Monday, July 23, 2007


Well, this is a actually an Australian desert but I made a pavlova for an Asado with workmates the other week as it was Noelia, one of the nurses' birthdays.
The fresh fruit lightens the sweetness of the meringue and cream. What
makes this different to other meringues is the addition of vinegar and
cornflour giving a lovely soft fluffy interior and crisp outside.
This is a recipe I found on line rather than a family heirloom but it tasted good!

Two recipe notes:
- 18cm might seem small to mound all the mixture onto but the meringue will spread as it cooks so follow the instructions!
- make friends with someone with an electric mixer. I did this by hand with a standard whisk and do not recommend it!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Sol has unfortunately had to go away but I'm trying to keep the dream alive and have tried to make some typical biscuits. Maicenas
are a typical afternoon tea and feature the classic combination of
dulce de leche and desiccated coconut.
They are supposed to be melt in your mouth biscuits sandwiched together with dulce
and given a rim of coconut. Mine weren't quite "melt in your mouth" but
still were light with a good crumb and very popular at work.

This recipe is from a great recipe anthology called "Cien Años de Cocina Salteña" (One hundred years of salteñan cooking) that covers the whole range of traditional dishes.

500g Maicena (corn starch)
325g flour
250g sugar
250g butter (I used softened but have heard of people using melted since)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 eggs (using farm fresh from a patient´s family gave beautiful rich yellow colour to my second attempt)
dulce de leche (as required)

Beat the egg whites to soft peak stage (punto de nieve
in Spanish - snow point). Add the yolks and sugar. Sieve the
dry ingredients and add to the previous mix stirring well to combine
but not kneading or overworking. Add butter.
Roll out thinly and cut with a round cutter. Bake in a moderate oven (180ºC).
Once cooled pair biscuits with a layer of dulce de leche. Roll the sticky edge in desiccated coconut if desired.

Post Script:
I tried using melted butter instead. The maicenas were a success, one hungover and hungry colleague even gave them a 10/10! Talking to many people around Salta the melted or softened butter question is open to personal preference.
Getting a uniform texture and not overworking the dough is difficult
with both melted and softened butter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bread in an Adobe Oven

While I was in the mountains on the Gira Medica we made bread in an Adobe oven with the people from the school.

We made huge portions of a basic dough of flour, dried yeast, grasa (melted fat) and a little warm water in huge quantities in a tub.
This was then kneaded and formed into round loaves around 1.5 cm thick.
Meanwhile the oven was prepared by making a fire of wood and twigs in the oven. The coals thus produced where raked to one side and the breads placed inside and the door sealed.

It was a big team effort with people passing, rolling etc.

They turned out tasty and lightly wood charred. We had them for afternoon tea with canned pate.

This is a very common bread that I´ve seen on street stalls and in homes around the northwest.

There was enough bread for the whole week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Budin de Pan

This is a popular and easy traditional desert. Sol, our super cooking teacher, isn't exactly sure of the history of Budin but like many dishes it has strong links with immigrants of Italian heritage. It is a classic childhood memory of many, brought to the table by grandma where everyone would fight for the biggest piece, bathed in Dulce de Leche.
Like all the best simple recipes this one has been passed down and enhanced through the generations. Sol has been kind enough to share her grandmother's recipe.


750 ml Milk
2 and a half bread rolls (big dinner roll size)
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
sugar for caramel

Soak bread torn into pieces in the milk
Make a caramel with about a cup of sugar in a little water over low heat. You can do this in your ovenproof ring tin or in a small fry pan and transfer to the pan. Coat the base of the pan with caramel.

Break up bread with your hands and mix in sugar and eggs.
Pour into pan and cover with foil. Cook in slow to moderate oven in a bain marie for 30 minutes or until set.

Cool and then refrigerate.
To unmold run a small knife around the edge and turn out onto serving platter that can accommodate the thin syrup that glistens all around.
Often served with dulce de leche. I like strawberries.

Variations: a little grated mandarin zest or a dash of vanilla are also nice if not quite as traditional. Many families add sultanas soaked in rum similar to an English bread and butter pudding.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Charqui and Charquisillo

Charqui is dehydrated meat (beef, pork, llama or sheep) that is cured with salt and left out in the sun. It was, and in some places still is, used to conserve meat for extended periods. The word "charqui" comes from Quencha and was what the Incas called slices of meat, fruit and beans dried in the sun. Many say that the "jerked beef" of english pirates comes from this word. There's never only one version though; others say that french pirates (the bucaneers) used to dry pork by smoking it and call this "charcuitier".

The usual method is that the meat is cut into pieces or slices as thin as possible and the fat and blood is removed as much as possible. These pieces are then hung up in dry, well ventilated, and are above all, sun exposed areas, until they take on a texture similar to cardboard or leather. Often they are protected by mosquito net during this process. Sometimes the drying process is reinforced by smoking.
Once dried the meat is usually stored in jars with salt and at times mixed with pepper, paprika and dried chillis. Rarely charqui is covered in honey to preserve it.

Charqui drying under the eaves of a remote school.

If the meat is dehydrated in areas like the Puna or andean altiplano, the resulting charqui is sanitary due to the climate at may consumed as is. The more coman is to rehydate the meat and use it in soups and stews. Once the meat is rehydrated it can be used in all sorts of dishes such as the fillings of empanadas or tamales. In the east of Bolivia it is eaten fried with boiled yucca.


This is a stew with charqui as the priciple ingredient. As with all folk dishes there as many versions as there are cooks and depends on the place and what is at hand. This version uses another classic regional ingredient - quinoa. This is a great winter dish succulant and rich with all the flavours in the pot coming together.


500g Charqui
2 medium onions
2 large potatoes
200g quinoa
1 medium capsicum
100g lard or oil
Aji Molido (ground chili)
Pimenton (sweet paprika)
salt and pepper

Boil pieces of charqui until softened. Meanwhile, cut onion and capsicum into dice and saute in oil
When softened remove charqui from water and tear into strips with your hands. You may find a small paring knife useful to remove meat from the bones. Add meat to pan with vegetables.
Cut the potatoes into 1.5cm cubes and add to pan. Cover with stock or just plain hot water and bring to the boil before adding the quinoa. Test for salt and add if required. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat until vegetables and quinoa tender. Season with aji and pimenton and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes before serving in a deep bowl accompanied by crusty bread.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dulce de Leche

To call this a national obsession may sound like overkill but this ubiquitous sweet paste may even hold more cultural importance than peanut butter in the USA.
You find it as a spread for breakfast, or any other time of day; an alternative to ice cream or cream with you desert; a topping for ice cream; and in almost every imaginable pastry, tart and biscuit prepared in Argentina it seems, as seen below on a street stall.

While I found it's sweetness a little overwhelming at first it has grown on me. Dulce de Leche could be up there with grilled beef as the quintessential Argentine flavour.
The origins of Dulce de Leche are controversial but the history books point to 17 July 1829. Much of the confusion comes from another desert called "manjar blanco" that is also a preparation of milk and sugar to which cornstarch or gelatin is added but which stays totally white.
Dulce de Leche as we know it was first made in 1829 in Cañuelas, in Buenos Aires province, during the meeting of General Lavalle and Juan Manuel de Rosas. These two major Argentine historical figures came together to end the hostilities and call elections that would integrate the Junta de Representantes (Convention of Barracas). On July 17, Lavalle arrived at the camp of Rosas very tired from his ride and asked to see him to address the important matters. Being so tired he was unable to resist the temptation for a siesta while waiting in a nearby tent but he fell fast asleep.
An assistant was preparing sweet warm milk ("lechada") for mate when she saw someone sleeping on Rosa´s cot and, indignant, went to find help to get him out. In her haste she forgot the milk over the coals and it kept simmering slowly. When she returned with reinforcements Rosas ordered that his "brother" not be disturbed. Next day the newly awoken Lavelle and the cook found the "lechada" had changed into a type of brown gel. She and some of the sweet-toothed soldiers tried the paste and their enthusiasm converted those around them: thus Dulce de leche was born.


1 litre whole milk
200g sugar
50g Glucose syrup (may be omitted if unavailable)
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda (aids the coloration of the final product)
vanilla or other flavouring - optional

Combine all ingredients in a heavy based saucepan over low heat. Simmer until thickens, stirring frequently to begin with and continuously once it starts to thicken to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan.
Cool and store in a jar in the fridge.
Can last many weeks in the fridge if you can resist it that long!