L is for Lomo Saltado

Lomo saltado is a beef stir fry dish from Peru, originated in the Barrio Chino (Chinatown) of Lima. It has a very interesting history. During the 1800s, a large number Cantonese immigrants arrived in Peru to work on the railroads. Many of them, having worked as cooks on the ships to pay for their voyage, took up that profession when they landed. At one time, it was considered a prestige in Peru households to have a Chinese cook in the house. Chinese restaurants also started appearing in Lima, signaling the beginnings of Chinatown.

This is the quintessential fusion dish where traditional Chinese cooking methods and Peruvian local ingredients meet. And it is a dish that has moved out of the Chifas (Chinese restaurants) and on to the mainstream menus. In the process, the recipe was adjusted to include ingredients like tomatoes, hot peppers, fried potatoes and cilantro, in addition to the original onions and sliced beef.

The habanero peppers add flavor to the recipe, in addition to heat. Any other hot peppers can be used, if habaneros are not available. If you would like a mild version, the habaneros can be reduced or even omitted entirely.

The beef is cooked quickly like in all stir frys and hence the cut of the beef is important. Any cut that cooks quickly to tenderness will be ideal. Also, slicing the beef across the grain helps the cooking process.

Lomo saltado includes fried potatoes (as in French fries). They can either be mixed into the beef when done, or served on the side. I prefer to serve it on the side. Makes a better visual too! 

L is for Lomo Saltado

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:4 servings



  1. Cut the beef into thin strips. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the beef, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar to a bowl, and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat a pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the pan. When the oil is very hot, add the marinated beef strips to the pan and fry. Continue frying till the liquid has dried up, about 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside in a bowl with any pan juices.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the onion wedges to the pan and cook till the onions are transparent.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the beef strips, along with any juices, and mix together.
  6. Add the strips of habanero peppers, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and Pisco (if using). Mix well.
  7. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Check for seasoning.
  8. Add the cilantro leaves and turn off the heat.
  9. Peel the potato and cut into long pieces of 1/4 inch thickness and rinse under running water.
    In a heavy bottomed pan (cast iron is best), heat 4 tbsp of oil on high heat. When the oil is smoking hot, add the potato pieces to the pan and stir to coat.
  10. Reduce the heat to medium and continue frying till the outsides are browned and the insides are cooked.
  11. Serve the prepared beef and potatoes side by side, accompanied by cooked rice.
Keywords:Lomo Saltado, Meat and Potatoes, Peru, Stir fry

The Truly Wonderful Scotch Eggs

The word ‘Scotch’ is invariably associated with Scotch whiskey, and the age-old distilleries of Scotland. However, there are many more products that are associated with the word, like Scotch tape, Scotch bonnet chillies and the wonderful Scotch eggs!


By the way, the Scotch bonnet chillies are named so only for their shape resembling the traditional Tam o’ Shanter hat of Scotland; they are not grown anywhere near Scotland!
The best thing about Scotch eggs is that it is a meal in itself. Add a green salad of any kind, and you have a well balanced meal.


Scotch eggs are commonly a party and picnic food item and has existed for a long while, with a British department store claiming to have invented it in 1738. The all-knowing Wikipedia speculates that the inspiration for the dish came from the ‘Nargisi kofta’ of the Mughal cuisine.


Though the initial versions were made from sausage meat you can make them with any chopped meat. If you do not fancy red meat, minced turkey or chicken, or a mix of the two, will work equally well.


My version of a Scotch egg is a truly fusion one. I use the eastern eight spice powder, along with ginger and garlic, to add flavour and a little bit of red chilli powder for heat.


The breading process becomes very easy if you do it assembly line style, with three shallow bowls set up with the flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs.


Though a bit time consuming to make, Scotch eggs are worth the trouble. Not only do they taste good, they look great too!


The concept of hardboiled eggs covered in meat and fried or baked is popular in many cuisines. In addition to the Nargisi kofta mentioned earlier, Kwek-Kwek, made with quail eggs and Tokneneng made with chicken or duck eggs, both from Philippines, are dishes very similar to Scotch eggs.



The Truly Wonderful Scotch Eggs
Recipe type: Appetizer
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 lb chopped (minced) meat of your choice
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1tsp eastern eight spice powder
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Hard boil the 6 eggs. Shell them and keep aside.
  2. Finely chop the onions, ginger and garlic.
  3. Discard the stems of the cilantro and chop the leaves.
  4. Boil the potatoes till soft. Peel them and keep aside.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions.
  6. When the onions turn transparent, add the chopped ginger and garlic.
  7. Continue to sauté till the onions start to brown.
  8. Add the coriander powder and stir together.
  9. Add the chopped meat and mix well.
  10. Add salt to taste.
  11. Reduce the heat and cook covered, till the meat is cooked. Add ladlefuls of water, if required.
  12. When the meat is cooked and all water is evaporated, add the chilli powder and eastern eight spice powder.
  13. Mash the boiled potatoes and add to the meat mix.
  14. Add the chopped cilantro and mix thoroughly.
  15. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  16. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt.
  17. In another bowl, beat the egg with an equal quantity of cold water.
  18. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
  19. When the meat mix is cool, divide it into six portions.
  20. Form each portion into a ball, make a depression in the middle and place a boiled egg into it.
  21. Cover the egg completely with the meat mix, trying for an even thickness all around.
  22. Form into a oval shape and keep aside.
  23. Prepare all 6 eggs similarly.
  24. Roll each covered egg in the seasoned flour and then in the beaten egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs.
  25. Brush off the extra breadcrumbs and keep aside.
  26. Prepare all 6 eggs similarly.
  27. Heat a sufficient quantity of vegetable oil in a deep pan.
  28. When the oil is hot, add the prepared eggs one at a time and gently fry till evenly browned.
  29. Drain on a paper towel.
  30. Cut into two lengthwise and serve with a salad as a light meal.


Kare Kare… a Meat Stew Perfect for the Winter!

Last week was real cold… and breezy to boot. Perfect weather for a meaty stew. I had been planning to make a Kare Kare for a few days and last week, I finally got around to it. And man, am I glad! It looked good, tasted good, and was healthy as well!


The vibrant orange colour of the dish is achieved by the use of achiote seeds, something new for me.

Achiote seeds are commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines to add colour and flavour to food. I had seen them used by one of my friends from Puerto Rico and I was charmed. And I bought a bottle of the seeds from a Hispanic store. So the Kare Kare was the perfect opportunity to try it out!


The seeds are not used directly in the food; at least that is what my friend told me. You soak it in some water and use that water for adding colour to food. Or you can fry it in some oil and use the oil for colour. Achiote is also available in powder form, which actually is the extracted colour mixed with corn flour.


To use achiote with oil, heat the oil and add a teaspoon of the seeds. Keep stirring on a low heat. When the seeds turn dark, take off the heat and discard the seeds. You can use the oil like any other oil for cooking, and it will add a brilliant yellow-orange colour to whatever you cook.


See how the drained seeds (to be discarded) have stained the paper towel!

The achiote trees are a warm weather species, growing around the world.

In addition to the seeds, the pericarp covering of the seeds are also used for colour extraction. Since ancient times, achiote has been used to add colour to cheeses and other dairy products and processed foods.


Traditionally, the meat used for Kare Kare is oxtails. You can also add pork hocks or different cuts of beef. I used a combination of oxtails and short ribs with perfect results.


The meats are first cooked in a broth. As the oxtails are quite fatty, it is a good idea to remove most of the pure fat from the broth. I usually cook the meat the previous day and pop it in the refrigerator overnight so that the fat can be easily and completely removed.


The health aspect of this dish is that it hits a perfect balance of meat and vegetables. Yard long beans (sitaw), bok choy, and eggplant are the most commonly used vegetables. I added a red pepper as well, for the colour.

This all around great dish has its origin in Philippines, where it is commonly served on festive occasions.

Kare Kare... a Meat Stew Perfect for the Winter!
Recipe type: Entree
Kare Kare is ideally cooked over two days - cook the meat in the stock the first day and finish the dish the second day. This way, you can get rid of the excess fat content from the oxtails easily.
  • 4 pieces of oxtail, 2 inch thick
  • 2 lbs of beef; bone-in cuts like short ribs work best
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • A small bunch yard long beans (sitaw)
  • 1 large bok choy or a bunch of baby bok choy
  • 1 purple eggplant
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 tbsp all-natural peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp achiote seeds
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice and shrimp paste to serve
  1. One day one, cut the beef into large pieces.
  2. Place the oxtail pieces and the beef pieces in a large pot.
  3. Cut one onion into big wedges and add to the meat.
  4. Crush 4 of the garlic cloves with their skin on and add to the meat.
  5. Add the whole peppercorns and cloves to the pot as well.
  6. Pour cold water up to two inches above the meat and bring to a boil.
  7. Simmer on low heat till the meat is very tender (usually takes 2 to 2 ½ hours), stirring once in a while.
  8. Add more water to the pot as required, to maintain the level. At the end you should have seven to eight cups of stock.
  9. When the meat is cooked well, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  10. Keep in the refrigerator overnight or for at least three hours.
  11. When ready to continue, bring the pot out of the refrigerator and carefully remove and discard the sheet of fat on the top.
  12. Carefully remove the meat pieces onto a platter.
  13. Sieve the stock and discard the solids.
  14. Cut the remaining onion into smallish wedges.
  15. Skin and thinly slice the remaining 4 garlic cloves.
  16. Cut the vegetables into two-inch long narrow pieces.
  17. In a large pan, heat the oil on medium heat.
  18. Add the achiote seeds, reduce the heat to low and keep stirring.
  19. When the achiote seeds get dark, remove from the heat and separate and discard the seeds.
  20. Return the pan with the oil to the stove and add the onions.
  21. When they start to brown around the edges, add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  22. Add the peanut butter, fish sauce and the stock.
  23. Stir together and bring to boil.
  24. Add the cooked meat and cut vegetables to the pot.
  25. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  26. Cook till the vegetables are done yet crisp.
  27. Remove from heat and serve with cooked rice and sautéed shrimp paste (bagoong) on the side. Yum!




Onion Soup… the French Influence

The weather has turned quite chilly, all of a sudden. The mind seeks interesting books to read and warm sofas to curl up on; the tummy seeks comfort foods. I might be – no, I am – wrong in going for the ultimate in winter comfort foods, so early in the season… but I wanted onion soup! Bubbling over with cheesy goodness, the thick brown gravy smelling heavenly, the French concoction was calling my name!

French cuisine is well known for its long and rich history and high level of sophistication. And many dishes of ancient origin have been adapted and modified to fit the French tradition. Onion soup is one such dish.

Existing from the ancient Roman times (8th century BC to 5th century AD), it was considered poor man’s food as onions used to grow abundantly in Europe and was an easy to cultivate crop.

The basic recipe was adapted to the current version in the French tradition around the 18th century.

The main ingredients of an onion soup are onions (of course!), broth, vermouth, cheese, and crusty bread.

Though the best onion soup I have ever tasted had chunks of beef in it, cooked to a melt-in-the-mouth perfection. This was at a historic tavern in the Gettysburg area, reputed to be in existence since 1776. It was one heck of a soup indeed!

How many onions to a cup of broth? The opinions and recipes vary to a great extent on that. As far as Americans are considered, there is no one above Julia Child as an authority on French cuisine. And it is her recipe that I have taken and followed. Of course, with some minor changes. 🙂

The one thing you need to make a good onion soup is time… lots of it. You can’t hurry the process, especially of caramelizing the onions.

You have to let it slowly brown to perfection, without hurrying it. Even a slight burning of the onions will give the soup an unpleasant taste.

So… enjoy the cool weather with a piping hot bowl of cheery onion soup!


Onion Soup… the French Connection
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: French
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 onions, yellow or white
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6-8 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 2 cups gruyere or emmentaler cheese
  • 1 French baguette
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Slice the onions thinly, lengthwise.
  2. Grate the cheese using a medium grater.
  3. Slice the baguette into thick slices and toast them in a slow oven.
  4. In a large pan, heat the butter.
  5. Add the sliced onions and thyme.
  6. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally. If the heat is high, the onions will get burned and will not caramelize well.
  7. When the onions are caramelized into a darkish brown, add the wine or vermouth.
  8. Stir for two minutes to evaporate the alcohol in the wine.
  9. Add the stock along with enough sale and black pepper.
  10. Bring to a boil and continue cooking on low heat, for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  11. Heat the oven to 400 degree farenheit.
  12. To assemble the dish, you can either use a set of ramekins or an oven-proof gratin pan.
  13. Fill the ramekins three quarters full with the soup.
  14. Float a slice of toasted baguette on each ramekin.
  15. Sprinkle the top liberally with grated cheese.
  16. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned (about 10-15 minutes).
  17. Serve hot as a starter or light meal. Yummy!

The Day of the Grill

July 4th… if you grill one day in the year, this will be that day! It has become so much a part of the tradition. The weather, the food, the whole atmosphere calls for it. And that is exactly what we did for our dinner on July 4th.


The menu was quite simple. To start with, the basic of basics, grilled chicken. A simple marinade of sour cream and tandoori spice mix. Marinated in the fridge for two hours and straight to the grill. As simple as that.


The next item was a bit more complex. Spicy kababs! Cilantro and mint leaves, garlic and onion, and jalapenos, to add that requisite heat.


Mince all of them finely and add to the chopped meat. However, there is a secret ingredient that gels it all together and makes the meat hold together… baking soda! But you have to be very careful not to overdo it. Just ½ tsp will do for two pounds of chopped meat. Knead the soda well into the meat along with the minced spices. Form into kabab shapes, with or without a skewer, and lay on the grill. Not too much work, but awesome results.


What is a summer grill without a potato salad! But this potato salad has something special about it… it is made with grilled potatoes! Boil the potatoes till they are just about done, and then lay them on the grill.


They should get a nice char and good grill marks.


Mince some red onion. In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, minced onions, and a spoon of madras curry powder, available in any Indian grocery.


Cut the grilled potatoes into bite size pieces and add to the mayo mix. Mix thoroughly and delicious potato salad is ready!


Something green… no dinner is complete without something green. Tender cucumbers cut into small pieces and dressed with sesame oil and mirin (available in Asian groceries) was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy meats.


Grilled sweet corn and rolls rounded up the food part. A fresh crisp white wine with a hint of fruit made it all come together excellently.


And dessert… we decided against a heavy baked item instead opting for a light fruit salad with ice cream. Especially as this was a dinner being enjoyed outside. Boy, did it look pretty!


Mangoes and strawberries cut into pieces, with a splash of lemon juice… and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Do not stir; just keep it in the refrigerator till time to serve. To serve, mix together gently and top with vanilla ice cream in individual dishes.

If you would like detailed instructions for making the items in this meal, including a shopping list for ingredients, do write to ria (at) pepperroute (dot) com.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!