The national food scene is beginning to understand what Peruvians have long known: Peruvian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world, with deeply flavorful ethnic influences ranging from Chinese, African and Japanese to Italian and Andean. Indigenous ingredients like freshly-caught seafood, hundreds of potato varieties, corn, chili peppers, quinoa, beans and grapes enhance Peru’s melting pot of flavors, creating a gastronomic culture that’s unique within the Americas.
The dishes traditional to Peru – home to over 29 million people – are the subject of “The Everything Peruvian Cookbook,” which is an encyclopedic guide to the cooking methods, equipment, dishes and ingredients essential to Peruvian cuisine. Written by mother Morena Cuadra and her adult daughter, Morena Escardó, the pair behind the immensely popular food blog Peruvian Delights, this is one book that home style cooks will find approachable, with even the most complicated of recipes broken down into easy-to-understand instructions.
“Everyone is talking about Peruvian food now, but very few people know much more about it than cebiche and pisco sours,” says Escardó. “Our cuisine is very complex, reflecting our long and multicultural history, and we wanted people to learn this, so they can better understand our techniques and ingredients. “
The book is divided into 17 comprehensive chapters including 300 recipes spanning appetizers, salsa and dips, sandwiches, breads, proteins, grains, seafood, soups, desserts and cocktails. There’s even an entire chapter devoted to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes, a nod to the growing number of health-conscious Latinos and vegetarians like Escardo.
“It is possible to eat Peruvian even if you’re a vegetarian,” explains Escardó. “The amazing array of colorful, tasty, and super nutritious ingredients we have is a huge advantage, making our food a very well-rounded and satisfying experience for people with any kind of diet.”
A great example of Peruvian food – delicious and open to variation – are humitas, a type of tamal made by steaming corn masa and fillings inside a corn husk. It’s a traditional recipe that’s one of the mother-daughter duo’s favorites, and one well worth trying.
Excerpted from “The Everything Peruvian Cookbook” (F+W/Adams Media; February 2013) by Morena Escardó & Morena Caudra.
Humita comes from the Quechua word huminta, the name for a sweet paste of corn, cooked with raisins
and wrapped in corn husks. These sweet tamales can also become savory by filling them with cheese or
chicken. Or you can make them extra sweet by filling them with raisins and manjarblanco.
Ingredients | Yields 15 humitas
3 pounds fresh white corn kernels
¾ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 (2-pound) package green corn husks, or dry husks)
2 cups boiling water
1 cup Salsa Criolla (click here for the recipe)
Instead of sugar, add an extra layer of flavor to the tamales with an aderezo: Cook 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and 2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste in 4 tablespoons hot vegetable oil over medium heat. When the onion is very soft (approximately 5–7 minutes), add this aderezo to the processed corn and continue with the recipe.
1 Process the corn in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl; beat with a wooden spoon, adding the shortening until the mixture is soft and creamy. Add sugar and salt, and taste for seasoning.
2. Have the corn husks ready, and proceed to make the tamales: Working with 2 corn husks at a time, place them on the table with the wide sides overlapping. Put 2 tablespoons of the corn mixture in the middle, but do not spread it. Fold the leaves from all four sides toward the center, overlapping and forming a rectangle, enclosing the filling completely. Tie the tamale with a string, or make your own string with a thin slice of corn husk.
3. In a wide, large saucepan, make a thick layer of corn husks, accommodate the humitas over this, and put more corn husks on top. Add 2 cups boiling water, cover tightly with a lid, and steam for about 40 minutes over high heat. Serve with Salsa Criolla on the side.