Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Part 2 A Magic Journey To The Heart Of The Inca Empire

A Lake Like an Ocean, Sunken Treasures, Knitting Men and a Community Life of Long Gone Times.

 After spending some days at the ancient capital of the Inca Empire,Cuzco, we continued our journey to the lake Titicaca, one of the most fascinating places I have seen so far.
Situated between Peru and Bolivia  at an altitude of 3.800 m (12507 feet) above sea level, this place leaves you literally breathless, not only because of the altitude but as well because of it's extraordinary beauty.

The lake is studded with many islands, both natural and men-made.
According to mythology, a large gold treasure was sunken by the Incas in this mysterious waters.
Looking much more like an ocean than a lake,  the Titicaca is the largest freshwater lake in South America. It's water is of a deep blue ( maybe due to the good weather :=) ) and its inhabitants have developed  the most extraordinary variety of cultures and ways of life.
There are different tribes living in the area.
The Uro people living on their floating islands are a relatively small but very interesting community.
Their islands are made (and must be maintained and replaced regularly) from totora reeds which provide home, sustenance and transportation for their residents.
The islands vary in size and according to the needs they can provide homes for 3 up to 6 or more families.

Walking on them is quite an experience, a bit like walking on a waterbed, as everything moves beyond your feet. The Uros developed through the centuries their own way of life,social system and nature cure.

The inhabitants of Taquile Island
the main village at this small small island is situated about 3950m above sea level.
The Islanders are masters at knitting and weaving and their textiles and clothing was proclaimed "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.
Men are usually the ones that knit wheras women weave.

The society is runned based on community decisions and on the Inca moral code "ama sua,ama llulla, ama qhilla" which is quetchua for "do not steal,do not lie, do not be lazy.
These people are friendly and proud (but in a rather shy way) of their Island and society and it needs a sensitive and respectful tourism in order to preserve their way of life intact.

One of the youngest inhabitants playing on a floating island made by his parents

This Lama just stepped before my camera at the right moment

Looking for something?

Men knitting at the Taquile island

A Lama somehow puzzled about the speed limit

The austere beauty of the landscape

The huge lake seems to melt into the horizon


So we will go to rest,tired but happy after an extraordinary day.
Hope you enjoyed the journey.
See you next week.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Magic Journey To The Heart Of The Inca Empire

Cusco, or as the Incas called it, "the navel of the world" is located at about 3.400m (11.200) above sea level.
 It was once the capital of the almighty Inca Empire, whose territories included not only Peru but large parts of Bolivia,Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. In the 1400s it w as one of the largest states in the world.
Quechua, the old Inca language is still widely spoken.
The charm of the city lies not only in its beautiful architecture but as well in the mix of cultures between Inca and colonial traditions brought by the Spanish  who conquered the Empire under the command of Francisco Pizarro in the middle of the 16th century.
Most historic buildings are build on Inca temple and palace foundations on which the Spanish constructed their churches and mansions. From there Christianity was spread through the Andean territories.
Most temples housed incredible gold treasures which were taken away by the conquerors.
The Incas revered gold as tears of the sun and all gold belonged to the Inca, the son of the sun god.
Lamas were the most important domestic animals, carrying heavy burdens and providing food and  wool for clothing.
Join me at this fascinating journey discovering Cusco and its surroundings.

The old Santo Domingo church build on the foundations of the temple of the virgins of the sun.
If you look at the foundation you can easily spot the huge, perfectly built in stones made by the Inca architects.
Details of the fine masonry with precisely cut and shaped stones closely fitted without mortar. 

The famous twelve angle stone that fits in precisely

 A bowl of Coca leaves on display in a luxury hotel. Coca leave tea is offered to all visitors upon arriving against the altitude sickness which makes breathing difficult.

The reception of a luxury hotel

..and the daily hardship of life in the Andean. An old woman carrying her heavy burden.

Breathtaking landscapes in the Andean

Archeological remains from a pre Inca period


A pink pepper tree

Taking a close look

Sun drying pork skin at a roof top

After that the skin is deep fried until crispy and offered to travelers by a street seller

A trip full of contrasts: sophisticated dessert at a restaurant in Cusco made of elderberries

After a "sweet" and happy end of part one this adventurous trip , we will continue our journey soon.
See you next week.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Delicate Pleasure:Sweet Omlette Soufflé

When I first read this recipe from handwritten recipe collection my grandmother left to me, I remembered that she told me never to prepare this dessert when in a hurry. You will see, she said , it's very easy to cook and its ready in no time but it´s delicate as a mimosa and demands your full concentration.
As I am a rather impatient person and, very much a child of the 21st century, do like practical and no time consuming cooking, I banned the recipe in a remote corner of my cooking book collection and forgot about it.
When we got installed in Lima after a two years stay in Italy, I reorganized my books and somehow this one drew my attention.
Today, on one of this rather gray and cold Peruvian winter Saturdays, I thought, OK, why not -  let´s try it.
And boy a surprise it was.
First of all it was ready in about 10 minutes, second it was not difficult to prepare at all but tasted so delicate that, if I would not have known better, could swear that this was a very complex mission to achieve.
My grandmother proved to be absolutely right- the only thing this dessert demands is not to hurry it up and a  bit of concentration - exigencies that are well deserved after all.

3 egg whites
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup ripe strawberries cut in slices
2 spoonful sun flower oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 spoonful of Strawberry Jam
1pinch of salt
Meant leaves  
For the sour cream filling:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup icing sugar

 -Put the egg white in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until foamy.

-Add a pinch of salt and then gradually add icing sugar and  keep beating until firm peaks are formed and the mixture is thick and glossy.
-mix the egg yolks gently and add them one by one

-mix carefully with the egg white mixture

 -in a non-stick frying pan heat the oil and melt butter

 -add the egg white mixture

-Gently smooth surface, cook over medium heat

-cook until omelette is puffed and lightly browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. (Lift omelet at edge with spatula to judge color.)
Turn omelette gently  (the best way is to lift the omelette with the help of 2 spatulas) and cook until the other side is lightly browned.

-brush the upper side with a bit of strawberry jam

-mix sour cream with sugar

-place omelette on serving plate,top generously with sour cream filling, add strawberry slices.
-fold omelette in half ,sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate with halved strawberries and mint leaves
-If you prefer you can serve this dessert as well open faced.
Serve immediately.

Serves 1 portion
See you next week.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tomato Bread Salad Tuscany Style

As we are preparing a trip to the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco ( which means literally, the hub of the world ) ,there is little time left to spend in the kitchen.
Despite of that, we still planned a small dinner party for friends who are visiting us in Peru.
Short of time, but still wanting to prepare something refreshing with a little twist, I remembered this wonderful, tasty salad that represents the aromas of the Mediterranean and was one of our favorite treats when in Tuscany.
It's ideal for summer, when tomatoes are at their best and a great way to use left over baguette or other bread.


-400g ripe cherry tomatoes halved (or ripe mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped)
-1/2 stale baguette or ciabatta bread (you can as well use a fresh one. In this case bake it in the oven at low temperature until dried up)
-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and  crashed
-1/2 cup of good quality olive oil
-2 sprigs of Rosemary
-1/2 cup of black olives, cored and coarsely chopped
-1/2 spoonful chopped chili, seeds removed (optional)
-1 spoonful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
For the dressing:
-2 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar
-1 teaspoon of brown sugar
-4 Table spoon of good quality olive oil
- freshly ground pepper and salt
Wash and halve the  Cherry tomatoes

Chop olives

mix the olive oil with the crushed garlic, add a bit of salt

tear the bread into thumb sized pieces and brush with the olive oil- garlic mixture

Bake in oven together with the Rosemary at 220 C until golden brown.

Mix the tomatoes in a large bowl with salt and pepper, put aside for about 10 minutes at room temperature, then mix again together.

Add olives, bread pieces and, if you wish, the chili.

Apart, in a smaller bowl mix well the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar( until dissolved) for the dressing.
Pour over the salad ( the idea is that the bread soaks up all the flavors), mix carefully again and sprinkle with basil leaves.

Serves 4
See you next week


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Delights: Chilled Strawberry Soup With Pistacchio Snow Eggs

When summer finally arrives I love to visit the farmer's markets and enjoy the huge variety of seasonal veggies and fruits they offer.
Their joyful colors and wonderful aroma brightens up even a rainy day and is good for body and soul.
In Austria and other countries of central and northern Europe, people enjoy on hot summer days  a special kind of dessert which we call "Kaltschale", a kind of chilled fruit soup, loaded with vitamins and great natural flavors as nothing else is added than pure fruits,((sometimes) Greek yogurt a bit of sugar and spices.
My favorite one is  chilled strawberry soup with oeufs a la neige (snow eggs) and pistachios.


750 g strawberries   (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup Greek yogurt
 3/4 cup of caster sugar (or less, depending on the sweetness of the strawberries)
some basil leaves for decoration
For the snow eggs:
1 egg white
50g sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 spoonful coarsely chopped pistachios

-Cut about 200g of strawberries into small pieces

-Puree the rest of the strawberries together with Greek yogurt, sugar and lemon juice until smooth.
-Refrigerate until chilled.

Snow eggs:
-Put the egg white in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until foamy.

-Add a pinch of salt and then gradually add icing sugar and  keep beating until firm peaks are formed and the mixture is thick and glossy.

-Use two large metal spoons to shape ovals of the meringue mixture.

-In a large pot, bring 2-3l water to boil, then lower the temperature until water is simmering
-Drop the merengue ovals gently into simmering water.

-Cook for 1 minute each side, then transfer to a baking sheet.

-Place the chilled strawberry soup in a large glass bowl, add the small pieces of  strawberries and top with snow eggs.

 -or serve the dessert in smaller portions in cocktail glasses

-Sprinkle the snow eggs with chopped pistachios and some basil leaves.

Serves about 8 portions.
See you next Tuesday.

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