In 2022 I was part of the “Madre de Dios Nut” project, carried out jointly by Mater, DocuPerú, Concytec and Prociencia. This initiative consisted of recovering the value of the Madre de Dios Brazil nut in Peruvian cuisine and developing 3 culinary products based on this seed.
At the beginning of the project, I first had to know everything that Mater means, what it seeks and what its purpose is. During the months I worked with the team, I understood that they are not only in constant search and gathering of information, but they are also focused on the incorporation of Peruvian cultures, regions and communities within the cooking concepts.
Thus, I immersed myself in researching the chestnut. I discovered that it is found in the regions of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil and that it has important organoleptic characteristics, being an excellent ingredient. When I traveled to Boca Pariamanu (Peru), to the Amawaka community, I had the opportunity to be in a chestnut grove. It was a magical experience. The tree has a characteristic shape that makes it easy to distinguish, when I looked up, I saw its long and thin trunk from which large branches and leaves grow. At that moment, in the middle of the Peruvian jungle, I understood that this was not only a project to encourage the consumption of chestnuts, but also to involve the communities that maintain the tradition of collecting, peeling and marketing this product so characteristic of the Amazon, thus impacting their quality of life, providing them with more work and opportunities.
I met families who are dedicated to the collection of chestnuts, I understood all the manual work that exists behind, the importance of marketing and consumption of this seed, in addition to knowing their way of life and customs.
After understanding what Mater is, getting to know the communities and the Brazil nut, I felt even more motivated to experiment with this ingredient to create different recipes. It was a long process based on trial and error, however, with the support of Chef Virgilio Martinez, I managed to obtain three products.
I decided to create preparations that went from the most basic to the most complex, I started with a Chestnut butter, then a smoked Chestnut flour and with these two products I made a Chestnut dough with cheese, inspired by one of the characteristic doughs of the Bolivian east area, called “Cuñapé”. This way we created 3 gluten free products, based on this nut.
I’m Melissa Loayza, I’m Bolivian and I work in the kitchen area of Central, I’ve been part of the team for a year and as a cook. This trip has been very enriching and inspiring, not only from the gastronomic knowledge, but also from the value and impact that communities have in the kitchen.