply had to follow the basics and give the rightful homage to the ingredient. Internationally recognized for being responsible for instructing the world in Cajun/Creole cuisines his writing were never limited to that approach in cuisine but rather that blending of cultures that made his culinary writings well worth reading.

As most great chefs are, Chef Paul was a teacher, proved by his writings, his television programs and his hands on approach to his food served in his French Quarter restaurant K-Pauls. This is where I first met the great chef, not behind the stoves, cutting boards or bain maries within the kitchen, but rather on the street in front of restaurant handing out samples of his breathtaking food. That day it was his Chicken Jambalaya served over fusilli pasta that tickled the taste buds, coaxing patrons to return that evening and dine in his award winning restaurant, if you didn’t return you still left New Orleans knowing you had sampled greatness in food.

Later on Chef Paul’s writings would inspire many of the dishes I would serve in my own restaurants, thus passing on to others the inspiration Chef Paul became to me. Many of my students and apprentice chefs have had the benefit of his knowledge which was passed on from me to them. As an educator passing on wisdom played a great value in his cooking style,thus many of my cookbooks and writing have taken on Chef Paul’s philosophy.

Chef Paul was a visionary, a pioneer, a culinary legend, his life and memory will be honored with every mouthful of delicious Louisiana cuisine. Blackened Redfish, Turducken, Cajun gumbos, jambalayas and dirty rice would be Chef Paul’s choice of how we remember him best. At 75 we will miss this great and talented man. R..I.P. Chef Paul

My version of a Chef Paul’s recipe, I hope you remember his greatness when prepare this dish.


1½ lbs        670 g          Diced boneless chicken
2 tbsp        30 ml           Safflower oil
2 tbsp        30 ml           Butter
½ lb           225 g          Andouille sausage (or any hot raw sausage)
½ cup        125 ml         Diced onions
2                2                 Minced garlic cloves
3 tbsp        45 ml           Chopped parsley
½ cup        375 ml         Diced green bell pepper
2                2                 Diced celery stalks
2 cups        500 ml         Peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
1 tsp          3 ml             Each of white pepper, black pepper, oregano leaves, basil, thyme leaves,                                                      garlic powder, onion powder, chilli powder.
2 tsp           10 ml          Worcestershire sauce
3 drops       3 drops       Tabasco sauce
1 lb.            454 g          Fettuccini noodles


In a Dutch oven or large kettle, sauté the chicken in the oil and butter, add the sausage and vegetables and continue to sauté until vegetables are tender.

Stir in the remaining ingredients (except pasta).  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 40-45 minutes.

Cook the fettuccini to al dente in 8 cups (2 l) boiling salted water.  Drain.  Toss the pasta first with a small amount of the sauce then place on a serving platter. Pour chicken on the noodles and serve. SERVES 6

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Passion Re-Kindled Cooks Re-Energized

Over the forty plus years of culinary guidance I have trained literally hundreds of cooks, chef de parties, sous chefs and chef de cuisines. Having hired most them, I always ask this one question during the interview: “Why do you want to become a cook and then chef?” The answer is often the same, “I have a passion for cooking.” 

Kananaskis Lodge, AB

Soon however the reality of the job settles in and the stresses become high, the performance weakens and the passion soon fades. Little did they understand the work place and the career they are choosing? Hours are long often 10 or more a day with a minimum of 60 per week. Wages are low, most cooks in Canada make 12.00 per hour or less (before taxes) yet the cost of living is high, average rent in Canada 1200.00 per month (before utilities) so the cook (and most others in the hospitality business) must work 100 hours just to pay rent. They must study for provincial gold seals and then onto inter-provincial red seals to achieve journeyman status, 2 years of school at the college level and then 1800 hours of on the job training, to make that 12.00. They must meet health department codes and be approved by local, county or state, provincial governments. They must meet liquor control board service codes and be licensed by the board, meet and exceed corporation’s standards with whom they are employed. And, more than anything keep the client happy and excited to consume the food they cook.

They face hot kitchens (I once worked in one that 129°F I was taken to hospital with heat induced pneumonia).  Stress from what is cooking, stress of cooking in timely fashion (consumers now think everything must come a QSR paces), stress from servers (who are stressed by clients) stress from chefs, stress from managers not mention personal stresses that we all must deal with daily. Stress from just breathing, the average cook will gain 3-5 pounds a year from simply breathing in the oils used to cook. 

Stress to maintain and create menus with food items that people actually know and want to eat. Stress of presenting that food in a fashion that is pleasing to the sight as consumers eat with their eyes first, (if it doesn’t look good it is not going to taste good.) Stress from having often to work twice as hard because many co-worker do not show for their shift, simply quit without notice.  The stresses are so great that according to The 21st Century Psychology:  A Reference Handbook , “included in the top ten suicidal occupations are businesspeople, cooks, writers, mine workers and police officers (oh oh, I have done the first four.) College professors and minister are the lowest risk,” (I have done those two too.) It may be true that those who are more creative and concerned with their offering may be those who are at the highest risks. Passion is sure to get a good re-thinking given the circumstances any cook or chef must work daily beneath.  So what is a cook to do, or anyone for that matter to keep the passion flowing so that the ultimate career goal is accomplished?

Shake up your routine

As difficult as this may seem to a cook, for they must follow routine to insure excellence in service, the mise-en-place must be exactly the same daily. Shaking up the routine may be exactly what the doctor would order. Routine and boredom often go hand and hand. Many cooks lose their passion because of the factory line step up in the kitchen. They do exactly the same thing day in and day out without any change or challenge. They are not required to use the skills they thought they had and were the reason they became cooks in the first place and so the desire fades and the boredom from routine takes place, the once excited cooks becomes the complacent employee, doing just enough to get by.  Adding a little variety to your day might be just what they need. Try creating something new for the daily staff meal, eat at ethnic restaurants for variety in culinary and cultural experience, write a daily journal with the pros and cons of the day (be sure both are therein).  Most importantly mentor a junior and allow yourself to be mentored by a senior.

Give yourself incentives

Don’t wait for the manager, chef or servers to validate you, follow the five P’s and you will know you have validation in self. (The five P’s: Proper, Presentation, Prevents, Poor, Performance.) Be your own cheer leader, when you do excellence, you know it, be extremely happy with yourself in doing so. . When you have a difficult catering job ahead of you, find a way to reward yourself after you complete that affair, believe the client when they say “a job well done.”  That is your validation, think on that to really brighten your day and keep that accolade to yourself but be sure to give it to your team. Celebrating those entire small successes can (every plate that returns to the kitchen scraped clean) help you recognize what’s going right.

Build new skill sets

The death nail for any cook is to think they know it all, learning a new cuisine is a great way to fire up your creativity and to get inspired again. It also makes you a more creative and therefore more valuable chef. Whether you read a new cookbook, browse cooking blogs, take service and culinary classes, or simply ask more questions of your mentor, find a way to keep growing and increasing your knowledge base. Then teach it to others.

Variety of Spice outside of work

Your job is what you do not who you are. Find the things that define you then do them with your whole heart. If you follow politics then support your local MP, MPP, MLA etc. Get involved with getting them elected.  Teach others what they need to know to have a life that is better than yours. Wisdom is the application of knowledge, seeing that knowledge grow within another has great rewards.  Try a new exercise routine, sign up for a cooking class (one where you have no skill in) or some other type of class, start a new hobby.  But more than anything else spend time with your family.

Surround yourself with encouraging people

Join culinary groups where you can voice your concerns, failures and challenges, chefs associations, world cooks association, other social clubs like Lions Clubs then get involved. Go to church, one that has your belief system and where you learn something every time you meet.  Meet your best friend for just you two time. Plan and keep a date. Volunteer with a nonprofit. Fill your life with positive influences. Read a lot; try reading a successful person biography twice a month.  Always try to be part of something bigger than you are.

Hug a veteran or those who presently serve, someone who gave so much for you, deserves so much  from us.  Find what a vet's need, then go and do it for them. Cook them a meal, cook them a bunch meals. You cannot repay what they have given.

Get a reality check

Sometimes, just on occasion, take a reality check of your life and what it can be. Then make plans that are attainable and work toward them. Talking honestly with your co-workers, friends and mentors about their jobs can give you a much-needed reality check on your work. Others experiences may be the guiding light to shape your future, or they be the lesson needed to avoid a looming failure, whichever they may be, learn and glean from what others have already endured, why repeat a mistake someone else has, why not repeat a success someone else has created.  

An award winning recipe is not often a secret recipe but rather one that is done exactly right and served in perfection.  One which made over and over again until it is perfect.  Every year there many state fair award winning pies, isn’t an apple pie just an apple pie, not when it is done flawlessly. So make your mistakes but learn from each one and then improve. Be real, with others, co-workers, chefs, managers and most importantly yourself.

Be grateful, look around you, no matter what you see there is always someone worse off, on a recent trip I had a meal with a family of 6 in what could be consider a hole in a wall (literally) yet a happier more grateful group of people I have rarely met. Living on less than 5.00 per day for the six of them, they insisted on providing me with lunch. Lesson learned, thank you Lord for the real beautiful people may I ever be like they.

Practice kindness.

Kindness is defined as usefulness employed. It is doing something for someone without the expectation of a return. It is seen mostly in compassion, what is compassion? It is to experience what another undergoes and to have the power to change it. Everyone sees the beggar not everyone is compassionate upon him however, why not you?

Let me give you a personal story related to kindness and showing compassion, based on Proverbs 19:17 (NIV) Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
A few years ago I decided to learn about the working of a seed, not by science, but by an expert in seeds, a farmer. My very good friend Murray is a farmer outside of Calgary Alberta so I invited him and his wife for a stay with Dianna and I at Kananaskis Lodge so we could talk and I could learn of the power of the seed. He was delighted to go but we would have to stop in High River to obtain some parts to repair a tractor of his. No problem, when we arrived at the tractor outlet there was a food truck and we decided to have some hamburgers and fries.  As I purchased our food a couple of men came along begging the food truck owner for some food. He chased them away, but compassion within me spoke and I bought them their meals. A whole ten dollars, but how happy they were to get something to eat, we continued on our journey. Inside myself God spoke and said “see what I will do with that ten dollars.”

We arrived at the lodge and were given a two bedroom suite as that was all there was left. We went down to the dining room for dinner and here we were greeted by a maître d’ whom I had trained. He was very happy to see us and treated us to a flambé dessert of Cherries Jubilee after our steaks. After dinner we returned to suite to continue our education on seeds, shortly there came a knock on the door and a very large basket of fresh fruit and chocolates had arrived, again courtesy of the maître d’ . We had a great time learning and eating chocolate.

As we departed the next day I went to the check out to pay our bill, expecting a bill around 800.00 for the suite and dinner the evening before. Instead I was handed a bill for 60.00 just for the taxes due. The manager of the hotel and the maître d’ paid for the rest. Was I happy, you betcha. Then that small voice spoke up and said, see what I did with that ten dollars you spend for those two men. Compassion, show it, live it and let 
God shed His upon you.

Learn to forgive,

The best way to get your passion back is to practice forgiveness. First to self, then to others,  some hurt that is small within if left to fester can become huge, be quick to forgive and your be quick to receive the benefits of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is your freedom plan, harbouring hurt does nothing to the one that hurt you, it only causes harm within yourself, their gone and living their life, your lack of forgiveness stops you from living yours.  You will find mean spirited people everywhere, forget them, forgive their words and move forward. 

Words are powerful, be sure yours are always infused with forgiveness.  

Finally read a Proverb a day, they will encourage your spirit, lift your soul and bring you to wise decisions, just look at this from Chapter Two:

Proverbs 2 New International Version (NIV)

 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Otavalo, Ecuador Part 2

Every place has "that place" you know the one that has everything which makes it extraordinary, memorable.  Niagara Falls has a few, my favorite (perhaps) is  the restaurant below the Brock monument. Queenston Hieghts Restaurant, which  has spectacular views of the Niagara basin, Niagara on the Lake, scenes of the river as it flows into Lake Ontario.  The food is at par with most Niagara restaurants, but it is totally the surroundings.  A historic War of 1812 heritage site, it is located close to where Sir Issac Brock was mortally wounded during the battle of Queenston Heights, a decisive battle of victory over the Americans. I love history and here Canadian history was made.

So too, my trip to Otavalo, Ecuador brought me to such places of interest. Spectacular views,  incredible settings, food that was good, and rich in history. One such place is nestled beneath the Imbabura volcano is La Laguna de San Pablo, also known by the indígenas people as Imbakucha. It is largest of the 28 stunning lakes of Imbabura province. A quick taxi ride of just 4 km from Otavalo the lake is a quiet, peaceful place, to watch 12 species of waterfowl, go horseback riding, mountain biking, search for amphibians or fish for trucha (trout). 

On these rainy, chilly days in January the water sports are not likely what you may want to do, but should you visit in better weather you may enjoy a variety of swimming, boating, fishing or just relaxing and passing the day away. If you are so inclined, you can hike around the 15 km circumference of the lake.  From the lake flows the Peguche river and a waterfall  of 18m (54ft) which bears the same name as the river, set in a nice nature park.

On the shore of La Laguna de San Pablo is a small resort called Puerto Lago, set as a lighthouse on the coast. This resort has what some consider the finest restaurant of the Otavalo area. A pleasant park setting, special cabin style suites for those who choose to stay on the lake.  The restaurant is  The most exciting thing was a Aji sauce (my recipe featured in part 1). I had a stuffed trout, which were supposedly caught from the lake, although it seemed doubtful as it fish was not fresh and had a texture that stated it had been previously frozen.  The fish was stuffed with chopped seafood and breadcrumbs which lacked seasoning, but more disappointing was that the cook deep fried the chopped seafood making the tiny pieces into bits of rubber.  A cream caper sauce, which again lacked flavor coated the fish.  I found the small Otavalo restaurants, like Chievce 523 (at 1/3rd the cost) to be a far more flavorsome. La Laguna de San Pablo is truly a special place, but maybe pack a picnic to dine upon. Considered international gourmet, but I found I no better than 2 year culinary student fare.

Unquestionably my favorite meal  in the Otavalo area (Cotacahi) was not in a restaurant at all, but in the home of fabulously nice family who shared a pot of homemade chicken and pasta soup. Served with a side of beans, a corn on the cob and a slice of quesco fresco.  The soup was made with great care and served with a joy and pride. The humble setting could not compare with the gourmet setting of Puetro Lago because of the happiness of this family and the wonderful hospitality they showed to us. 

Cotacahi is a must go to town, again a few miles from Otavalo, but a world of difference. Otavalo's markets are like none other but the leather shops of Cotacahi  are incredible as well, Artisan shops line the main street and you can buy any type of leather item, from shoes, boots and jackets to coin purses, bags, and suitcases, so be sure to make it one of your stops while in the area.  

Stuffed Trout
6 ea Trout, boneless
6 oz Crab Meat, cooked
6 oz Cooked Shrimp, chopped
6 Tblsp Butter
3 Tblsp Onion, finely chopped
3 Tblsp Parsley, chopped
3 Tblsp Celery, chopped
1 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs, fine
1 Tbsp Chef K seafood seasonings
2 Eggs, beaten
Salt  & pepper to taste
If the trout are head on, remove the heads. Remove any fibres from the crab and flake. Prepare shrimp. Melt butter and saute onion, parsley and celery until softened. Remove from heat. Add crumbs, seasonings, crab meat, shrimp and eggs. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper Fill pocket inside of trout with stuffing. Brush surface of fish with butter. Bake in 375 degree oven until just done, about 15 minutes. Baste with butter once while baking.

Serve with Tarragon Cream Sauce.

1 1/2 cups white wine
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In large saucepan, over medium high heat, bring wine, onion, pepper, and whole tarragon sprigs to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by at least 1/2, about 25 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.
Remove and discard the tarragon sprigs.
Add cream, reduce heat, simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in salt and chopped tarragon.

Ecuadorian Chicken Pasta Soup

2 pounds chicken drumsticks with skin
1 whole red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 whole red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra for garnish cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons achiote oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
8 cups homemade chicken broth
2 whole scallions, trimmed
3 potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup small soup pasta cooked
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Begin by soaking the rice in a nonreactive bowl with 1 cup of water. Set aside. In a Dutch oven pot or medium deep pot, heat the achiote oil.
Add in the refrito: chopped red onion, garlic cloves, red bell pepper, parsley, and cilantro. Saute for 2 minutes.
Add in salt, ground pepper, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp oregano. Saute for another 2 minutes.
Place chicken drumsticks in the pot and stir to combine all flavorings. Saute for 5 minutes.
Then add in the chicken broth and whole scallions. Stir and bring to a boil, about 10 minutes.
Add in 1/2 tsp of cumin and 1/2 tsp of oregano. Stir and cook for 20 minutes.
Add in potatoes, cover pot, cook for 10 minutes.
Add in carrots, cover pot, and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Add in the pasta, peas, cover pot, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Season soup with salt and pepper and serve soup when chicken meat is falling off the bone, all vegetables are tender, and when it's thick.
Serve along with sliced avocados, a wedge of lime, and Aji hot sauce.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Foods of Otavalo, Ecuador Part 1

Map of town.

As many Canadians rush to the sunny, warm Caribbean or Hawaiian beaches in the chill of the dark Canadian winter, I get an invitation to visit Otavalo, Ecuador, not exactly a tourist hot spot in any sense of the word, yet better than 30 cm of snow to shovel. However dollar for dollar there is no comparison, if you do not need the beach, this truly is the place for anyone to visit for a breathtaking winter or summer break, in fact so nice are the people and the area that many Canadians and Anericans make this area of Ecuador home year round. 

Here the beautiful people are those of the area, friendly, warm, hardworking, ever a smile on every face.  A mix mostly of Latin Americans and Ecuadorian natives  (indígenas) , harmony is the sense any outsider will see.  Stop in the town square and soon the Otavaleños  will be greeting you with a cheerful "buenos días or buenas tardes " depending on the time of day. Don't be surprised if the old or young just slide up  to you as you sit on a bench and just want to talk with you, just conversation, that's what they are up to, unlike many other third world countries where an outsider is a target for the beggars, in fact here you will be hard pressed to even see a beggar and when you do you will be moved to help them .

 You'll enjoy watching the indigenas dressed primarily in traditional garments. Men wear dark felt hats, short cotton white pants, blue ponchos and long ponytails. Women braid their hair and wear frilly, colorful embroidered white blouses, long black skirts, fachalinas (beautifully woven head scrafs) and bright layered beaded necklaces. 

The street team with happy people, food everywhere, restaurants, street vendors, or people just selling pots of chicken and potatoes from their doorways. Mangoes, red giant globe grapes and beautiful cherries (in the dead of winter) all sold by wheel barrow pushing vendors.  Get them while you can, as the next fruit becomes ready they  too will be placed in this simple form of transportation and retail. 

Not ready to enjoy street food, well Otavalo has one of the greatest markets in the world. Daily fresh meats, vegetables, fruit and mercantile are sold in three or four markets spread around the city, however, on Saturday the entire center of town become one great market.  Street after street, ally way and lane way all teaming with thousands of people buying and selling Alpaca Llama wool, blankets, leather goods, electronics, more foodstuffs, spices,
a bargain hunter could get lost for days within the market. If the kiosks of peddler's is not sufficient for the shopper the streets, of course, are lined with retail shops offering even more goods at incredibly low prices, at least by North American standards.

Otavalo as with other Andes cities’s cuisine have a higher consumptions of potatoes, corn, beans, grains, nuts, fermented food, hot soups and coladas ( hot cereals made of grains flour).  As protein goes, "pollo" chicken is the mainstay, pork "credo" will follow and beef " carne de resa" distant third (very high cost for the average person).  The chicken is offered stewed, shallow fried, but by far more  Nearly every meal consists of the feature accompanied by potatoes, rice and a side salad. The "patatas"  served boiled or semi fried.  Arroz con pollo or Chaulafan is the Ecuadorian version of fried rice which shouldn't surprise anyone that it is fantastically scrumptious sold in great round pans street side much like Spanish Pella especially on the Saturday market day. Many of the dishes will be offered with three condiments Aji cirollo, Salsa Rosada,  and Salsa Amarillo (Yellow Pepper Sauce) all delectable and will leave you wanting more.  Cuy (wild guinea pig) is the national dish in Ecuador, small and stringy you will need to eat a few if your hungry, most commonly served like chicken, rotisserie or fried if you can in fact find a restaurant that serves it, many advertise such but few actually do.
common is baked or slowed, turned on a rotisserie, " asador de pollos".

Otavaleños pride themselves in the cleanliness of streets, homes and restaurants. You constantly see street sweepers cleaning the sidewalks and roadways, by street sweepers I mean people with brooms not great sweeping machines.  The homes (even in the poorest) are spotless, so much so  that the dirt floors look spotless. Restaurants are immaculate, every area exhibits the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness.  I certainly would have taken pride in each kitchen that I visited.  

One of my favorite spots for coffee was a small chocolate restaurant called "Choccobanano" here we experienced the owners (Hugo) excellent individually brewed café negro fuerte, served by
Esther along with excellent food created by his cook Mayra. Here we talked local food and chocolate, I taught them about the Canadian butter tart, "pastelería mantequilla tarta" while they shared a family secret banana bread recipe, " pan de plátano" see below for the recipes.

Butter Tarts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup lard            
1/3 cup cold water
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.
In a separate bowl, whisk together water, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and vinegar. Stir into flour mixture and knead dough briefly, just until smooth. Allow to rest 15 minutes before rolling out. Pastry is easier to work with when chilled. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week.   
 1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup soft butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Prepare muffin pans by rolling out pie dough and cutting 4-inch (approx) circles; fit dough circles into muffin cups; set aside in fridge until ready to fill.
In a small bowl, place raisins and cover with hot tap water; let stand on the counter for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the soft butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup; stir well until sugar is dissolved and butter is creamed.
Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
Drain raisins.
Retrieve tart shells and divide raisins equally into all shells; then divide butter mixture into all tarts.
Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes; filling will be lightly browned but still bubbling.

Spanish version as given to me. (Versión española como dado a mí .)
2 tazas de harina preparar
1 taza de harina integral
1 taza de azύcar morena
1 taza de nueces picaditas (optativo)
2 cucharadas de harina de garbanzo diluidas en agua
2 o 4 bananas maduras y aplastadas como en pure
3 cucharaditas de polvo de hornear
1/3 taza de aceite
2 taza de auga caliente
Precaliente el horno a 165C.
Mezcle todos los ingredientes secos. Agregue las nueces, la haṅna de garbanzo en agua y el hiviendo. Finalmente incorpore la banana y el polvo de homear. Puede batir la harina de garbanzo con agua gasificada nieve y agregar la banana. Untar un molde y cocinar que esté cocido, hornear durante 1 hora para 1⅓ horas.
English Version
2 cups flour, all purpose
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional )
2 tablespoons chickpea flour diluted in water
2 cup hot water
2 or 4 ripe bananas and crushed and mashed
1/3 cup oil
Preheat the oven to 325⁰F.
Mix the first four  dry ingredients. Add nuts. Blend the chickpea  flour with the water and reserve. Incorporate the banana and the dry ingredients. Fold in the chickpea flour soaked in the water, fold in the oil. Grease a loaf pan and spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour to 1⅓ hours or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Tamarillo or Tree Tomato Aji hot sauce

 4-5 tamarillos (tree tomatoes, fresh or frozen)
 2 ajies or hot peppers (Serranos are the best substitute)*
 2 tbsp, finely chopped white onion
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
¼ cup water
Salt to taste
 Optional – Add 2 tbsp cooked and peeled or pickled chochos or lupini beans. Lupini Beans have a sweet flavor and firm texture. This is a very versatile bean and high in proteins. Eat Lupini Beans by themselves, cooked, chilled and lightly salted, as a snack. Use them in cold or hot salads. (Place lupini beans pic here)
If using fresh tree tomatoes peel them,  boil them for about 5 minutes to make it easier to peel them.
If using frozen tree tomatoes, defrost them over night in the fridge, then cut them in half and scoop out all the insides.
Blend the tree tomatoes with the hot peppers (seeded and deveined if you want it very mild, you can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild).
Transfer the blended mix of tree tomatoes and hot peppers to a small saucepan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. You can also omit the cooking part, the sauce will be fresher, but will need to be consumed faster.
Add the onion, lime juice, cilantro, chochos (if adding), and salt to taste.
Serve warm or cold.
*Aji amarillo, also called amarillo chili and ají escabeche

Biche de pescado or fish soup
Biche de pescado, or viche de pescado, is a traditional Ecuadorian soup made with fish, peanuts, yuca, sweet plantains, corn, and other vegetables and spices.
 Fish and peanut broth
 ½ - ¾ lb fish heads and bones, or use a small whole fish
 8 cups + 2-4 cups water, adjust based on how thick you want the soup
1 cup milk
1 cup peanuts, lightly toasted
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 tsp ground cumin
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt to taste
Fish soup
2 lbs white fish fillets (halibut, monkfish, ling cod, sea bass, etc), cut in medium sized pieces
2 tbs butter or oil
2 cups chopped red onion, about 1 whole onion
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bell pepper, diced, about 1 cup
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp achiote or annatto powder*
2 tbsp plain peanut butter, unsweetened
1 ½ lb yuca or cassava, peeled and quartered, fresh or frozen
2 very ripe plantains (the ones that are starting to get black), sliced in about 10 rounds per plantains
2 corn ears, cut into 6-8 small rounds per ear of corn
2-3 finely chopped cilantro or parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve:
Lime slices and Aji hot sauce
Fish and peanut broth
Bring 8 cups of lightly salted water to boil, add the fish heads, bones and other pieces, boil for about 30 minutes or until the pieces begin to come apart, strain the broth.
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat to prepare a quick refrito, add the onions, garlic, cumin and salt, cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
Blend the lightly toasted peanuts with the refrito, the milk, and 2 cups of the fish broth, blend until smooth.
Strain the peanut, milk, refrito and broth mixture and mix with the remaining fish broth plus 2-4 cups of cold water.
Fish soup
Heat the 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat; add the chopped onions, garlic, pepper, achiote powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cook over low heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the fish, peanut broth and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the corn, the yuca and the 2tbs of peanut butter. Simmer for about 35-40 minutes or until the yuca is cooked.
Add the plantain slices and the fish chunks, cook on low heat until the fish is cooked, about 8-10 minutes.
Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve warm with lime slices.
* Achiote is popular Latin American spice. It goes by the name of annatto in English. Achiote or annatto is mainly used to give a golden orange color to the food. Achiote is a must have for things like refrito or sofrito, as well as for many soups, stews, and rice dishes

2 cups of uncooked white rice use medium grain rice (sorted and rinsed if needed)
2 tbsp oil (olive oil, sunflower, canola) or butter
2 tbsp minced or finely chopped white onions
2 ¼ cups water
Salt to taste (add the salt when you add the water and the water should taste like a lightly salted broth, for a lightly salted rice I add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
Optional – 1 garlic clove, minced
For arroz amarillo: ½ teaspoon of ground achiote or annatto
Heat the oil or butter on medium temperature in medium sized saucepan.
Add the minced onions and garlic (and achiote if making arroz amarillo or yellow rice), cook until the onions are translucent or soft, about 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir it in so that it is well coated with the oil, add the water and bring it to a boil.
Let the water, reduce until it barely covers the rice, cover with a lid, reduce the temperature to low, and cook for about 20-25 min.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 (6 pound) whole chicken
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until very hot. While the oil heats, mash the cumin, salt, oregano, and garlic together into a paste in a heat-proof bowl; whisk the hot oil into the paste. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the lime juice and orange juice; stir. Place the chicken in a large sealable bag; pour the marinade over the chicken and shake to assure an even coating. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Arrange the marinated chicken in a roasting pan.
Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 hour. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).

Ecuadorian Chicken Rice Soup
Yield: For ~8 people
Ecuadorian chicken rice soup or aguado de gallina is a thick soup made with chicken, rice, potatoes, onions, peppers, other vegetables, herbs and spices.
3 lbs chicken, assorted pieces
¾ cup rice, uncooked
2 tbsp sunflower oil or butter
1 cup chopped red onion, about ½ onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper, about 1 pepper
2 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbs fresh chopped oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground achiote
8 cups chicken broth or water
2 potatoes, peeled and diced, about 3 ½ cups
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Serve with:
Chopped chives or green onions
Avocado slices
Aji criollo hot sauce
Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes
Heat the oil or butter in a large saucepan to make a refrito with the onions, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, oregano, cumin, achiote and salt, cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.
Add the chicken broth or water and bring to a boil.
Add the chicken pieces and cook for 30 minutes.
Add the soaked rice and the chopped potatoes, cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes
Add the peas and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the both the peas and carrots are tender.
Add the chopped cilantro and serve with avocado slices and hot sauce or aji.


1.5-2 lbs of flank steak, thin cut across the grain in 4,
2 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
Ecuadorian rice
Salchipapas, (French fries) **
Fried Eggs
Fried plantains (Patacones) *
Salsa Rosada***
Salsa Amarillo (Yellow Pepper Sauce)****

In a food processor, combine the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix.  Pour the marinade over the meat and massage the cuts of meat, making sure every piece is coated with the marinade.  Let the meat marinade in the fridge at least for an hour.  If you leave it overnight, even better!

Heat your grill or grill pan and grill the meat to the cooking temperature of your preference (rare, medium rare, etc.)  Grill 3 minutes per side for medium over hot charcoal.  Let the steaks rest for 10 minutes in a warm place to ensure all the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
For the encurtido, slice a small red onion in thin slices.  In a bowl, place the onion slices and pour about 1 tsp of olive oil, the juice of one lemon and season it with salt and pepper.  Let the onion marinade for 5-10 minutes until you start seeing the juices turn red.  Pour it over the lettuce and tomato salad.
Serve with white rice, plantains, a fried egg, fries, lettuce and tomato salad, sliced avocado and encurtido and the accompanying salsas.
* Patacones
Double-fried plantains are prepared by peeling the fruit and then cutting it into ½ inch rounds. Place these side by side in a large frying pan to which oil has been added. Fry until golden brown on each side and then remove to a wooden cutting board. On the cutting board, use a large, heavy mallet to smash each round into a flower-shape. Return to the frying pan, adding more oil if needed. Add a couple of tablespoons of margarine for extra flavor. Continue frying, turning until each side is golden brown. Serve hot, with salt.
** Salchipapas (French Fries Ecuadorian style sometime cooked with hot dogs)
1-2          medium potatoes
2              cups of cooking oil
Cooking Instructions
Step 1   Cut the potatoes into ½ inch-thick strips, as for French fries.
Step 2   Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Remove to a paper-towel lined plate allow to cool, then fry a second time until nicely golden.  many restaurants in Otavalo will only cook the potatoes once leaving them rather limp and not crisp.

*** Salsa Rosada
1 cup store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
6 tbsp ketchup, adjust to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions,  Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

****Salsa Amarillo (Yellow Pepper Sauce)
Ají amarillo paste (follows)                  ¼ cup
Mayonnaise                                             ½ cup
Whole-milk yogurt or sour cream      ½ cup
Lime juice                                               ½ each
Salt                                                           To taste
Whisk together ingredients.
Taste; adjust salt as desired.
Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Aji Amarillo Paste
2 pounds of fresh Aji Panca yellow peppers (similar to yellow banana peppers)
1/4 cup oil
Remove both ends off of the pepper & slice lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scrape away the seeds and veins.
Cover the peppers with water and place the pot on the stove. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain. Cool slightly, then peel the skin from the pepper.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and then add the peeled peppers. Saute until the peppers begin to brown slightly. Transfer peppers to a blender, or my preferred method, use a hand blender to blend peppers into a sauce.
Store in the refrigerator or freeze small portions for later use.
Yield: Makes 3 1/2 cups


12 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ounce lard or 1 ounce shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 lb Queso Fresco  (white cheese,) shredded*
Orange zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups oil, for frying
Mix flour and baking powder well. Cut in shortening.
Mix water, salt and lemon juice. Stir well.
Blend water into the flour mixture, a bit at a time until you get a soft dough. Knead it well.
Roll out dough until it is pretty thin. Cut circles with a cup or cutter, of the size you desire.
Start heating your oil.
Mix the cheese with the orange zest, this creates your filling.
Put 1 tbsp filling (depending on size of circles you have cut) into the middle of each circle. Fold over and turn the edges to seal well.
Fry them in a skillet, with a lot of oil. Spoon hot oil over them as they fry, so that both sides get golden and you don't have to turn them. They puff up as you spoon the oil over them.
Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with sugar and serve immediately, as the dough and the cheese hardens when they get cold.
* Queso Fresco, as the name states, this is a fresh cheese, similar to fresh mozzarella, fresh whole milk is acidified and left to curdle, and then strained in cheesecloth and pressed. The cheese can be eaten immediately or aged for a few days.  Sold in the Otvalato food markets, or, purchase yours at any Latin food market. 
Queso Fresco
One gallon of whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
1/2 cup of lime juice (about four limes) or 1/4 cup of white vinegar
Salt to taste
Coddle the milk in a non-aluminum pot on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, a coddle is to heat just below the boiling point, but don’t let it boil!. If you’re using a thermometer, the temperature should be 185 degrees.
Add the lime juice. The curds will separate from the whey and the mixture will look granular, simmer for a couple of minutes.
Pour the pot’s contents into a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it drain for a couple of minutes. (If you want to save the whey so you can use it to later.)
Sprinkle the curds with salt (you can go saltier than you normally would, as a lot of the salt will drain from the cheese as it dries). You may add fresh chopped herbs, spices or chopped chiles at this stage.
Gather the curds in the center, tie the cheesecloth’s ends and hang the cloth so it can drain for 6 hours, overnight would be far better.
Untie the cheesecloth, you should have a nice semi soft ball of cheese now.  You may wrap it in plastic and keep it or place it in a tupperware bowl, cover with the reserve whey liquid and refrigerate. This cheese will keep as long as the recommended expiry date of the milk from which it was made.

8 thin cut bone in pork chops
2 limes, juice of
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or mashed in a mortar and pestle)
2 tablespoons Adobo seasoning*
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
6 cups water
Canola oil (for frying, about 1 cup)
Ecuadorian rice
French fries
Fried plantains (Patacones)
In large bowl or pot, add pork chops, vinegar and water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Rinse well, pat dry, and place in ziploc bag or larger bowl/pot to season.
Add lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, Adobo, oregano, black pepper. Mix well, making sure pork chops absorb seasoning. Let marinate at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. The longer they marinade the better they will taste. Note: If marinating 1 hour or less you can leave on the counter. If marinating over 1 hour, refrigerate, but then, bring to room temperature before cooking.
In large frying pan on medium heat, add canola oil and 1 teaspoons sugar (other teaspoons is for next batch). When oil is hot and sugar turns a dark brown color (careful not to burn) add 4 pork chops. Cover and cook for 4 minutes. Flip pork chops, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove cover and cook for 1 minute. Remove pork chops and drain on plate lined with paper towels, add 1 more teaspoons sugar to oil, heat and repeat process with remaining pork chops.
Serve with Encurtido, Ecuadorian rice, Salchipapas, Fried plantains (Patacones), Salsa Rosada, Salsa Amarillo (Yellow Pepper Sauce)see CHARRASCOS above.

*Adobo Seasoning
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder 
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
Directions: In a bowl, stir together the salt, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder. Store in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.