Suspiro de limeña (or suspiro a la limeña, or suspiro limeño) means ‘sigh of a Lima lady’ (or ‘Lima sigh’), not to be confused with simple suspiros, which are meringue ‘kisses’. It is a two-part dessert: a sweet caramel base, made from slowly heated milk and sugar, topped with a sweet Italian meringue. Such a double hit of sugar is appreciated in South America, both the caramel and the meringue having been introduced to the Americas by the Spaniards.
The story goes that a famous cook called Amparo Ayarza devised this dish, which her husband, the poet José Gálvez, was so taken with that he penned the phrase ‘as soft and sweet as the sigh of a woman’ to celebrate it. Not wishing to question Peruvian food history, the tale is a little confusing.
Food historians say that the suspiro de limeña was created in the mid-19th century. Amparo Ayarza married José Gálvez Barrenechea – a poet and politician who lived from 1885 to 1957 – in 1913. The dates don’t fit, but never mind; just enjoy the dessert.
* Serves 10 to 12
- 1 can evaporated milk (410g/14 ½ fl oz)
- 1 can condensed milk (397g/14 fl oz)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 250g/9oz granulated sugar
- 60ml/2 fl oz port wine
- 30ml/1 fl oz water
- Ground cinnamon
- Pour both cans of milk into a heavy-bottomed pan and cook on a medium–low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 40 to 60 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. It will thicken and its colour will change to a caramel-brown. It will be ready when you can draw the spoon through the mixture and the bottom of the pan remains visible for a short while. The time this takes will depend on the heat of your cooker setting and the size of your pan; the larger the surface area the better.
- When the milk has thickened, remove from the heat. It will thicken a little more once it is off the heat. This is a simple way to make manjarblanco.
- Beat the egg yolks lightly in a bowl. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the manjarblanco mixture into the egg yolks and beat them together until well mixed. This brings the yolks up to the same temperature as the manjarblanco so that they won’t scramble during the next step.
- Pour the egg yolk mixture into the remainder of the manjarblanco mixture and stir in completely. This is now called manjarblanco con yemas (with egg yolks).
- Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk at high speed until you have a meringue with soft peaks. If you do not have a stand mixer, put the egg whites in a bowl and use a hand whisk or fork. Set aside while you do step 6.
- Put the sugar, port and water in a small pan. Bring to the boil and let it boil for 6 minutes without stirring. It will become a syrup. If you dip the tip of a spoon into it and a fine thread forms as you lift the spoon up, it is ready.
- Return to the egg whites and, if necessary, whisk again quickly so that the soft peaks reform.
- Pour the syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites while still whisking. Keep whisking until the meringue is cold. If you are not using a stand mixer, you will need an extra pair of hands to pour the syrup while you whisk the egg whites vigorously.
- Divide the manjarblanco equally into individual serving dishes or glasses. Alternatively, you can put it into one serving bowl.
- Pipe a good helping of the meringue on to the manjarblanco. It can be piped in cones with spiky peaks, swirls, or whatever artistic pattern you like.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon over the meringue and serve at room temperature.
For more South American recipes, check out Ben Box’s book: