A week or so ago I received an e-mail from my friend and culinary mentor Chef Andrew Fairlie. Chef Andrew is patron of the eponymous double Michelin-starred Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, an independent restaurant within the Gleneagles Hotel and Resort in Scotland. The purpose of his message was to announce his new Spring menu and the addition of several new items to the menu from the restaurant garden (cucumelons, Chinese artichokes, wasabi cress, dragon’s egg cucumbers and wild strawberries).
The reason I am talking about a Scottish chef in a column about eating good food in Ecuador is to illustrate the different roads that one may travel in pursuit of tasty fare. Chef Andrew, never one to rest on his laurels, is constantly trying new and novel approaches to hone his craft. He makes the effort. Everyone reading this article and living in Ecuador is capable of enhancing their culinary skills in much the same way as a world renowned chef from Scotland. The key to the process of being successful is action.
During the past two weeks the menu at our home has included such diverse items as Chicken Fra Diavolo (roasted chicken thighs marinated in orange juice, red peppers, garlic, thyme and smoked paprika), Chicken Fried Rice (soy sauce, orange juice, red onion, cornstarch, and jasmine rice)) and Roasted Mustard-Dill Sea Bass (corvina with dijon mustard, fresh dill, breadcrumbs and a dash of cayenne). All three of these entrees were prepared with ingredients available in Cuenca. Are the components READILY available? Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.” Comparable results are readily obtainable if you work for them. If you are willing to invest your time, culinary adventures await! (I would be happy to provide recipes for the items mentioned to interested parties.)
Two friends recently returned from a luxury three week cruise around South America. At my request these amigos collected carte du jour’s from all the different food venues on their ship. This stack of menus will serve as the launching pad for new meal ideas.
One can find inspiration in many different places these days. The Internet, cook books, friends returning from vacations, and family recipes that have been handed down from Aunt Hazel can all become your culinary muse. For example, very recently there was a recipe posted online for genuine 100% authentic Humitas (“little steamed things”). You cannot get any more Ecuadorean than humitas!
Bottom line – Many new and disparate food adventures await in Cuenca if one is willing to invest a little effort and thought and time. One must decide if he or she would rather complain about the lack of familiar ingredients in this culturally rich and diverse agricultural environment, or take action and create a culinary treat. The choice is simple. Taking action is sometimes difficult but extremely rewarding. I know what my choice will be! What about you?