Our London Cookbook Club had its third meeting earlier this month. This time, we reviewed Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen. Every member’s efforts were outstanding. I mean, just take a look at this gorgeous Causa Santa Rosa (a stack of potatoes mixed with peppers, then topped with avocado, beets, sweet potatoes and surrounded by an olive aioli made by Cookbook Club member Elizabeth. But even with such gorgeous examples of Peruvian cuisine, our members gave the cookbook itself mixed reviews. Read on for more!
Do you know much about Peruvian food? As we discovered, most our club members hadn’t cooked Peruvian food before picking up this cookbook, myself included. In fact, everything I know about Peruvian cuisine comes from two distinct moments in my life. The first comes from an extended trip to Peru that I took after graduating from college. I remember falling in love with a palta rellena (an avocado split in half and stuffed with chicken salad) at a roadside stop in the Andes Mountains. There was a complementary cool creaminess between the chicken and the avo, and I remember wondering why I’d never thought of cramming meat into an avocado for a snack. Actually, I’m still wondering why I don’t do that more often, right this second.
My second experience with Peruvian food is the famous and ubiquitous charcoal-grilled chicken at quick-and-dirty chicken shops that dot the northern Virginia landscape. Shortly after moving back to the Washington, DC metropolitan area in 2014, the hubby and I made Peruvian chicken night a regular occurrence whenever work and life got in the way of cooking. I still crave yucca fries any time someone mentions Falls Church to me.
Our Cookbook Club menu had three ceviches — raw fish chunks or slices that “cook” by soaking in a marinade in a zesty mix of citrus juices, herbs and spices. These three fish dishes formed the basis of a very light summer meal, with other dishes ranging from a crunchy cauliflower and tomato salad to sticky pork ribs glazed in an “elderberry” sauce (actually made from blackcurrants, because elderberries aren’t available in England.
Overall, the consensus from our Cookbook Club was that this cookbook, while gorgeous to look at, was kind of a fuss to cook from. Some of the recipes aren’t very specific on methods, so you can’t be a beginning cook trying out these recipes. Also, England, in all of its bounty, is about as far opposite of Peru in terms of ingredients, so many of us had to make substitutions that we weren’t happy with.
For dessert, though, we had this amazing pastel de queso con sauco (cheesecake) that was supposed to have elderberry jam as the base of the sauce. Because elderberries don’t exist in the UK, our intrepid cookbook club member Julie made hers with a glossy blueberry sauce instead. Trust me, even if anyone knew what elderberries tasted like, none of us cared or complained. The creamy cheesecake and mirror-finish on this blueberry sauce was a great light, sweet finish to our meal.
At our next meeting, we all agreed to a BAKE OFF! We’ll be reviewing and cooking from Tartine: Sweet and Savory Pastries, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, Croissants and Confections. Join us, won’t you? Click here for details!
Previous Cookbook Club posts: