All posts filed under “JAMES’ FAVES

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PERU: Sopa Minuta

PERU: Sopa Minuta

IMG_3945We were super excited to draw Peru out of the cup just a couple of weeks before we were to leave for 3 weeks in Peru!   We had a FANTASTIC time and saw, learned, and experienced so much – including hiking the Inca trail where the boys earned from the various guides on the trail the nickname “Alpacitos” (baby alpacas – as opposed to baby goats) as they scampered along.

While the boys love exploring Cusco – a city full of Incan history, colonial balconies, and (very) thin air…IMG_3580…they both REALLY loved Lima – a city full of gorgeous buildings, ceviche, public parks, and (the pièce de résistance) an arcade in the mall across the street from the hotel we stayed in.  They want to move there… to the hotel that is.    I wouldn’t mind either.  (Shout out to Christian from the JW Marriott… if you’re reading this – you made our stay in Lima so fun!  So fun connecting with another foodie!)


See that flag above the boys? It’s on the hostel I stayed in 20 years ago. We stopped in to see if they still have peacocks on the roof. Yes, they do. Also, the boys were beyond fascinated by the crypts under the yellow church (Catedral San Francisco) and the hundreds of thousands of bones on display. Boys.


One of the highlights of our trip was visiting a small farming village about an hour outside of Cusco where 32 families live and farm at 14,000 feet elevation.  The primary language is Quechua (the language of the Inca) and many of the children don’t have the opportunity to attend school as they are busy working the fields.  That said, there is an organization there now that has set up a fantastic school (one room, 40 kids ranging from 6-16, one teacher!) where the kids are learning to read and write in Spanish and English, taught computer skills, and provided a safe space to learn and study.  It was amazing and humbling to see what the teachers and kids are able to accomplish with so little.  That said, they need so much and we will be publishing a list of their needs and how you can help these kids.  Stay tuned for more information.


The boys in red next to Beckett are the same age as him.  Look how TALL Beckett is by comparison! The local boys were fascinated by the “giant boy in glasses”.



Meanwhile, Calvin made quick friends through the universal language of drawing cartoons.



While we visited the school, the moms prepared a lesson for us in sheering sheep + alpacas, making yarn, dying the yarn and lastly weaving the materials.

If any of your are planning to travel to Peru with your kids, I have so much advice!  Just send me an email and I’ll send you all my thoughts.



2014_12_soop_peru-15Alrighty, on to the soup.  We chose “Sopa Minuta” a classic soup loved throughout much of Peru for it’s ease, simplicity, and speed.  It is found on menus all over the country and know by most everyone.  That said, as we traveled through different parts of the country, the boys would make new friends and chat them up about our soup project and the response was invariably, “oh yes, Sopa Minuta is good, but you should really make……”.   In fact, one hotel we stayed at, even surprised us by giving us a recipe to add to our roster.  So sweet!

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.54.39 PMSo, we just might have to repeat Peru a few times until we find our favorites.  We’ll have to add “Quinua Soap” (aka Quinoa Soup), Chupe de Quinoa, and Moraya (dried potato soup).  Look for those soups at some point during this project.

Anyway,  like I said, Sopa Minuta is made all over the country and is made differently by each household- much like chicken noodle soup here in the US.  We had it a few times in different places in Peru and it was drastically different – some include tomato sauce, some milk; some include ground beef, others chunks of sirloin.  That said, the common ingredients are noodles (I use rice noodles to make it GF), beef, oregano, and a Peruvian chile paste made from aji panca.  If you can’t find it in any of your local Hispanic markets, you can purchase it online.  It is not spicy, but provides THE flavor for the soup.  There is no substitute, so do yourself a favor and find a jar somewhere because once you try this, you will want to make it over and over.  Plus, you can use it in the “quinua soap” recipe above.  🙂

This soup comes together in about 15 minutes and is hearty and filling enough for a quick weeknight meal.  Pair this with a little salad (and maybe a pisco sour or two) and you’re all set!

2014_12_soop_peru-1Sopa Minuta
Serves 4


  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil – sunflower,  canola, etc
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons aji panca paste
  • 1 pound ground beef  – or sirloin cut into cubes if your prefer
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons GF tamari – or regular soy sauce if you can eat it
  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta (I use THIS brand and cannot tell it’s not regular pasta).
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Add tomato and aji panca pastes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-5
  2. Crumble the beef into the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.2014_12_soop_peru-8
  3. Pour hot water into the mixture and add soy sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-11
  5. While noodles are cooking, crack eggs into a cup and stir until well blended. (Make sure you don’t accidentally get shells in there!)  Then gently stir eggs into soup – stirring continuously.  Eggs will form long thin noodle like strings (like an egg drop soup).2014_12_soop_peru-9 2014_12_soop_peru-102014_12_soop_peru-12
  6. Remove from heat season the mixture with oregano and salt + pepper (to taste).2014_12_soop_peru-13
  7. Add cream and serve.

Cook’s Notes

This recipe ended up on all of our favorites list and will be on repeat at our house frequently.  It’s very savory and comforting.  My #1 of all so far!

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SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)

SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)


Here’s what we learned about Ärtsoppa in  our research this week:

  •  Ärtsoppa (EHRT-soh-puh) is traditionally eaten on Thursdays in Sweden.  It’s said that even the King of Sweden eats this on Thursdays.  This tradition dates back to the middle ages.
  • The Finnish eat this same soup, but with green peas.
  • In Sweden, ärtsoppa is served in schools, the military, hospitals, government offices, and many restaurants on Thursdays.
  • It is traditionally eaten with Swedish pancakes and lingonberry jam.  Also, these pancakes are not eaten for breakfast, but rather as a lunch/dinner item.  That said, we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day.  😉
  • The traditional beverage that accompanies this meal is a liqueur called Punsch.  It is not easy to find, but I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a bottle.  It is low alcohol, sweet, and complex.  It’s fantastic alone, over ice, served hot, with sparkling water, with lemon squeezed in, in your coffee… you get the point.  Here’s more about Punsch.  If you can’t find it in a store near you, there’s always online: K&L Wine Merchants has it available.
  • “When it rains soup, the poor man has no spoon” ~ SWEDISH PROVERB


Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.22.24 AMWhat an exciting night in Casa SOOP.  Not only did the SF Giants win the game that will send them to the world series (sorry Cardinals fans), but we got to have pea soup, Swedish pancakes, Swedish punsch, AND we got a visit from the fire department.  As it turns out baseball games, liqueur and making pancakes don’t go so well together.  (Quick shout out to my local fire department:  thank you for responding so quickly!  Next time, I will not walk away from a browning Swedish pancake to watch a home run hit!)soop_sweden_oct14-25

Okay, so deviating a bit from our traditional Sunday SOOP, we ate this soup on a Thursday as it is done in Sweden.  Frankly, I did not give the soup enough time to cook (the recipe has been adjusted to reflect an increased cooking time), but since it was a school night, we forged ahead and just ate it a little crunchy.  Even still, it was a hit.  I have said my whole life that I don’t like split pea soup (sorry mom), but this recipe converted me.  As it was cooking, I was pretty much grumbling under my breath about how it smells like split pea soup, but my boys all kept talking about how great it smelled, so I figured at least 3 people would like the soup.  Turns out I liked it too.

Every thumb up!  Ärtsoppa  + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

Every thumb up! Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

A trip to IKEA will yield you not only Swedish mustard and lingonberry jam, but also all kinds of fun chocolates, cookies, and other Swedish goodies.  Maybe that’s why the kids were so excited about dinner last night!  Do hunt down the Swedish Punsch too.   There is a non-alcoholic version as well where you can add your own gin to make a fab cocktail.  The boys got to have some of the non-alcoholic mixed with elderflower juice from Ikea.  Happy campers.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find.  If you don't like it, don't worry - I'll drink it for you.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find. If you don’t like it, don’t worry – I’ll drink it for you.

Scratching off Sweden!

Scratching off Sweden!

Serves 6


  • 2 cups dried yellow peas*
  • 1  large smoked ham hock**
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped small (I cheated and used Trader Joes’ shredded carrots)
  • 8  cloves
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus a few stalks  for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 2 teaspoons salt depending on how salty your ham hock is
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Whole grain mustard***


  1. Soak yellow peas for about 12-24 hours – discarding any impurities.

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right.  Huge difference!

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right. Huge difference!

  2. Prepare small onion by spiking it with the 8 cloves.
  3. After soaking, rinse the peas and add them to a large soup pot along with 6 cups water, ham hock, chopped onion, carrot, cloved onion, and thyme.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  4. Cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the peas are soft enough approximately 6 hours****.soop_sweden_oct14-14
  5. When it is tender, remove the meat and cut into small pieces and return meat to the soup – discarding bones, fat and gristle.soop_sweden_oct14-29
  6. Remove and discard cloved onion.  If desired, use an immersion blender to puree soup (we did).
  7. Check for seasonings – adding more salt or pepper.soop_sweden_oct14-24
  8. Serve with whole grain mustard – each person adding as much as they like to their tastes.

Cook’s Notes

* Nordic yellow peas are not the easiest thing to come by.  I found them at a Scandinavian grocery store in Berkeley.  They do mail orders.  Nordic House has the whole yellow peas which are more traditional, but split yellow peas can be used if you can’t find the whole yellow peas.  If you use split yellow peas, you do not need to soak the peas over night – just begin soaking them the morning you plan to make this soup.  Bob’s Red Mill carries split yellow peas.

** This can be made vegetarian by omitting the ham hock.  Since a lot of the salt/depth of flavor comes from the ham hock, please replace the ham by adding a vegetarian bouillon cube.

*** Ikea sells whole grain mustard that is unlike any mustard we’ve tasted before.  It’s almost like a cross of dijon, honey mustard, and gouldens.  It is quite spicy, but sweet at the same time and was absolutely delicious in this soup.  If you don’t live near an Ikea, I’d recommend dijon with a little bit of honey stirred in as a substitute.  Beckett found it a little too spicy for his liking, but found the lingonberry jam quite delightful.
soop_sweden_oct14-19 soop_sweden_oct14-22

**** Split yellow peas will take at least half the time.  Next time I will use split yellow peas.  😉

Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon  | Gluten-Free Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries
Makes 12 pancakes depending on the size of your frying pan.

  • 6 eggs
  • 5 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to “warm” or lowest setting and place a plate or cookie sheet in the oven.
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the milk- continuing to whisk until blended. Add flour, salt and melted butter and mix together until thoroughly combined.  Batter should be fairly thin – about half as thick as traditional American pancake batter.
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup of batter into a large buttered frying pan at medium-low heat and spread the mixture around by tilting the pan as you would for a crepe.soop_sweden_oct14-20
  4. Brown the pancake on one side – watching for bubbles to form on the top.  Before flipping, take a peek and make sure bottom side is browned.  Flip your pancake over and brown on the other side.soop_sweden_oct14-17
  5. Once browned on both sides, place in oven to keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes.
  6. Serve with a generous spoonful of lingonberry preserves (this can be found at IKEA)

* THIS is my go to all-purpose GF flour.  It hasn’t let me down yet.  I make a big batch of it and use it in everything.  It was truly hard to tell that these pancakes were gluten-free.

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HUNGARY: Sertéspörkölt (pork goulash)

HUNGARY: Sertéspörkölt  (pork goulash)


Here’s what we learned  in  our research/kitchen time this week:

  •  There are actually 3 Hungarian stews made from onions, meat and paprika: gulyás, pörkölt and paprikás.
  • The dish called pörkölt (pronounced PURR-colt) is what we Americans call “goulash” (thick meaty stew).  Gulyás is a soup and paprikás is similar to pörkölt, but only made with chicken.
  • When chopping onions, if you chew gum at the same time, you will not cry.
  • Speaking of onions, do not be scared off by the amount of onion in this recipe.  Rather than making the stew bracing, they actually caramelize down to bring a wonderful sweetness to the stew.
  • The Rubik’s cube was invented in Hungary (and none of us can solve it).
  • This dish matches the colors of the Hungarian flag: red, white, & green.

If you’re curious to hear how Hungarian sounds as sertéspörkölt is being made, here you go!  He makes his a little differently from how I make mine, but the recipe is fairly similar.


Calvin researched Hungarian soups for about 4 seconds before pointing at a photo of Pörkölt and saying, “that’s it!  Let’s make that!”  Okay kid.

It took me a few tries to get this recipe right – it was good the first night, but kind of a pain to make, so I retooled the recipe and made it again the next night.  Everyone agreed that not only was the stew better, but it was WAY easier and produced many fewer dishes!

Calvin was eager to help my chop all the onions required for this dish because I’d told him about a theory that chewing gum keeps you from crying while chopping onions.
The verdict: it works!

The big issue with this meal was my attempt to make a gluten-free version of traditional Hungarian nokedli which are basically spaetzle.  My first several attempts were actually laughably bad, but the last version (a modified version of THIS recipe) actually worked okaaaay, but I didn’t think it was good enough yet.  We all liked the pörkölt better with the pasta, but just to prove that I made my own nokedli (no matter how bland they were) here is photo proof!


Okay, so side aside, this is a TOTAL keeper recipe.  Even after eating it for dinner two nights in a row, everyone agreed that this should go into regular rotation.  Even my soup-reluctant husband said I should make it again.  This is the PERFECT fall/winter dish that will simply simmer all afternoon and make you feel all warm and cozy when you eat it.  Next time, completely divergent from traditional pörkölt, we will make a gremolata (chopped parsley, fresh garlic, and lemon zest) to bring a little zing to the finished product.  Oh, and the pepper relish from Comoros (poutou) was pretty stellar with this dish too.  Hungarian/Comoran fusion cooking…. coming soon to a kitchen near you!

Finally, though this would have been stellar with a red wine, the only Hungarian wine we could find this Irsai Oliverweekend was a fantastic white from the foot of the Mátra mountains.  This description from the importer nails it:

Originally crossed in 1930, the parents of this native grape are Gewürztraminer and Muscat Ottonel. Not surprisingly, it’s incredibly perfumed and floral. That said, its not fat and weighty on the palette like Gewürztraminer can often be and has there’s no detectable residual sugar either. The finish has a mineral, almost saline quality that balances out the Muscat heavy aromatics. And while the style is decidedly reductive, it opens up right away and jumps out of the glass even when chilled. While it can easily stand alone as an aperitif, it pairs beautifully when fruit and salt play off of each other. Prosciutto and melon is a classic, but we’ve also found that Indian food (especially chutneys) pairs extremely well.

You can get  wines from along the Danube from these guys including the Irsai Oliver we loved this weekend.


Sertéspörkölt (Hungarian Pork Stew)
Serves 8


  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 pounds pork butt shoulder, trimmed of bones and fat and cut into 1 cubes
  • 2 medium banana peppers*, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 large tomato*, chopped or one 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons sweet Hungarian* paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat large dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat.  Add bacon fat or lard to pot and render.  Add onions and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until onions are beginning to caramelize and have changed from white, past opaque, to deep tan.  Go slowly so onions don’t burn – this is the most important part of the whole meal.  This step should take at least 30 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and pork, increase heat to medium and stir constantly until pork is cooked on all sides and beginning to release its juices.soop_hungary_oct14-7
  3. Add chopped pepper and tomato.  Combine well.  Add 6 cups water paprika, caraway and marjoram, stirring gently to combine.  Simmer, uncovered,  until most of the liquid has boiled down and sauce is a thick gravy (approximately 1.5 hours though you could go all day so long as you make sure there is enough water in the pot).soop_hungary_oct14-8
  4. Check pork for tenderness.  If it is not quite tender, add another cup of water and simmer longer until sauce is desired consistency.  Once pork is tender enough to be cut easily with a fork, add salt and season with pepper to taste and serve over a bed of pasta.soop_hungary_oct14-9

Cook’s Notes

* If you can’t find a banana pepper, yellow gypsy peppers or yellow, green or red bell peppers would work.  We used red pepper and chopped it small to hide it from our boys who think they don’t like peppers.

* Unless you are in the middle of tomato season, use canned tomatoes as they will have much more flavor that the flavorless winter tomatoes.  We used dry farmed tomatoes which are possibly the most delicious thing on the face of the planet.

* Hungarian paprika is very different from the standard paprika you can find at the grocery store.  It is not expensive and totally worth seeking out.  It comes in “sweet” and “hot”.  Here’s more about paprika.

Traditionally, this would be served with a spaetzle-like pasta called nokedli.  I tried 4 different times to perfect a gluten-free version of nokedli and finally gave up and served it over Jovial’s gluten free egg tagliatelle.