Monday, 23 April 2012

Forget curry or Chinese, soon you'll be hankering after a Peruvian

Hotly tipped as The Next Big Thing on the London culinary circuit, Peruvian cuisine has been making headlines.  The aptly named 'Lima' restaurant is due to open its doors early summer time, and 'Ceviche' restaurant and bar is already open in Soho. The first thing people tend to ask me is what exactly constitutes a typical Peruvian meal, so I thought I would clarify. Head chef of Lima, Virgilio Martinez has cited that Peruvian food is a melting pot of different cultures, including Japanese, West African and Spanish. Chilli's are a key ingredient in traditional fare, as are meats such as pork, chicken and beef. The variety of chilli used is more to add colour than real heat to a dish. Many meals are heavily reliant on carbs like potatoes, rice and maize, sometimes serving two carb variants per meal. The most popular would be sweet potatoes, which have a long history of cultivation there. 

Other dishes are more reminiscent of their Eastern roots, with sushi like delicacy's stemming from the influx of immigrant populations from Japan and China. The French Culinary Bible, Larousse Gastronomique defines ceviche, a Peruvian staple with Japanese roots, as a dish that uses raw fish marinated in lemon juice, accompanied by raw onion rings, sweetcorn and tomatoes (recipe below). Other traditional dishes include tacu-tacu, steak with fried rice and beans, Pollo a la Brasa, marinated chicken that has been roasted. The sweet dishes are usually hybrid dishes hailing from Spain's colonization of Peru, including icecream, nougats and rice pudding. To quench your thirst, you might like a beer or to try the national drink of Peru, Pisco. A kind of brandy, Pisco can be transformed into a cocktail or drunk alone and is made from grapes in a wine like process. So go forth and feel equipt to delight your taste buds with the ultimate in fusion cookery. 

Ceviche recipe:

Ingredients:
400g firm fish, cubed (perhaps salmon, sea bream, plaice)
1 lime
1 lemon
2 shallots
1 medium size tomato
1 chilli
4 tbsp unflavoured oil (perhaps sunflower, grapeseed)

Method:
1. In advance, put 4 tablespoons of unflavoured oil into a seal-able container with 1 chilli. Cover and leave in fridge for at least two days for the oil to infuse. 
2. Cut the fillets of fish into 1cm cubes. Set aside.
3. Juice the lemon and lime, dice the shallots and season with salt and pepper. 
4. Blanch the skin of the tomato in boiling water for no more than 60 seconds. Plunge into ice cold water and peel the skin. Slice the tomato in half, deseed and finely chop the tomato. 
5. Remove the chilli from the oil and mix with the tomato, citrus juice and shallots. 
6. Marinade the fish in the mixture for 20 minutes. 
7. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped chives. Peruvian restaurants often serve this with avocado salad as an appetizer. 

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