Peru is one of those places I’d love to visit. As a history nerd, I’m desperate to see the citadel of Machu Picchu, for example. But, as someone who is slowly becoming a gourmand, I’m also keen to try out Peruvian cuisine. What luck, then, that that was on offer from the Home Supper Club this week. Heavily influenced by Spanish cuisine, this week’s meal was spicy in all the right ways.

For vegans, the main meal was a creamy mushroom stew, ají de seta, with the meat option, ají de galina replaced them with chicken. Along with the mushrooms or chicken comes boiled potatoes and black olives in a sauce made with yellow ají (or habanero) peppers (giving it a distinctive yellow colour). Vegans can make it with non-dairy cream and vegetable oil, while meat-eaters can use evaporated milk (more on that later) and chicken stock with parmesan cheese. Both versions also used slices of white bread, soaked in the cream or milk and then blended into the sauce to thicken it. It was, in so many words, absolutely delicious. Thick and creamy, it was spicy and smoky without being overwhelmingly hot. I’ve said this about nearly all the recipes I’ve tried so far, but I am definitely adding this to my repertoire. The recipe for the aji de galina also includes hard-boiled eggs, and that comes with a personal note of caution. Do not do what I did, and stick hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. The ensuing fireworks display is not something I enjoyed cleaning up!

Personal mistakes aside, the eggs were an interesting accompaniment to the dish. Along with the boiled potatoes, they added a good sense of bite to the dish. It’s rare in my life to find a dish in which boiled potatoes work well, but they definitely did here. The only thing I didn’t like were the mushrooms. Along with porridge, custard, and Marmite, mushrooms will always and forever be a food I loathe. It’s not an issue of flavour – the ají de seta was delicious. For me, eating mushrooms feels like chewing rubber, regardless of variety. But this was the only negative aspect of the dish for me. It was otherwise superb, especially with the arroz verde or green rice, which is made with vegetable stock and fresh spinach. But, rather than being boiled, it’s roasted in the oven until the stock is absorbed. 

Accompanying the main dish was a salad known as solterito salad. The spicy chilli peppers included were a surprise, but once I got my head around the idea that a salad can be spicy, this was an interesting experience. The salad is made up of sweetcorn, tomatoes, beans, olives, leaves, and a vinaigrette, as well as the slices of chilli, so it had a very upfront heat to it. I think I prefer salads that aren’t spicy, but that’s just me. The main thing was that it tasted good, and it did.

Now we come to the main event: the dessert. Tres leche cake, in this instance. I’ll be the first to admit I have a sweet tooth. But I could rhapsodise about this cake forever. It was incredible. Contrary to what I assumed when I saw the name, tres leche doesn’t mean “very sweet.” It actually means “three milks,” and is often spelled “tres leches.” It’s a vanilla sponge cake that is then drizzled in a syrup made of double cream, and equal parts evaporated and condensed milk, and topped with whipping cream. Once this glorious confection is created, it is then refrigerated to allow the syrup to set into the cake. Peru has given the world quinoa, the potato, and the lima bean, all very important staples of cuisines the world over. Personally, I think the tres leche cake is the crowning glory of Peruvian cuisine. I could eat a slice of this cake every day for the rest of my life and not get bored. 

In all, I feel pretty confident in saying this one was a rousing success. Spicy in all the right ways, and then sweet in even better ones. I’m definitely going to make more of this in the future. What’s next, chef?

Written By Nick Dunn