This is a book you will probably never cook from. It’s beautifully put together, it has stunning dishes superbly photographed and is bursting with ideas.
It is unlikely though you’ll be picking up any Tocosh (fermented potatoes) from the local shops though. Even the book’s author has to get them from a village 12000 feet above seal level.
You can however follow his method for making them yourselves, it only requires a stream, a three foot deep hole, some ichu, a tall grass native to Peru and a 45-day wait.
Central is a cookbook yes, but it is more a record, a philosophy, a statement of intent and one man’s unique vision. Virgilio Martinez is the chef/owner of Central in Peru If we look at his entry in World’s 50 Best Restaurants we find the following.
Central takes guests on a culinary expedition through Peru’s ecosystem, from the Amazon to Pacific coast. Chef Virgílio Martínez and his team forage in the jungle, desert, mountains and sea to discover diverse local ingredients found at every altitude.
So, you know, don’t expect to drop in for a snack if you’re hungry.
He is an intense-looking bearded young man, every female food-blogger’s dream date, and he is uncompromising. He will not use any product or texture not found in Peru. Everything in the kitchen is traceable back to somewhere in the country. He has travelled the world cooking, but now back in his native country he is recreating, reinventing even, the cuisine.
The book was written in collaboration with with the food and travel writer Nicholas Gill, who is not to be confused with AA Gill’s long lost brother, and is text heavy to explain Martinez’s philosophies and tell his stories. Just as occurs in the restaurant, each chapter ranges across different altitudes of Peru from the Pacific up to the Andes and the depths of the rainforest with Martínez adding notes about his journeys and recipe development.
It’s a book to enjoy as a book, a fascinating read and insight into a country and cuisine most of us have only a glancing acquaintance with.
You may not find one ingredient in the book available here, edible clay anyone? But you will find yourself impressed and overawed and booking a flight to Lima.
Buy now at Amazon