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Peru expert (and full-time foodie) Laura Rendell-Dunn introduces the Mistura festival in Lima, a reason to visit Peru in its own right if you share Laura's passion for the country's exciting, diverse and creative cuisine.

Thanks to Peru’s diverse geography and climate, encompassing the extremes of desert and Amazon via Andean highlands, the variety of foods produced there is simply extraordinary. To give you an idea, let's take the humble potato... Peru grows close to 4,000 different varieties.

Over the centuries from the pre-Inca civilisations to the arrival of the Spanish a little over 500 years ago, Peruvian cuisine has developed in truly exciting and innovative ways and now offers some of the best food in South America – in fact Lima is often referred to as the culinary capital of the Americas and justifiably so.

But it is not just Peru’s geographical location and history that has contributed to the roaring success of its cuisine; there’s the sociological aspect too. Today Peru is a melting pot of different cultures: indigenous communities, African, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish – they all play a significant part in Peru’s modern-day cuisine. Traditional dishes have evolved and nowadays we can enjoy an array of culinary styles from Novo-Andean cuisine to mind-blowing Asian-Peruvian fusion dining.

If you can travel to Peru in September (a good time too as this is during the dry season) then you must not miss out on Lima’s 10-day food festival, Mistura, which runs from 7-17 September this year. Here you’ll have the opportunity to sample and salivate over the best of Peruvian food. My foodie tips include ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice, served with corn on the cob and sweet potato), potent Pisco Sours (brandy made from grapes and mixed traditionally with lime, but you can opt for a sweeter version with passion fruit), multicoloured tiraditos (thin slivers of white fish such as sea bass marinated in various Peruvian pepper sauces, delicate causas (layers of spiced mashed potatoes and avocado topped fresh crab meat, octopus or prawns), anticuchos (tender beef heart barbecued on skewers), and creamy huancaína sauce (a yellow pepper sauce typically used as a dip or for a tasty potato salad dressing).

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