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Cookbook review: A taste of Lima

Quick look: Traditional Peruvian flavors with a modern perspective are the focus of this new cookbook from London’s first Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant.

What’s inside: Chef Virgilio Martinez is known for using contemporary techniques and traditional Peruvian ingredients: sweet potatoes, corn, rice, avocado, cherimoya, quinoa, plantains, bananas, mangoes, passion fruit, annato seeds, chia seeds, chilies.

These are the same ingredients he uses in his cookbook, which makes nouveau Peruvian cuisine accessible to the home cook, even if that home cook has never been to Lima, either the city or the restaurant Martinez opened in 2012.

“For me, cooking is a way of sharing my relationship with my country, my city and my personal experiences,” he writes in the introduction.

Martinez named his cookbook and two restaurants in London – Lima and Lima Floral – for his hometown. He also owns Central, a restaurant in Lima, which he describes as “the gastronomic heart of Peru and the central reference point for Latin American cuisine today.”

His approachable, well-organized recipes are grouped by salads and sides, drinks and snacks, chili pastes and sauces, fish and meats, vegetarian mains, desserts and more.

Titles are offered first in Spanish, then in English. Nearly every one is accompanied by a vibrant photo of the dish or drink, a practice that’s particularly helpful for home cooks who aren’t familiar with Peruvian cuisine. It’s always nice to have an image for inspiration and guidance.

There are a few photographs of the restaurant and of Martinez – shopping at outdoor markets, picking edible flowers in a garden, and cooking, baking and dining with friends.

Quinoa is a staple. Expect to find plenty of recipes spotlighting the grain: quinoa milk, quinoa punch, quinoa and mint, quinoa with kohlrabi and pearl onions, octopus with quinoa and olives, red quinoa sourdough bread, quinoa bread sticks, quinoa and goat milk pudding with strawberries.

Also look for tiger’s milk, the base for ceviche, as well as Andean rice, creamed sweet potatoes, chimichurri with blue potatoes, shrimp with avocado and lime, and – of course – pisco sour and pisco punch. After all, pisco is the national drink of Peru.

The baked goods and desserts chapters includes sweet potato brioche, black carob pound cake, grilled mango with cacao sauce, and quinoa ice cream with potato chips.

A glossary explains terms with which non-Peruvian home cooks might not be familiar: annatto seeds, causa, cassava, cancha corn, cherimoya, muna.

What’s not: Some ingredients might be difficult to come by in parts of this country. But a resources guide lists online sources that keep them in stock.

Quinoa with Kohlrabi and Pearl Onions

From “Lima: The Cookbook” by Virgilio Martinez

1 2/3 cups white quinoa

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 ounces pearl onions, peeled but left whole

3 1/2 ounces trimmed purple kohlrabi, peeled and thinly sliced

1/8 cup capers

1/2-inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

Handful of coriander and flat leaf parsley, chopped

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Handful of borage flowers and young herbs, to garnish

Rinse the quinoa in cold running water until the water runs clear, then drain.

Place the quinoa in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and add water to cover by 2 inches. Cover with the lid and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Stir, re-cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes – the quinoa is ready when you can see a little ring on the outside of the grain and it is soft. Rinse in cold water, then drain well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the quinoa for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat another 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate pan and sauté the onions until golden. Add the kohlrabi and capers.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the first pan and sauté the grated ginger for 20 seconds. Add the sautéed quinoa and vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the chopped herbs. Serve garnished with the borage flowers and young herbs.


From “Lima: The Cookbook” by Virgilio Martinez

This dish features small pieces of battered and deep-fried seafood.

For the seafood

7 ounces octopus tentacles

7 ounces squid, washed and cut into rings

7 ounces skinless red snapper or sea bass filets

Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour or rice flour

Scant 2 cups canola oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the garnish

5 tablespoons cored, seeded and finely chopped red or orange bell pepper

1/4 red onion, finely diced

Cooked cancha corn kernels (optional)

Cilantro leaves from flowering stem, to garnish

Place the octopus tentacles in a large bowl and rinse under cold running water until the water in the bowl is clear and the octopus skin feels clean with no traces of grit. Pat the octopus and squid rings dry with a clean dish towel. Cut the fish into cubes.

Place the fish and seafood in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle flour on top. Mix until well coated. Transfer the fish and seafood in batches to a colander and shake off the excess flour.

Heat the canola oil in a deep-fat fryer or in a deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat, 350 to 375 degrees (a cube of bread will brown in about 30 seconds at that temperature). Add the fish and seafood in batches and fry until golden. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels.

Serve hot, garnished with pepper, red onion, cancha corn and cilantro leaves, if desired.

Pisco Sour

From “Lima: The Cookbook” by Virgilio Martinez

3 ounces pisco Quebranta

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons simple syrup

1 egg white

8 ice cubes

2 drops Angostura bitters, to garnish

Add all the ingredients except the bitters to a cocktail shaker. Shake for about 13 seconds. Strain and serve in a stemless martini glass. Garnish with the bitters and serve immediately.

Makes: 1

Note: Simple syrup can easily be made at home using equal quantities of superfine sugar and water. Heat the mixture in a saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool before using it.

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