I confess that I was a bit startled at the prospect of reviewing a Peruvian cookbook. It’s a measure of my ignorance that I had expected lists of ingredients that would be difficult to find outside South America, with the notable exception of guinea-pig and I couldn’t visualise a trip to the pet shop after collecting the groceries from ASDA.
It was a relief when The Food and Cooking of Peru arrived. It’s full of recipes that are truly different, flavourful and all of them accessible to the European cook. The author hasn’t included a recipe for guinea-pig here, although you may encounter it on the menu in Peru. But one shouldn’t be horrified by that; it’s a free-range and healthy meat which one could liken to rabbit or chicken, although with less eating on the legs. The recipes in this book draw on familiar produce found in your local supermarket, but with a unique twist.
It’s not only the food of Peru which is unique. These people can trace their heritage back to the mighty Incas, the Spanish conquistadores, Africans, Chinese, Japanese and finally French and Italians. The food reflects the cooking of four continents as well as the 28 different climates and the diverse landscapes of this extraordinary country. Peruvian cuisine is considered by many to be the best in South America.
The author of this striking and informative book is Flor Arcaya de Deliot who was born and brought up in the capital, Lima. She is well-travelled and has a passion for the regional dishes of her homeland. She has written two other Peruvian cookbooks, and one of her recipes has even had an honourable mention in the annual International Competition for the Potato.
The Food and Cooking of Peru is a marvellous melange of food history, culture and recipes. Flor has selected recipes which would be inspiring and simple for the European home cook. The ingredients are not only readily available but inexpensive. There are stunning ideas for presentation, making this a book for those who want to entertain with style as well as those of us who want to enjoy good food with the family.
It’s a practical book as well as being of coffee-table quality. There is a raft of stunning photographs by Jon Whitaker. Finished dishes shown in all their vibrant glory but also step-by-step shots of cooking techniques, although those will hold no terrors for even the novice. It’s the combinations of flavours and textures which help to create these dishes, rather than cheffy processes.
My attention was drawn to Humitas (Corn parcels): these are like the more familiar tamales of Mexico. They make a stunning canapé for drinks parties or as part of a Peruvian or South American-themed meal. If you have trouble buying fresh corn with husks then use best-quality frozen corn, and parchment paper to wrap. The presentation won’t be as attractive as the traditional, but delicious nevertheless.
Fried Beans with Eggs and Plantain – Tacu Tacu – is a substantial rustic dish and ideal for cold winters in Northern Europe. The aforementioned beans are haricot (navy) beans and can be tinned. Plantains are widely available and taste like a green banana, but they must be cooked before eating. You’ll likely already have the ingredients for the salsas.
Peruvian desserts are a striking selection of sweet but flavourful confections. Spiced Rice Pudding – Arroz Zambito – is rice pud with attitude. Simple to make but rich with evaporated milk and perfumed with cinnamon and cloves. The inclusion of nuts adds crunch and the dark brown sugar gives the dessert a tempting toffee colour and taste. It’s served cool so is ideal for entertaining.
The Food and Cooking of Peru is an enchanting cookbook. The recipes have introduced me to an unknown cuisine which has so much to offer any food enthusiast. Out of the ordinary, yes, but there is nothing bizarre and nothing that I would say is “an acquired taste”, a phrase that has readers heading for the hills …or in this case the Andes. Great dishes, well-written recipes, and an absorbing travelogue. Brilliant.
The Food and Cooking of Peru
Author: Flor Arcaya de Deliot
Published by: Aquamarine
Price: £ 15.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018