Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chicken, Date and Honey Tagine


Recipe: Chicken, Date And Honey Tagine

Servings: Serves 4

Cook Time 1 Hour 30 Minutes:




1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon ground saffron

2 teaspoons ground cumin

8 chicken thigh cutlets (1.2kg)

30 grams butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large brown onion, chopped finely

1 cinnamon stick

1 ½ cups water

6 seedless fresh dates

2 teaspoon honey

¼ cup blanched almonds, toasted




Rub salt, pepper, saffron and cumin onto chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.


Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan and cook in batches until browned. Remove from pan and drain all but tablespoon of the liquid from the pan. Add onion and cinnamon to the pan and cook until onion is soft


Return chicken to the pan. Add the water and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.


Add dates and honey and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes until thickened slightly.


Sprinkle with nuts. Serve tagine with saffron couscous.


If using a slow cooker....

1. Rub salt, pepper, saffron and cumin into chicken - no need to marinate

2. Put onions and cinnamon and butter into slow cooker and put chicken on top (leave oil out)

3. Add 1cup of water - enough to almost cover chicken

4. Add honey and half thedates

5. Set on auto for about 6-8 hours

6. Serve with nuts and couscous


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Family day out to Pikillaqta...

What happens when a group of tourism guys get together and organise a day out for their families?...  We end up with 25 adults and children on a tour bus for another incredible day (last Sunday)!!!

All this started from a discussion in Norton's pub with some of Zac's friends where Mum suggested that she'd like to make a trip to Pikillaqta (pronounced pik-ee-act-ta) before I left Cusco.  From there it was suggested that we should make a day of it and get a few families together... little did we know that it would turn into such and event but we a so glad that it did!

The group was made up of a number of families that Zac and Milka are friends with.  All of the men except one are ex-pats from various countries (Australia, UK, Scotland, Wales) who are married to Peruvian women, so there was a mix of English and Spanish spoken all day.

Our first stop was Pikillaqta where we walked through the ruins.  These are Pre Inka ruins that still exhibit stonework but different to that of the Inka's.  What is similar is the way that the stone walls are so straight, both along the wall and upwards.

Our next stop was a spot of birdwatching... Birdwatching I hear you say?  yes, birdwatching... and it kept the kids and most of the males of the group occupied for almost an hour!  Mark (the person who'd organised the bus and the day) had made up a sheet of birds for the kids to find native to the local area.  What an expereince to see a group of kids absorbed in the task of sighting each of the birds on the list - some were so good they even spotted the Kookaburra (an extra on the list!).

Next up was lunch at a restaurant in a small town called Lucre.  We meandered up through the town and along a street at the top before entering a doorway that I would have walked past if I wasn't with the group.  We sat at tables outside while the 10 kids occupied themselves playing on the grounds - there was a trampoline, basketball hoop, totem tennis (although on a much larger scale than I'm used to) and lots of space for running!  It was so relaxing to sit and eat and drink with such great company and spectacular surrounds.

 Last stop was ice-cream for the kids (big and little!)... also an experience!  We all crowded into a small shop where we bought tokens, and then walked back 2 doors where we traded our tokens for ice-cream.  Again, not something I'd have know if I weren't with the group...

It was fantastic to be part of this wonderful day out!  It's certainly not an experience that you'd get on any tour and it was a privilege to be a part of it all!

Barratio Market...

On Saturday afternoon we met Milka after she finished work and headed off to Barratio Market.  This is a locals market that we only venture to with Milka.  We don't wear any jewellery and don't carry handbags, and our purses are tucked into the inside pockets of our jackets.

There's everything from clothing to hardware and the secondhand tools we find at Australian markets, and then there's a street where the textiles and souvenirs are sold...  Wow!!  everything was so cheap and there was lots of bartering for prices going on.  More beanies and weavings were purchased that day lol!

Another incredible experience - Thanks Milka!

Last day in the Sacred Valley and back "home" to Cusco...

 On our last day in the Sacred Valley we managed to fit quite a lot in...

We took a taxi from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba (our friendly taxi driver from the previous day who took us to Abra Malaga was waiting for us when we left the hostel - he overcharged but had a good car and was good to us the day before...) where we were going to visit the Seminario Pottery workshop and gallery

We walked down a street that looked like any other, and came to a closed door where Mum went up and pressed the buzzer...  The door was opened to a large complex of buildings that is the Seminario workshop and gallery.

We were taken on a tour that included a video about the artists (in English!!) and then were shown through the workshops - WOW!!  What an experience to see these amazing peices created!  Pablo and MarilĂș are the creators - Pablo does the shaping and MarilĂș puts the colour on - and they have trained others in their work.  

There are also some rescued animals on the property as well in including some turtles from the jungle area and llamas (pronounced ya-mas) and a monkey who wouldn't let me take his picture...

After spending a few hours and quite a few more dollars/soles when headed to the bus station to find a bus to take us to Pisac where the markets (and more spending) awaited us... 

We boarded a local bus and for s/2.50 we got to Pisac.  After parking Dad in a bar and dumping our backpacks and pottery purchases, Mum and I hit the market.  We spent maybe 2 hours there and I'm not telling how much money - who's counting anyway - and came away happy with our (ok, mostly mine) purchases which included beanies, weavings, and dyes...

Before I spent too much money we went back to the bar to rescue Dad, loaded ourselves up with our backpacks and purchases and went in search of a collectivo to take us "home" to Cusco where we had arranged to meet Milka and Zac for a scrumptious dinner at a local restaurant "Fallen Angel" to celebrate International Women's day,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Taxi Tour...

Last time Mum and Dad were in Ollantaytambo they hitched a ride with a bike tour bus up to Abra Malaga and got to enjoy the scenery while the cyclists rode down - they loved it and so we tried to organise the same trip when I was there.  Unfortunately the bike tour didn't go ahead but the hostel we stayed at arranged a taxi to take us up and back again - yes a taxi....

For US$30 we had the taxi take us on a spectacular drive up to the Abra Malaga pass and back down again.  Along the way he'd stop and tell us "good place for photo - vista!" which he did many times.  For about a 3 hour round trip, US$30 was a good deal I reckon! 

The scenery was spectacular (yes more spectacular scenery!)...  At the top we are about 4400 metres above sea level so most of the landscape is tree-less, with snow at the top of many of the mountains.  And scattered throughout the landscape were houses and huts and lean to's  showing that people really do live up here - but many of these didn't have roads to them (why would you need a road if you don't have a car...)

But what was harder to see was the kids along the side of the road with their hand-out looking for food...  These kids were little - one would have only been about 3 - and there were no parents in sight (they were probably further from the road tending to animals as there are no fences here).  When Mum and Dad went up last time the tour operator took a big bag full of bread to handout, but we only had a few muesli bars and apples which were gratefully accepted by tiny hands but didn't extend far enough to all....   And whilst they stood with their hands out, they weren't in any way greedy or pushy - each child took the food but didn't open it - no doubt their instructions are to collect what they can and bring it home to share out.

This is Sunia - we think she would have been about 7 or 8...

And this is Giselda and Virginia.  Virginia would be about 3 and Giselda is probably 5... They crossed the road to talk to us (Mum and I were very carefully watching the road for cars - although I'm sure they are more road savvy than most Australian kids their age) and told us their names. 

It was quite an incredible experience to meet these children and very humbling to think that we'd spent $30 on a taxi when that would probably feed one of these families for a week...  But I'm glad we did the trip and would do it again - next time with a big bag of bread!

Magical day at Machu Picchu...

From Ollantaytambo we took a day trip to Machu Picchu.  We caught a train to Aguas Caliente, then a bus up to Machu Picchu.  Both rides were spectacular as well!  The train took us along the river which was absolutely raging!!

I expected Machu Picchu to be stunning - as the tourism guys say "Machu Picchu sells itself!" - but it was much much more!  We spent quite some time sitting at the top looking down before we even ventured in just taking it all in.  It is a massive collection of buildings and stonework sitting right at the top of a mountain 2,430 metres above sea level.

A very special place for a picnic!

These mountains aren't rolling hills either - they are steep with sheer rock-faces along most sides...  I just can't imagine how it was ever decided that it would be a good idea to build a city on the very top of a mountain!  I mean, can you imagine sitting around a campfire and some bloke says "hey, see that really high peak up there... let's build a city up there... out of massive big rocks!!"...  And yet they did, and I'm glad they did because it truly is spectacular!

When we arrived there was a bit of cloud around, but as we stood there admiring the place the clouds would drift in and out... it really just added a bit more mystique to the whole experience.


 As the day went on, the clouds moved higher and we had amazing weather for most of the day!  It wasn't until about 3pm that the rain started to fall - but it didn't stop us... we just donned the wet weather gear and kept on exploring!

 Some of the rock placement is amazing.  Like this wall that is built on another sloping rock - how is it possible that those rocks don't just slide down...

And this one...  a room/house built over a roundish rock with massive stones bridging the gap to create a floor - you wouldn't even know you weren't on solid ground from inside that room...

Oh and these things are all over the place too... rocks that have been shaped to be like tie-down loops...

I have no answers for any of these things... I eavesdropped on lots of guides and heard lots of "theories" but the point is, nobody really knows why or how any of this was built.  So we just need be satisfied with the fact that we have had the privilege of visiting this stunning place...