Watch Virgilio Martinez's mountain top bake-off
Up in the Andes the world-famous chef picks up local ingredients and ancient techniques
Virgilio Martinez’s Central is probably the only cookbook with its own altimeter. The chapters are arranged according to many feet above sea-level each Peruvian ingredient or technique originates or occurs – from the mangrove swamps of Tumbes to the heights of the Andes mountains.
Martinez’s talent and enthusiasm for the wilder side of Peruvian food has catapulted his restaurant, also called Central, into the top five of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and won him praise around the globe.
In this new video, produced by the Peruvian tourist board, Virgilio helps build a huatia, a traditional Andean dome-shaped, wood-fired oven, built from mud bricks and stones, and often used for baking potatoes.
“This feast is usually prepared on the mountain, during a harvest, for everyone who has been working steadily in the cold and wind at this dizzying height,” Martinez explains in Central. “The potatoes are gathered on a colourful manta [traditional blanket] brought to the oven and cooked inside. It’s a simple, nourishing meal. Aside from these potatoes, someone might bring fresh cheese and uchucuta, a chile sauce, but little else.”
In the West we’re encouraged to eat our potato skins, as they’re a valuable source of potassium, fibre and vitamin C. However, up in the Andes, where the perils of a First World diet haven’t quite materialised, they’re put to another use. There, the baked skins are tossed into a pile, writes Martinez, “to be reused as compost and put back into the soil.”