The vibrant colors and flavors of Peruvian cuisine are flourishing in Lola de la Borda and Dr. Augusto Lopez-Torres’ home. The couple has lived in Palm Beach since 2012 and, pre-coronavirus, took frequent trips to Lima each year.
De la Borda is passionate about the history and food of her country. She was born in Nazca, on the southern coast of Peru. The family farm grew cotton. After her father died, her mother moved to Piura, in the northern part of the country near the Ecuadorian border. At 11, she was sent to a boarding school in England.
After finishing school, she moved back to Lima. A few years after, her cousin introduced her to a friend of his, Dr. Augusto Lopez-Torres, who was in town for a medical conference. Their relationship blossomed and after getting married they moved to Palm Beach.
Before COVID-19 hit, the couple enjoyed an active social life that included entertaining friends and family at home. By March, everything had changed.
“Suddenly we realized that we were not going out as much,” said de la Borda. “We were eating at home more. I began creating menus and looking for recipes. Peruvian food is easy to prepare here. I can find most of the ingredients I need at El Bodagon Supermarket. They have a special Peruvian aisle. Our dishes have a variety of everything.”
Over the last decade, Peru has become one of the hottest destinations for gastronomic travel. De la Borda says that there are three basic influences in Peruvian cuisine.
Novoandina combines modern techniques with traditional ingredients from Andean countries. Juane is a main dish from the Amazon usually served on June 24 for the feast of St. John. It is made up of rice, eggs, olives and chicken steamed in bijao or banana leaf. Nikkei is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian dishes perfected by Nobu Matsuhisa, who spent four years cooking in Peru and discovered purple potatoes, seafood soup and what was then an unfamiliar herb to him, cilantro.
De la Borda’s culinary concepts cover the spectrum of Peruvian cuisine, from ancient to modern.
Here are two Peruvian recipes to try at home.
The first is Causa, which means “cause” in English. This dish became popular during the Pacific war in 1879-1883, when Peruvian women were dedicated to raising funds to help the soldiers.
They had a food drive collecting mainly potatoes and vegetables. The ladies came up with this dish and would sell it on the streets crying out “buy it for the cause,” and the name stuck.
The second is a cocktail made from Peruvian brandy called Pisco.
*4 medium Yukon Gold or yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced
*1 ½ tablespoons of aji paste*
*3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
*Juice of one lime
*Salt and pepper, to taste
*½ cup tuna or cooked chicken, shrimp, lobster or seafood, diced
*½ cup finely diced onion, cooked peas, carrots or corn
*3 tablespoons sliced pitted olives
*½ cup mayonnaise
*1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
*1 teaspoon aji paste
*1 teaspoon lemon juice
*1 avocado, sliced
*2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
*4 three-inch circular molds
Boil the potatoes until tender. Combine with the oil, aji paste and lime juice. Mash into a smooth paste.
Place the fish, chicken or seafood, vegetables and olives in a bowl. In another bowl combine the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, aji paste, lemon juice, mix thoroughly and toss gently with the fish, chicken or seafood.
Place the ring molds on a platter, smooth a layer of potato on the bottom, divide the filling into four portions and place it on top of the potato mixture. Add another layer of the potato mixture.
Place the molds in the refrigerator to cool for one hour.
To serve: Unmold each ring on a plate. Garnish with avocado slices and diced hard-boiled eggs.
Makes four servings.
* Aji paste is made from yellow aji peppers and can be found at El Bodagon.
Pisco is a colorless brandy made from fermented grape juice produced in the wine growing regions of Peru.
3 ounces pisco
1ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Place the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake until frothy. Add the ice and shake again. Place in an old fashion glass and add three drops of bitters.
Makes two servings.