Food corner

"I'd sit around dreaming that the boys I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelets and undress me and make love to me all night with the palm trees whispering windsongs about a tortured gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies."

Francesca Lia Block

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Neal’s Yard Dairy, choice cheese retailer

Updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 9:02PM by Registered CommenterVix

It is strange the things you miss while travelling. As I got ready to depart Lima for London, after three months on the road in South America, I found myself looking forward to a proper cup of tea, fresh milk and cheddar cheese.

My Dad, Chef Has, would think it blasphemy that my idea of a proper cuppa these days is not the carefully prepared pots of loose leaf tea he reared me on: cups and pot warmed with boiling water, a spoon for each person and one for the pot, drawn for no less than five minutes, milk first and NO strainer: “I’m not scared of bits!” (I never got more than a 6/10 despite my studiousness). No, give me a builder’s any day, lovingly prepared with PG tips. Yes, Dad: tea-bags. 

He does, however, approve of my taste in British cheese and, more specifically, my cheese retailer of choice, Neal's Yard Dairy.

I was lucky enough to discover this prime providore the very week I moved back to the UK four years ago. Foodie friends had told me that Borough Markets should be top of my agenda and so I headed there on my first Friday in The Big Smoke. (I had been advised that Saturday’s should be avoided because of the crowds. Sound advice; I later made the mistake of going on a Saturday and left in an emotional state bordering on suicidal.)

I was blown away by the quality and range of the produce on offer and spent a long time walking back and forth trying to take decisive action but failing miserably. In the process I stumbled across Neal’s Yard Dairy and what can I say? A love affair was born.

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Posh guinea pig

Yep, that’s right, I ate a guinea pig. In Peru cuy is something of a local delicacy. 

Usually it is served like this:

I cheated and went to a posh restaurant. Had it confit:

Looks much more appetising, doesn't it? 


You can’t get away from the fact that guinea pigs just aren’t that tasty, no matter how you cook them. Most people I spoke to said they tasted like chicken, but if I were a chook I’d be mightily insulted by such a comparison,

“What’s that you say? Them cuy got no meat on ’em baby. All skin and bones. Ain’t got nothing on my breasts and thighs.”

People tend to say ‘tastes like chicken’ to describe any meat that doesn’t have a distinct flavour, which is a bit unfair, because a good free range roast chook is tastes fantastic and guinea pig, well, doesn’t.

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Cocina novoandina por Gastón Asturio

"Dilema del cocinero: El poeta triste, escribe poemas y te hace llorar. El pintor triste pinta cuadros y te logra emocionar. El musico triste compone canciones y te hace cantar. Al cocinero triste, le está prohibido cocinar."

Cooks dilemma: the sad poet writes poems and makes you cry. The sad painter paints pictures and moves you emotionally. The sad musician composes songs and makes you sing. The cook is sad, he is forbidden to cook.

Words of wisdom from Gastón Acurio, celebrity chef and ambassador of Peruvian cuisine. He may even be South America’s most famous chef, and thankfully for us, he is not often sad. God forbid this man be banished from the kitchen.

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Cusco, a westerner's paradise

After four days of humble, homely and, yes, rather bland cooking on Lake Titicaca I was very excited about my arrival in Cusco. With several recommendations from a fellow foodie friend in my pocket I was ready to be a bad tourist once again and embrace all the western cuisine the city had to offer.

First stop: Jack’s Café. This was no.1 on Emma’s list for exactly the same reason it's no.1 on mine; sometimes when you have been on the road for a long time you just want something that reminds you of home. When you are done with llama and alpaca steaks, deep-fried everything and more rice and potatoes than you can shake a fork at, coming across great coffee, an all day breakfast menu and café food to rival Sydney and Melbourne can be a truly restorative experience.

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Humble, homely food on Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca’s islands are world famous for their peaceful beauty and well-preserved traditional agrarian cultures, which you can see up close by staying with families on the islands. A homestay here is a privileged glimpse at another way of life that you’re unlikely to forget.

Lonely Planet, Peru, 2010

Most people who visit the Lake Titicaca islands do so through an organised tour booked from one of the many travel agencies lining the streets of Puno. This usually includes a trip to the famous floating islands constructed of rotting reeds, Isla Taquile with their socially symbolic fluffy hats and Isla Amantani with their penchant for rousing traditional dancing and drunken revelry. Unfortunately, the islanders themselves benefit very little from such tours.

Tour agencies pay host families a set amount per visitor, which is negotiated with islanders separately by each agency. Nearly all of the cheapest agencies (and some of the expensive ones, too) pay little more than the cost visitors’ meals.

The Lonely Planet goes onto suggest various things you can do to ensure that the families get the most out of your stay, one of which is to consider visiting some of the communities on the peninsula around the lake which are less frequented by tourists but offer the same sort of activities and equally spectacular scenery. 

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