Peruvian cuisine is rated among the best in the world and is currently experiencing a period of flourishing self-confidence and popularity overseas. Here are six classic Peruvian recipes taken from the Rough Guide to Peru, all fairly simple to prepare and found throughout the country. All quantities given will feed four people, so invite a few friends round, put on some panpipe music and prepare to impress.

Ceviche

A cool, spicy dish, eaten on the Peruvian coast for the past thousand years.

  • 1kg soft white fish (lemon sole and halibut are good, or you can mix half fish, half shellfish)
  • 2 medium red onions, julienned and rinsed
  • 1 or 2 chillies, chopped (ají limo is traditional, but choose any chilli to taste)
  • 6 limes
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander
  • salt to taste

Wash and cut the fish into 1½cm cubes. Place in a chilled steel bowl and salt generously. Add diced chilli, stir and add the onions. Gently squeeze the limes – extracting only the first half of the juice, avoiding the bitterness of the skin. Add three ice cubes and stir to bring back to temperature. Add coriander. Taste and season further if necessary. Serve immediately with boiled sweet potatoes and corn on the cob (1/3 per plate).

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Conchitas a la parmesana

Quick and easy, this scallop starter is a faithful crowd pleaser; the very best conchitas come from Pisco and Paracas.

  • 16 fresh medium scallops, in a half shell
  • Finely grated Parmesan
  • Limes, Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco sauce
  • Butter

Season each scallop with salt and pepper, add two drops of lemon juice, two drops of Worcestershire sauce, two drops Tabasco. Rub the top of the clam with butter then cover with a heaped teaspoon of Parmesan; place a small lump of butter on top and place under a hot grill. When the cheese starts to brown and release a little oil, you’re done (2–3 min).

Picarones

These sweet doughnuts are the only dessert you’ll miss from Peru.

For the picarones:

  • 300g yellow sweet potato
  • ½ kg pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp anise extract (optional)
  • 1 pkt instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 kg white flour

For the syrup:

  • ½ kg chancaca sugar (unrefined cane sugar, substitute with 1 ¼ cups brown sugar)
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 cups water

Boil the sweet potato and pumpkin in three cups of water with anise and mash (reserve cooking water); leave to cool. In the cooking water, add the yeast and sugar, leave to develop for 15 minutes. Stir in the mash and add the flour little by little until forming a sloppy dough. Salt to taste and knead/beat for 15 minutes and let rise for 3 hours. Take a palm-sized ball of dough, and in your (moistened) hand, flatten and make a hole in the middle. Place a few at a time into a deep pot with oil and fry until golden. Make the syrup by boiling all ingredients in three cups of water, allow to reduce to half, until forming a nice syrup. Drizzle generously over picarones to serve.

Causa

About the easiest Peruvian dish to reproduce outside the country, though there are no real substitutes for the Peruvian papa amarilla (yellow potato).

  • 1kg yellow Peruvian potatoes
  • 2 tbsp yellow chilli paste
  • 200g tuna fish
  • 2 avocados, the riper the better
  • 4 tomatoes
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ lime

Boil the potatoes and mash to a firm, smooth consistency. Leave to chill and add yellow chilli paste and the juice of half a lime. Flake the tuna and add a little lemon juice (adding mayonnaise to make a creamier filling is a common option). Mash the avocados to a pulp, add the rest of the lemon juice, some salt and black pepper. Slice the tomatoes. Make a layer of potato, on top a layer of tomato followed by slices of avocado and the tuna. Top with another layer of potato. Cut into slices or circles. Serve chilled with salad, or on its own as a starter.

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Lomo Saltado

One of the best loved Limeño dishes shows off the Asian influence in modern Peruvian food.

  • 500g fillet steak, sliced into 3cm strips
  • 2 plum tomatoes in thick slices
  • 1 yellow chilli, sliced
  • 2 small red onions, thickly sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp beef stock
  • 2 cups yellow potato chips
  • 500g white rice

In a sizzling hot wok, heat two tbsp oil to smoking, add half the meat and stir fry, the oil should cause some flambéing. Remove meat and repeat with the other half. Set aside. Add more oil and rapidly stir fry the onions and a bit later, add the tomatoes, yellow chilli and liquids. Return meat to pan and more gently fry for one more minute, salt to taste. Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve with white rice.

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Papas a la Huancaina

An excellent and ubiquitous snack – cold potatoes covered in a mildly picante cheese sauce.

  • 1 kg potatoes, boiled
  • 1 or 2 chillies, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 200g soft goat’s cheese (feta or cottage cheese will work too)
  • 6 crackers
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1 small can of evaporated milk

Chop very finely or liquidize all the above ingredients except for the potatoes. The mixture should be fairly thin but not too runny. Pour sauce over the thickly sliced potatoes. Arrange on a dish and serve chilled, garnished with lettuce and black olives.

Explore more of Peru with the Rough Guide to PeruCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Top image © Larisa Blinova/Shutterstock

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