I was so busy eating, cooking and socializing yesterday that there was no time to write! We have just arrived in Cusco and I’ve already taken to my bed after a lunch of salad, Coca Tea, a papaya juice and chicken noodle soup. Apparently my body does not appreciate me being up at 11,000 feet. So while everyone else has gone off to explore, I’m enjoying some quiet time and hoping the dizzy, weak feeling will wear off soon.
Yesterday, our second full day in Lima, was all about food. We had booked a 5 hour cooking class at the home of Chef Hector, who arranged for us to be picked up and taken to meet him at the market he frequents. The first thing we learned is that Peru experiences all of the seasons at any given point in time in different areas of the country. What this means is that they can pretty much grow anything as they have an incredible number of different microclimates and this was abundantly clear upon our arrival at the market. I’m just not sure how I’m going to handle returning to my regular supermarkets back home….
I have never seen such a variety of fruits and vegetables, just fabulous. While there, Chef Hector purchased a side of Mahi-mahi for our Ceviche making lesson, as well as a whole octopus. When we had finished touring and purchasing, we were driven to his house where our cooking class was set up in his back courtyard. We learnt to make three traditional Peruvian dishes as well as their signature drink, the Pisco Sour. It was an interesting and entertaining afternoon to say the least and it was a delicious education in the gorgeous flavors that are typically incorporated in the national cuisine. It became apparant after a while that our charming host, a lawyer turned Chef and world traveler, was completely exhausted and running on empty but he made it through and survived.
No visit to Peru is complete without trying Ceviche, a dish that has many interpretations here. Chef Hector prepares his with a garlic, ginger, cilantro and chili infused lime juice from key limes which we dutifully squeezed without creating friction with the skin, just firmly squeezing them without allowing the pith to taint the taste. After muddling the ingredients, it was strained so that only the liquid remained. This was then tossed with the Mahi-mahi, sprinkled with some red chili and cilantro and allowed to sit for ten minutes. It was served with sweet potato wedges lightly coated with a passion fruit simple syrup. Amazing.
Squeezing the key limes and blending the passion fruit and the finished dish:
The second dish was Papa a la Huancaina which consists of sliced potatoes with a spicy cheese sauce topped with hard boiled egg:
Finally, the most labor intensive one was Causa, made with Octopus. Essentially Octopus salad layered between potatoes laced with lime juice and puréed yellow peppers. We even made our own olive mayonnaise. There are literally hundreds of varieties of potatoes here. We all made our own blend after trying Chef’s as an example, Silvia provided the entertainment when she ate most of his example while he wasn’t looking, declaring it “so good and so much better than mine”, then got busted! After a couple of rounds of Pisco Sours, we were ravenous.
It was fun afternoon and after quickly eating a sample of our creations, Cherry and I had to hop into a taxi to get ready for our evening invitation for dinner at the Deputy British Ambassador’s home. Dominic, Nilma and Josha Dole were our lovely hosts and we enjoyed a fabulous Peruvian Indian fusion dinner that included spicy stuffed pepper, chicken and rice, a cheese curry dish and we finished up with homemade pistachio ice cream laced with cardamom and accompanying a carrot and coconut cake. The Peruvian wine they served with it was also excellent. A delightful evening with such a lovely family connected to us by my godmother, Margaret, who met them at a wedding in Vermont this summer! So very kind of them to host us. A bonus was getting to meet our fellow dinner guest, Martha Galdos a singer from Lima who is celebrating the launch of her first album. She is delightful, thoughtful, intelligent, clearly dedicated to her art and multilingual too! I’m looking forward to listening to her album which I now proudly own.
A fabulous day!