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Complimentary Colours: Cooking with Peruvian Candle Magic

A Recipe for love and health (serves 2)

RED - Ingredients   

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Red chilli
  • 1 punnet Cherry tomatoes
  • ½ Red cabbage
  • 1 fillet smoked salmon
  • 1 pinch fennel seed
  • 1 Red onion
  • 2-3 Oca
  • 1 Red pepper
  • 1 Chilli
  • ½ Grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon Pink pepper corns
  • 3 Radishes

The above ingredients were selected due to their associated properties as well as their as origin as native Peruvian plants (raddishes, peppers, oca). Red foods supposedly boost the body's immune response and reduce inflammation to improve health aiding conditions such as asthma and psoriasis. Red ingredients further have detoxifying properties as well as acting as aphrodisiacs.  Red herbs, fruits and flowers are often tied to bedposts in Peruvian folk traditions in order to protect against sickness and improve recovery. Red foods are often used in love potions and rituals to ‘enflame the beloved’. We felt the use of a 'smoked salmon' aptly reflected the notion of flames and fire and consequently passion. Continuing an association of passion, the name ‘Love Apples’ was commonly used for the fruit when they were fist introduced into Europe due to their popularity as gifts in courtship. 


1.  Boil half a red cabbage until a deep purple hue colours the water. Drain, conserving the liquid, discard the cabbage.

2. When the red cabbage liquid is cool, put half in a container with a pinch of fennel seeds (reserve the rest) add coriander stalks, pink peppercorns, mace and sliced red onion. Place sliced smoked salmon into the mixture, ensuring the entirety of the salmon’s surface is covered. Cover with cling film and place in fridge for four hours.

3.  Roast one red pepper and punnet of cherry tomatoes in olive oil and a pinch of sea salt for 20 minutes at 200c, 180c fan assisted. Once roasted, purée and set aside

4.  Mix red pepper and tomato mixture with the rest of the red cabbage liquid.

5. Use a mandolin to slice the Oca into thin discs and layer like potato dauphinoise in a pan and cover with the red pepper, tomato and red cabbage liquid. 

6.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 200c, 180c fan assisted. 

7. To assemble, spoon Oca onto the plate. Place a twirl of pickle and salmon on top and finish with slices of grapefruit, radishes and chilli.

Green Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Coriander
  • 1 tin Black beans
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 handful peanuts
  • 1 Avocado
  • 50g Rice
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • Olive oil

The above ingredients were selected due to their associated properties as well as their green colour. Garlic, in particular holds a number of associations of rituals and magic. The cloves were used in Greco-Roman magic to ward away negative spirits and protect against evil as well as to break curses and hexes. In contemporary cultures Psychic cooks rub garlic into pots and pans to remove negative influences that might contaminate food.

Coriander is used in healing rituals to purify and cleanse the soul. The herb is also used as a celebration food at Weddings in several cultures and holds great importance in Hindu religious rituals.

Reflecting the notion of healing and good health the colour green has taken on associations of health in the contemporary wellness culture. Avocados are deemed a 'superfood' for bodily health.


1.  Blend a handful of fresh coriander, a teaspoon of lime -juice, a handful of peanuts, a garlic clove and olive oil into a pesto and set aside in a fridge.

2. Place rice in a pan and add double the amount of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, place the lid on the rice then cook on the lowest heat for 10-15 min without stirring.

3.  Drain black beans and add to the rice. Then stir in peanuts and pesto.

4. Slice avocado, coat in lime -juice. Place on top of the rice.

5. Top with green shoots.

6.Separate a yolk from an egg and gently poach it for 30 seconds in a pan of simmering water and place on the avocado.



The recipe incorporates Peruvian candle magic in the cooking, preparation and final experience of a meal. Red and green candles were purchased from a Peruvian market. The candles represented love and health respectively. A single dish was then devised out of the complimentary candle colours with a selection of red and green ingredients. Each ingredient was selected for its physiological effects on love and health, as well as its magical and cultural associations. A number of ingredients overlapped both categories - coriander, for instance, is a herb used for health and an ingredient in love potions. Given the significance of colour to candle magic, the colours of the resulting dish, as well as the individual ingredients themselves were magically relevant. The final dishes, with their south American flavour profile, attempted to reflect both the origin of the ingredients and the practice of Peruvian candle magic.

Understory-James Wheale & Annie Zimmerman

Understory research food, write about food and make chocolate. Wheale and Zimmerman combine the two great oral traditions of storytelling and eating as their creative practice. They recently crowd funded a documentary called Chocloamentary, about the world's rarest cacao beans which they use to make their chocolate- which will be released in September this year. Wheale and Zimmerman traveled to the Maranon Canyon in Peru to film Chocolamentary and on the way met a shaman. The meeting with Shaman inspired the above recipes.