I’ve always found that experiences are far more pleasurable than possessions. I’m the sort of person who’d far rather spend £300 pound on a trip away, than on a designer handbag, so it goes without saying that my favourite presents are experiences rather than gifts.
Flor Arcaya de Deliot was born and raised in Lima in Peru, but now lives in South West London. Flor loves Peruvian food and, like me, wants more people to experience real Peruvian cooking.
As well as writing cookery books, Flor offers a Peruvian catering service and cookery lessons in her home.
It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to cook with a published Peruvian chef in her own home – I was really excited. So one Sunday morning, we travelled over to Flor’s house in Richmond, where she greeted us warmly and cooked us a hearty Peruvian four course meal.
Course One – Huancaina Sauce and Peruvian Nibbles
Much to my delight, Flor agreed to show me how to make my favourite Peruvian Huancaina Sauce. Huancaina sauce is a creamy, nutty, chilli cheese sauce often served with potatoes or as a dressing to a causa rellena. I’ve never attempted to make this lovely sauce as all recipes included the aji amarillo chilli pepper, which isn’t easily found in this country. I asked Flor for a recipe for Huancaina that didn’t depend on this elusive yellow chilli. Well, she did better than that…she gave me two recipes!
For the first sauce she used a simple recipe of mascarpone cheese, mixed with her signature garlic chilli sauce and a squeeze of lemon. The second sauce was made by blending feta cheese, salted crackers, red chilli, evaporated milk, lemon and peanuts. Both very simple to make and not a single yellow chilli in sight!
Course 2 – Chupe de Camarones
During my time in Peru, I learnt that Peruvians love seafood, especially along the coast. A typical Arequipeñan (from Arequipa) dish is Chupe de Camarones, a creamy prawn chowder with tomatoes, rice and corn. Of course, when I mentioned to Flor that I’d tried this in Arequipa, she was keen to make it for me.
We peeled and prepared the prawns ourselves, before Flor threw the shells and heads into a pan to cook them, so that they turn pink. The heads and shells have most of the flavour and colour, so she wrapped them up in thin material bag and added them to the stew to cook. The chowder ingredients also included evaporated milk, garlic, onion, sweet corn, potatoes, rice and eggs.
Course 3 – Seco de Carne
When I asked Flor if she’d been to many of the new Peruvian restaurants in London, she said she that she had, but they weren’t “real Peruvian.” Instead, they are what she called “experimental Peruvian”. Sure, they make Peruvian dishes like ceviche and causa rellena, but the chefs play around with the ingredients, focusing on the presentation and the innovation, rather than promoting what the essence of Peruvian food is all about: hearty home-cooking.
So for our third course, it’s no surprise that Flor made us an authentic Peruvian ‘dry’ stew – seco de carne. This dry beef stew is found all over Peru, eaten in homes and in restaurants.
I’ve never seen so much coriander put in one dish before! Two huge bunches of coriander, blended with onion, garlic and water, make the basis of this pungent stew. As Flor put so simply:
“If you prepare any stew, fry an onion with it.”
Now I love coriander, so the smell and taste was delicious, but I did find the dish a bit too dry for my tastes. However, the meat was tender and the boiled cassava was a real treat.
Course 4 – Homemade Lucuma and Mango Ice Cream
I’ve never tried to make ice cream before. My mum used to have one of those ice-cream makers, but I’ve never really given it a try. I was excited to try making it from scratch and it turned out to be quite labour-intensive! This was the first thing that Flor prepared, so that it had four hours to freeze.
The mango ice cream was made from fresh mango, caster sugar and whisked evaporated milk. Lucuma is a fruit native to the Andean valleys of Peru and rare in this country, so the only way of getting hold of it is in powder form.
I was a big fan of the mango ice cream, which had just the right level of sweetness versus the freshness of the mango. The lucuma ice cream had a good flavour but the consistency was notably drier due to the powder. I did still take some of the powder home with me though (thanks Flor!) so I will try to reproduce the recipe again in the future.
Four courses and five hours later, we were finished and full. It was a fantastic experience learning to make real Peruvian food from a native Peruvian cook. I learnt a lot about Peruvian food and flavours, as well as some general cooking advice from Flor. She’s a lovely lady who just wants to teach more people about Peruvian food.
I highly recommend Flor’s cookery books and loved my cooking class experience.