One of the most memorable trips that I have ever made with C, was when we went up to this tiny Andean village where C’s nanny comes from. It was an unforgettable trip and definitely one that made a huge impression on me.
C’s nanny, Magna took C up to her village a few times throughout his childhood to visit her family. When C grew up, he continued making the journey visiting her family, and usually bringing with him donations and toys, and in return they lavish him with food and love.
When I visited Peru for the first time in 2011, C brought me up to the little village with him. It was really important to him that I meet Magna’s family and they got to meet me. In retrospect, I think it was some form of test – if she can handle this, she can handle anything that is thrown her way! I have to admit it was pretty rugged terrain, no running water (apart from the stream next to the house), no bathroom (apart from the rather unpleasant out-house), one naked light bulb in the kitchen and guinea pigs running around the mud floor – I absolutely loved it!
But, you can read all about my Peruvian adventures here! What I really wanted to talk to you about today is pachamanca!
Pachamanca is a traditional Andean dish that is usually reserved for celebrations and special occasions. The word pachamanca is made up of 2 Quechua roots, “pacha” meaning earth and “manca” meaning clay pot or earthen pot – which pretty much gives you an idea of the cooking technique.
Basically, it is the use of heating up river stones until they are piping hot, and then layering the stones and the meat (like a meat and stone lasagne – as my hubby so eloquently put it) and finally burying them underground letting everything slowly cook for a few hours. It really is quite an amazing way of cooking, and apparently it is a method that goes back centuries and pre-dates the Incas. Originally only vegetables were used in pachamancas but after the introduction of livestock by the Spaniards, meat was slowly incorporated and today it is the star ingredient.
So rather than me describe to you how to make pachamanca – I am going to show it you :)
How to Make Pachamanca:
1. Slaughter a pig
2. Chop up the pig to a manageable size – obviously mum needs to inspect that you are doing it right!
3. In a bucket marinade the pork in a mixture in chincho (an Andean highland herb) garlic, salt, pepper and a little aji panca (type of Peruvian red pepper). Store in a cool location over night.
4. The following day, light a fire and heat up your river stones. While river stones are heating up, dig a pit. Set aside the earth for future use.
5. While river rocks are heating up, try and make friends with the other farm animals.
6. If you run out of potatoes, call your potato delivery man
7. Once river stones are piping hot, cover bottom of pit with one layer of stones. Mum will now come to take over!
8. Layer meat and stones, making sure you end with a layer of stones
9. Surround meat and stone with fresh eucalyptus branches
10. Pour potatoes over hot stones, and then cover with more eucalyptus branches
11. Then place cotton bags over entire pit, making sure everything is evenly covered.
12. With the soil you set aside earlier, cover the cotton bags completely.
13. Inspect your work and make sure there are no gaps or holes where the smoke can escape from.
14. Slow cook for 2 hours. Meanwhile take some family portraits.
15. After 2 hours, carefully remove the soil and the cotton sacks, making sure no soil falls into the pit and onto the food.
16. Gingerly remove the potatoes
17. Voila – perfectly cooked and seasoned pachamanca!
18. Dig in and ignore the hungry stares of Clinton, the family’s dog!
So there you have it, how to make pachamanca!
P.S. And how did I handle the test I hear you ask? Pretty well in my opinion, as a few month later C asked me to marry him :)