Sunday, June 17, 2007


Our first class with our Salteñan cooking teacher Sol at Color Mais restaurant was appropriately the oldest of traditional foods. Humitas date back to precolumbian times when indians cooked corn in parcels formed from the husk in covered pits with coals or hot rocks like you see in cooking from pacific islands. With the arrival of the spanish cheese and spicing was added to these tasty parcels.
These days Humita is a paste of corn, onion and capsicum (peppers) spiced with cheese, paprika and basil that is cooked al olla (in a saucepan) down south while up in the north of Argentina it is still cooked wrapped in parcels formed from the husks - en chala.
There are both savoury and sweet variations. The sweet version seen in the north particularly adds sugar and omits basil. It´s an acquired taste in my opinion but a friend from the USA loves it.

6 whole cobs of corn with husks (yellow corn can be used instead of the pretty speckled while corn in the photos)*
2 medium onions
1 red capsicum
Basil to taste (at least half a sydney bunch is good)
200g animal fat (lard) or butter
Criole or Goats cheese to taste (about 200g)
Pimentón = sweet paprika to taste (1 desert spoon)
Chilli flakes (aji molido) to taste (half a spoon)
Salt or sugar

Cut of the tips and bases of the corn in husks freeing the leaves. Carefully remove the husks and set aside.
If you´re a stickler for tradition you can grate the corn. If you've got other things to do but cook one dish for the whole day cut the kernels off and process to a fine mince in a food processor. Add a little milk if the paste is very dry.
Cut the onions and red capsicum into fine dice and saute in the fat in a large pan. Once they are cooked add the minced corn.
Once cooked, after about 5 minutes, flavour with paprika, chili and salt or sugar depending how you want the humitas. Cook another 1-2 mins and remove from heat.
Mix in cheese cut into medium cubes (about 1-1.5cm) and basil.

Making the parcels:
Form 'strings' for fastening with strips of husk tied together.
Select nice big husks if possible and overlap them with the broader bases overlapping about half the length of a husk. Place mixture in the middle and fold the long tips towards the centre overlapping them and covering the paste. Roll up the short edges that are still open to close and fasten with one of the 'strings'.

Place the completed parcels in a saucepan with lid in which you have brought to the boil 2-3cm deep water. Cook in this boiling/steaming environment with lid ajar for 30 mins until the parcels are firmish to touch (like a bread dough). The parcels can also be steamed in a bamboo or other steamer (I recommend this if you have a big enough steamer)

Eat warm preferably with a glass of chilled Torrentes (sweet dry white) from Cafayate.

* the specks of colours, sometimes effecting almost all the kernels, seen in the corn from the mountains around Salta come from the combinations of minerals found in the soils, also the origin of many spectacular landscapes.


At June 18, 2007 at 12:50 PM , Blogger Kate said...

Great food photos... when are you and Wendy going to make a cooking show together?

At June 19, 2007 at 1:33 AM , Blogger Colleen said...

That white cob of corn looks really great but I can understand why you would want an alternative to grating it!

At June 19, 2007 at 1:33 AM , Blogger Colleen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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