Sunday, 30 January 2011

TV Review: E Numbers: An Edible Journey, (BBC 2/SBS Australia), 2010/2011

E numbers, preservatives, stabilizers, emulsifiers, colourings …what are they?   Why are they used?  Are they bad for me?  Food writer Stefan Gates investigates everything ‘e’ in his three-part documentary series.

In this energetic, fact-packed series Gates challenges the stereotypes that society holds of e numbers being bad for us by showing that many originate from natural sources and actually do us more good than harm.  By engaging with scientists, doctors, historians and experts in a variety of fields Gates examines the history and development of additives and conducts a number of ‘home’ experiments to enhance our understanding and confront our prejudices.

Gates’ style is lively, passionate, engaging and genuine which helps to achieve his aim of convincing audiences that many additives are not bad and are actually necessary.  However, perhaps the series can be seen as a little one sided as he does not really discuss negative aspects of e numbers.

At a time when organic and natural foods are becoming increasingly popular and ‘trendy’, and health and obesity are common news topics this timely and fascinating documentary educates audiences in a clear and easy to digest manner, inviting them to further explore the topic rather than making assumptions.  

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Food Glossary: Salchipapas

Another Peruvian traditional dish that we discovered in Ecuador, and then later in Bolivia.  This fast food is served up by street vendors and is chips served with thin beef sausages.  When we had the dish in Bolivia, it was served as more of an oven baked meal and included ketchup, mayonaise, onions, eggs, tomatoes and perhaps chilli's and salad leaves.  I personally did not enjoy the dish but some people did!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Review: Banquetes Espana Restaurant, Otavelo, Ecuador

If you’re tired of walking around the markets and are looking for a break and to sit down in a restaurant then a great choice would be the Espana restaurant.  We were recommended it on our first day and ended up returning due to the tasty food at incredibly cheap prices.  You will have already read about the good value almuerzo option…the set lunch.  Well the almuerzo here promises to fill you with delicious local food and the fact that its always packed with locals is always a good sign.  Just one block from the main square this place is easy to find, so don’t miss a meal here!

Food Glossary: Mote

Mote is another key element to a chugchucara or other traditional dishes in Ecuador.  It is hominy - corn cooked without the germ.  I personally don't like it too much, it is quite bland and watery but as the latin american's love their corn it's good to try it in a different form!

Food Glossary: Fritada

Fritada is popular and found in Ecuador usually as part of a chugchucara dish.  It is pieces of fried pork meat which usually includes crackling.  Typically you will see a restaurant or street food stall with the whole pig cooking and sitting in the fat and juices which are then used to make the gravy and other accompaniments to the chugchucara.  Tasty!

Food Glossary: Chugchucara

Chugchucara is a traditional Ecuadorian dish originating from the town of Latacunga.  It can be found at street vendor stalls across Ecuador and at many specific chugchucara restaurants in Latacunga.  It consists of a plate of fritada, mote, lapingachos and small other sides - usually salads, variations of corn and small cheese empanadas.  It is a tasty dish but pretty fatty!  The pictures below are from our first taste of the dish at Otavelo animal market.

Food Glossary: Lapingachos

Lapingachos are a traditional Ecuadorian accompaniment to fritada.  They are fried mashed potato and cheese pancakes and are usually cooked in the meat fat of pork.

Food Glossary: Tomate de Arbol

Tomate de Arbol is a native fruit to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile which translates literally to tomato of the tree.  It is a popular fruit to make smoothies from and alot of sugar is added as the fruit itself is fairly bitter.  It is filled with seeds and after trying to eat the fruit myself I would recommend using it for drinks or cooking rather than eating straight!

Food Glossary: Emoliente

Emoliente is actually a traditional Peruvian drink but we sampled it at a street vendor in Otavelo market, Ecuador.  The drink is traditionally sold on the streets and served hot.  It would be hard to list all the ingredients as it is a medley of medicinal herbs, honey and juice.  The drink we tried featured aloe vera fresh from the plant and was very thick and tasted delicious and healthy!  Watching the locals order the drink is like being in a smoothie shop in the UK where people ask for extra vitamin boosts etc!  There are all kinds of potions and bottles on offer to add to the core mixture.  Evidently it is a popular after-party drink as well as start to the day.

Review: A day at the markets, Otavelo, Ecuador

95 Km north of Quito, surrounded by stunning scenery is the market town of Otavelo.  People flock from all over the world to Otavelo to visit its famous markets.  In the early hours of Saturday morning every weekend hundreds of Otavelans set up their stalls over most of the town eagerly awaiting the shoppers!  The market has everything you can think of from handicrafts, to alpaca clothing.  The animal market is particularly interesting to experience although perhaps not for vegetarians!  One of my favourite aspects of the markets was the variety of traditional foods and drinks available to try whilst wondering the streets.  It really is incredible, the food is tasty, cooked in front of you and you can eat amongst all the locals.

If you’re interested in finding out about the different foods and drinks we sampled at the market then have a read of the food glossary items below:

Review: El Maple Vegetarian and Bar, Quito, Ecuador

El Maple is a great little vegetarian café in La Mariscal area of Quito.  The staff are really friendly and the food cheap and delicious.  The menu has a good variety of vegetarian dishes including an incredible burger, which for those veggies who every now and then miss or crave meat fills the void!  We also tried the samosas which are good but prepare yourself – they are very spicy!  If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat then definitely consider El Maple.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Review: Café Cultura, Quito, Ecuador

Café Cultura is part of the beautiful hotel whose building was previously home to one of Quito’s oldest families, and then the French Cultural Centre.  It is a tranquil house and garden setting which is really cosy.  The restaurant has a well deserved strong reputation for extraordinary food and service.  I would advise booking ahead as the restaurant is fairly small and if there is just one large party it leaves not many tables left.  This restaurant really is beautiful and the food fantastic so do try to visit!

This was a bit of a splash for us being backpackers, however, it really is very reasonably priced and not too damaging to the wallet for the quality of meal.

We went all out and had three courses and wine!  For starters we began with the fried parmesan aubergine and stuffed tomatoes.  The tomatoes in particular were delicious with crisp, fresh tomatoes stuffed with a creamy, flavoursome tuna mix.

Next we moved onto steaks!  Yum Yum Yum!  Absolutely mouth watering and scrumptious.
Finally we squeezed in some cheesecake and flaming bananas!  The cheesecake was the dessert to shout about….wow it was incredible.

The service here is top notch and I cant really fault anything about our experience.