January 15, 2010 Sweet Peaks of Suspiro de Limeña

Suspiro de limena0001 With an irresistible layer of dulce de leche custard topped with a port spiked meringue, Suspiro de Limeña is one of the most beloved desserts in Lima, Peru. Tracing its origins to the reputable cook Amparo Ayarez from the early 19th century, this Peruvian parfait has earned its renown as a cultural favorite. Translated to mean "the sigh of a woman (from Lima)", it is believed that this special name was coined by Ayarez’s husband, the famous Peruvian poet and author José Gálvez. When asked what inspired the name, he reportedly replied "because it is soft and sweet like the sigh of a woman". If that statement doesn’t melt your heart, the delectably smooth richness of this dessert surely will.

This classic Peruvian dessert has a clear Spanish influence. The limelight of Suspiro de Limeña, Dulce de Leche, comes from a Spanish dish common in the Middle Ages known as Blancmange. It was a thick custard made from milk, sugar, almonds and flour. The concept of meringue also came to Peru via Spanish colonizers. Despite this Spanish influence, this mouth-watering parfait is distinctly Peruvian.

Add some ethnic flair to your cuisine and impress your friends by preparing these remarkable parfaits yourself. Although time-consuming, Suspiro de Limeña is relatively simple to make. The traditional recipe for dulce de leche uses only milk, sugar and egg yolks, but more modern versions of the dessert use evaporated and sweetened condensed canned milks. Suspiro de Limeña is sweet, creamy and unbelievably rich. It will spark an explosion of flavor and texture and elicit a sigh of pure pleasure.

The recipe below is found in our favorite Peruvian cookbook: The Art of Peruvian Cuisine by Tony Custer. This book is not only a gastronomical wonder abounding with authentic recipes, it is a feast for the eyes with a smorgasbord of beautiful photographs. Even though the book is no longer in print, we harbor a limited supply at our retail stores. If you are interested in snagging one of these foodie gems, please call our Customer Service department at (800) 221-8520 and an agent will be happy to assist you. I hope you feel as inspired to delve into the Peruvian culinary arts as I do!

Ingredients:

-1 can evaporated milk (14 1 /2 oz)

-1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)

-8 egg yolks

-1 cup port wine

-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

-4 eggs whites

-ground cinnamon for dusting

To prepare the caramel:

Combine the two milks in a heavy-based pan and simmer gently over low heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and the spoon leaves tracks across the bottom of the pan, about 1 hour.

Take off the heat and whisk in beaten egg yolks. Leave to cool and then pour into shallow dessert bowl or individual serving cups.

To prepare the syrup (for the meringue):

Combine sugar and port in a small pan and boil until syrup forms an unbroken thread when dropped from the spoon.

To prepare the meringue:

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Continue beating, adding hot syrup in a slow steady stream.

Mound the meringue on top of the caramel mixture and dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Enjoy!

(For more Peruvian recipes, see the newsletter section of our website, or see our latest recipe for empanadas.)

Amanda Hart

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January 11, 2010 Color Your World…Naturally

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Women in Pitumarka dye alpaca in cochineal (photo courtesy of Kelsey Quam)

In a world where more and more objects are created artificially, it’s comforting to know that dyes can still be obtained from natural sources—mainly plants, animals and minerals. Natural dyes have been around since the dawn of civilization, with the first written record of dyestuffs dating back to China in 2600 BC. Egyptian mummies—including King Tutankhamen—have been found wrapped in cloths dyed red from a pigment extracted from the madder plant. By 715 BC, wool dyeing was an established craft in ancient Rome. And legend has it that Alexander the Great deceived the Persians into thinking that his army was wounded by sprinkling his soldiers with a red dye, also probably madder juice.


Natural dyes have created a wealth of beautiful textiles—from Persian carpets to sumptuous tapestries to kingly regalia—and yet the origins of some of these selfsame dyes can be pretty unappetizing to think about. 800px-Cochenille_z02 Vivid shades of red, like scarlet, crimson and garnet, come from crushed cochineal bugs, which live on cactus plants. Coveted by the ancient Mexicans, the insects were dried and sold in the Aztec marketplaces. In the early 16th century, they caught the attention of the Spanish conquistadors, who had never seen such brilliant red hues on textiles. The conquistadors brought the cochineal insects back to Europe, where they became one of the world’s most precious commodities.


Tyrian purple, also known as royal purple or imperial purple, derives from a mucous secretion from the gland of the Murex, a sea snail found in the eastern Mediterranean. Julian Pollux, a Roman mythographer writing in the 2nd century BC, attributed the discovery of Tyrian purple to the Greek mythic hero Heracles—or more specifically, to his dog, whose mouth was stained purple by chewing on snails along the Levantine coast. Murex However, recent archeological evidence—including ancient pottery and a substantial number of Murex shells found on the island of Crete—suggests that the Minoans may have been the first people to extract the dye back in the Bronze Age.

It took approximately 8,000 Murex snails to extract just one gram of the purple dye, making it extremely expensive. Textiles dyed in Tyrian purple were considered status symbols, and early sumptuary laws restricted their use to the imperial family—hence the saying, “born into the purple.”


So what is the moral of this little tale? That beauty can be derived from the beast! At Peruvian Connection, we still use natural dyes on several pieces in our collections, including the handwoven Patabamba Bag and Belt.

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January 6, 2010 Bring on those alpaca sweaters!

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Peruvian Connection's Kansas headquarters on Dec. 30

Most winters I find that my closet of warm and woolly alpaca sweaters does not see as much use as it deserves.  With thermostats set on 70 and typically mild winters, my warmest sweaters spent most of their days in dark seclusion, waiting for their day in the sun.  This winter, however, has been different, with record lows and snowfalls.  All around the PC headquarters, employees are donning their warmest alpaca sweaters, scarves and pima t-necks.

Now I'm thinking I need more alpaca sweaters, like the cozy handknit Terrazzo CardiganDetail3 and perhaps a hat like the Snow Queen Cap, or even a cape to throw on over it all, like the Alchemy Cape.

 

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December 17, 2009 All I Want for Christmas…

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Forget the two front teeth! All I want for Christmas is to wrap myself in the addictive lusciousness of our Vicuña Cape. Imagine wrapping a fluffy cloud around your shoulders drizzled with the majesty of pure luxury and you are one step closer to experiencing the unforgettable indulgence of this buttery fiber. This ambrosial delight will leave an ever-lasting impression, with its sumptuous softness, silky drape and rich legacy.

Vicuña fleece is one of the most sought-after fibers in the world and, incidentally, happens to be the rarest and most costly. Once revered as precious enough only for Inca royalty, vicuñas continue to be SCAN_01 worshipped as sacred animals by the Aymara Indians of Peru and Bolivia. After reaching near extinction in the 60’s, vicuñas are strictly protected and only limited commercial harvesting of the fiber is allowed. Every year in spring, following the ancient tradition known as chaccus, the shy vicuñas are gathered and carefully sheared by the native villagers.

A treasure to be cherished for generations, the gift of vicuña will make a lasting memory. Like to try a bite before buying the entire pie? For a sampling of heaven, you can order a small swatch of our vicuña fabric by calling our customer service at 800-221-8520. For the most decadent feast of the senses, wrap yourself in the pure luxury of our Vicuña Cape, a delicacy beyond the scope of any descriptive words. With one touch of its ethereal softness, you will understand why the vicuña has shined from a golden pedestal for millennia.

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December 15, 2009 A Peruvian Christmas

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Peru may seem a world away, but the Western traditions of Christmas will be highly recognizable. Even though Christmas actually occurs during the summer months in Peru, Santa Claus, known as Papa Noel, is still depicted as a jolly white-haired man wearing a large red coat, gloves and a hat. The western influence is obvious, but many aspects of the holiday have been melded with decidedly Peruvian features.

With nearly 75% of the population identifying with Catholicism, the celebration of the birth of Jesus is an important event. The rural context of the nativity scene makes it especially identifiable to the people of Peru. On December 24th, known as "Noche Buena", people flock to the Plaza de Armas in Cusco for the annual Santuranticuy market, which literally means "buying of the saints". DSC00080 Artisans fill the street with handmade figurines, including Jesus, Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds, carved from Huamanga stone, gourds, glass or even wood. Retablos, wooden boxes with a carved image of the nativity scene inside, are also wildly popular. Most families traditionally buy the pieces for their nativity scenes at this market, keeping them on display until the celebrations on January 6th.

Another distinct feature of Peruvian Christmas is the practice of "chocolatadas". During the week of Christmas, especially on the 24th, it is common for families, churches and organizations to offer cups of hot chocolate to those less fortunate. Chocolatadas are a celebration of togetherness and selfless giving.

Cuzco3 After the preparation of the nativity scene, families return home for a grand Christmas Eve dinner, often replete with an all too familiar turkey, wine and a fruit filled bread known as Paneton. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky and dancing fills the street. The Christmas celebration continues through the week until la Bajada de los Reyes, "the arrival of the three wise men", on January 6th. Following the tradition of the three wise men, people typically exchange gifts on this day.

With Christmas only a couple weeks away, we want to wish everyone, from North and South, a Happy Holiday! Be sure to check out our fabulous gift-gallery or to give the gift of hope, consider an altruistic donation to the Pro Mujer foundation, which helps empower and support women in Peru.  You can help support ProMujer with the purchase of a silky-soft Baby Llama Throw, with all proceeds benefitting ProMujer, or by sending them a tax deductible donation.
¡Feliz Navidad!

–Amanda Hart

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