I lived for several years with some lovely friends from Chile. During that time I learned to enjoy much of Chilean food and I was fortunate enough to learn to prepare a few favorite dishes.
Chile possesses a lengthy coastline and a central valley that is one of the most productive growing areas of the world (most of the fresh produce available in our supermarkets in the Northern Hemisphere during the Winter months comes from there) so the cuisine relies heavily on local fresh seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables. The food is hearty, delicious and prepared simply with strong influences from the many Europeans who immigrated there.
One of my favourites is a Chilean Pesto style condiment called Pebre. Pebre consists of cilantro, onion /shallot, peppers, garlic, parsley or oregano, salt, pepper, lime juice, vinegar and oil. Some versions have tomatoes added as well but I don’t usually add them. I love it in soups, sandwiches and even on buttered toast. This is the spiciest thing I’ve ever found in Chilean food where back pepper can often be considered Muy Picante!
I posted a recipe for this before in my “Lentil soup with Pebre” so you can find the basic recipe there- I usually just throw the ingredients in the food processor and adjust to taste but this is at least a starting place.
Several Latin cuisines have a soup or stew called Ajiaco. Aji is a word for chili pepper in South America. In Colombia Ajiaco is a chicken, corn and potato stew and in Cuba it is an amalgam of lots of little tastes in a stew. Chileans usually make it out of beef, potatoes and peppers. I found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine years ago for a version of the Colombian style Ajiaco and have been making it for years. Below is how I make mine now.
For this meal I added small purple potatoes to the Ajiaco and we spread Pebre on the Crumpets I made in my last post- fusing Colombian, Chilean and British cuisine into one delicioso meal!
- one 5 pound roasting chicken cut into pieces
- one large onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 celery rib with leaves
- 1 large sprig of Italian parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- enough freshly toasted and ground cumin seed to make 1/4 Cup ground cumin- yes that’s 1/4 Cup!
- 6 large potatoes peeled (for this one I used 4 peeled baking potatoes and a pound of small purple potatoes unpeeled scrubbed and halved)
- 6 ears of fresh corn (when fresh is not available I use frozen corn kernels)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Avocado, peeled and sliced or balled
- Heavy cream or half/half
- capers, drained
Place the chicken in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Dump the pot into a colander and rinse the chicken pieces. Rinse out your pot and return the chicken and cover with fresh cold water. Add the onion, celery, parsley, bay leaves, cumin and 4 of the peeled potatoes cut into quarters. Cover the pot, return to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 hour. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and then remove the bay leaves, celery and parsley. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup. Or strain into a colander and mash the potatoes and onions and return the broth and mashed mixture to the pan. Cut the remaining potatoes into smaller chunks and remove the kernels from 4 of the ears of corn. Cut the two remaining ears crosswise into 1 to 1-/2″ slices. (or use 2 cups frozen corn if fresh is not available) Add the potatoes and the corn to the broth and cook until tender. Remove the chicken from the bones keeping it in largish pieces. When the potatoes and corn are cooked return the chicken to the pot and heat though. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve with bowls of avocados, cream, capers and Pebre for each person to add to his/her dish as desired.
I usually serve this with Pan Amasado which is a small roll-sized round Chilean bread that is slightly risen and pricked heavily with a fork before baking. We split each round heat or toast it and spread with butter and then with more Pebre. This time i thought the crumpets would be tasty so we used them. So yummy!