In love with Lima

LIMA – FLAVOURFUL, COLOURFUL AND MEMORABLE

This is the last chapter of my Peruvian odyssey. Now that my son has returned from his year of adventuring in South America it has been wonderful to reminisce together about our flavour-filled sojourn in Lima. Let me share some highlights with you. I loved Lima from the moment I arrived – from the loud hustle and bustle at the airport trying to jostle through the crowds to our taxi, to the last moment at this, the largest desert city in the world. Grey skies did nothing to deter us. We headed through the traffic past colonial-style buildings to the sumptuous Belmond Miraflores Hotel where we got the right royal welcome before being shown to our room with a sweeping view of the seafront. I was entranced to see the South African flag swaying sweetly in the breeze, devastated to discover that it had not been erected in our honour, but instead for the SA ambassador. Undeterred we headed up to the rooftop bar and gym to work up an appetite for what we knew would be a memorable meal. In Lima history and tradition combine to showcase interesting produce such as 4000 varieties of potato, and an overwhelming array of spectacular seafood. The renowned Tragaluz restaurant in the hotel, overlooking the beachfront, was where we enjoyed local cuisine served in a five-star fashion, paired with Peruvian wines. Tradition and trendy was showcased in a memorable way.

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The next morning local chef Hector Aguilar Valle whisked us off to the local market, Mercado de Surquillo. We stood on a street corner waiting for the rest of our cookery class – a teacher and his daughter from North Carolina who was about to begin a volunteering stint, and an Australian mom and her daughter Stephanie from Sydney, currently teaching English in Chile. I of course was unashamedly combining my business and pleasure with a quick gate-crash of my 23-year-old son’s year of exploring South America to learn Spanish. We immediately clicked into a cohesive group whilst Hector introduced us to all the local produce, which he swears are the best in the world. He took the time to lead us through the conflicted history of Peru, and why certain foods are still eaten today. Fascinating to hear the intricacies of how Nikkei cuisine originated when the Japanese melted their influence into the flavours of Peru, and Chifa, from the Chinese immigration.

From the market we were transported to Hector’ s home. We were welcomed by the melodic sounds of a Peruvian drummer and the sight of our cookery stations set up in his small garden where he proceeded to demonstrate a series of Peruvian dishes, with us confidently following. A trained chef who studied at USIL (the Paul Bocuse school in Peru), he and his brother are well suited to showing hospitality and the tricks and techniques of Peruvian cookery to international visitors. He explained how Peruvian food is based in the flavour of a chilli, but not the heat, and gave us practical tips for the use of chillies. Our eyes lit up when brother Alvaro demonstrated chilcanos and pisco sours, drinks made from pisco, their native juice of grapes. Our conversation lost all inhibitions, and soon we too were drumming. We made ceviche with white corn and glazed sweet potato. Tiger’s milk, the spicy citrus liquid in which raw fish is marinated for ceviche, was another cocktail enjoyed. By now we were all new best friends and I heard Warren accepting an invitation to head for Chile and hang his backpack on a hook with Stephanie and her boyfriend! Read more about it in the December issue of Sawubona magazine.

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Another highlight of our time in Lima, after visiting the chocolate museum, was going with Hector and Warren to the local market just before closing, to eat with the locals at a chebicheria run by vivacious Herica, who took a shine to Warren due to his ability to converse with her in her home language.  Hector walked us through the backstreets where we stopped for coffee and a quick shop at the Peruvian and Inca markets (more Maras salt and alpaca wool for my already bulging bags) and then to enjoy a beer tasting with the sun setting behind the catacombs. I think I left a little of my heart in Lima and the only way to avoid a broken heart will be to return.

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In search of goodness for vegans and vegetarians in the Mother City I hit upon some gems that even carnivores would love. I arrived at Raw & Roxy in Woodstock with a fellow sceptical non-vegan, and we both left inspired by owner Beatrice Holst. She has taken the vegan scene by storm in Cape Town, and is truly living proof that you are what you eat. Her wide smile, obvious energy and sparkly blue eyes have taken 10 years off her age in terms of looks and vitality. We devoured the tapas plate and zooty juices.

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My other find was Scheckter’s Raw in Sea Point. Small and intimate, here one can choose from a diverse menu. I shared the red Thai curry and a power-packed salad, both to be highly recommended. For a fabulous round-up of vegetarian and vegan restaurants countrywide read the November issue of Food & Home Entertaining. During my research I discovered three wonderful food and wine pairing options for vegetarians – Greenhouse at Cellars Hohenhort, Azure at the 12 Apostles and if you are happy to travel further afield, Kurland in Plett!

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TIME TO WINE

It was a glorious crisp Spring Saturday morning, and with a good girlfriend visiting from Jozi, we headed off to Eagles Nest for a wine tasting. Unbeknown to us there was a 60th birthday party in full swing by the time we arrived. Thinking we were guests (although obviously too young to be contemplating a 60th party), the host insisted that we start with a glass of bubbly. It was a great start to a morning of wine tasting that ended with a full boot and empty wallet. Next time we will be threading our way from Eagles Nest to Constantia Glen and finishing off at Beau Constantia to confirm my status as a Liam Tomlin fan. There is plenty of promise in the Constantia Valley – from the long-awaited re-development of the Constantia Nek property by the Harbour House group, to Scot Kirton’s Foxcroft opening at High Constantia in October (bookings are now open).

CHAPMANS PEAK HOTEL 

When our son returned from his sojourn in South America we whipped him off to Chapmans Peak Hotel for lunch on the deck in the sun, his choice. Peri-peri prawns and a view of the Hout Bay sentinel and he felt like he had never left home.

ELLERMAN HOUSE 

What better way to celebrate a friend’s milestone birthday than dinner at Ellerman House. Small and intimate, an opportunity to celebrate enduring friendships in what feels like home-from-home. Superlative is the adjective that describes everything on offer there – the setting, service, art, wine and of course the fabulous food. Chefs Veronica and Grant know how to pull out all the stops with whatever fresh produce is available on the day.

BLUES 

When asked where we should meet for a quick supper before seeing “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour dreamcoat” at the Theatre on the Bay I made three suggestions, and the group went with Blues for a touch of nostalgia. We remember the days when it was three times the size and absolutely the only place to be seen! They have re-invented themselves, and the table of more than a baker’s dozen all declared their meals delicious. Then it was off to see the Pharaoh Elvis-style. Not going to give the game away, so see the show for yourself.

THE GOURMET GUIDE – SPANISH FIESTA

After much cajoling I was persuaded to present a cookery demo of recipes sourced during my recent gastronomic tour of Spain for my friends and their friends. It was a fun and exciting morning, with seven dishes presented to help the attendees enjoy effortless entertaining. I shared numerous tips, tricks and techniques, some of which date back to the basics learnt during my training as a home economist and nutritionist. For me food is about flavour, ensuring that you use the finest ingredients and then give them the respect that they deserve. In addition I made sure each guest left with a shopping list, preparation sheet and bulging bags of high quality goodies like Rio Largo olive oil. The morning kicked off with mint tea and churros, and we prepared stuffed peppers, a roasted tomato and pimento soup, followed by prawn paella and a Spanish salad. We ended the sumptuous Spanish fiesta on the deck admiring the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying new friendships whilst devouring an orange cheesecake and Valencia brulee, with sangria. To accommodate those who could not attend the inaugural event, we are having a repeat on Tuesday 27 September. If you wish to find out more about it, contact Natalie on rsvp@jhpr.co.za.

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