Location: Southern end of South America on the Atlantic Ocean
Population: 43.8 million
Capital: Buenos Aires
Geography: Hugely varied, comprising mountainous regions, tropics, and plains
Signature flavours: Beef, corn, pumpkin, cheese, dulce de leche
Eric wrapped up our South American double-header (I got Chile last week) with Argentinian cuisine, and opted for a traditional menu. Since we enjoy store-bought alfajores regularly, he wanted to try his hand at making these classic cookies, a dessert staple in Argentina now popular the world over. With a very beef-heavy culinary culture, Argentina offered few vegetarian options. Locro caught Eric’s eye for its vegetarian convertibility, and he chose the quiquirimichi (the lesser known cousin of chimichurri) to accompany. Empanadas are a ubiquitous snack, without which Eric felt his menu would be incomplete.
Locro: A hearty corn and pumpkin based stew from northern Argentina, traditionally using the less desirable cuts of meat like pigs’ feet and beef tripe (ours contained portobello mushrooms and vegan chorizo for that meaty texture).
Prep and cooking time: 2.5 hours
Quiquirimichi: A spicy topper to add a kick to stews, this sauce is made with olive oil, spices, and fried green onions.
Prep and cooking time: 10 minutes
Empanadas: Pastry stuffed with chard, cheese, roasted red peppers, and onions.
Prep and cooking time: 90 minutes
Alfajores: A sandwich of cookies and dulce de leche, rolled in grated coconut and topped with confectionary sugar.
Prep and cooking time: 4 hours (dulce de leche), 40 minutes
The Shopping List
Eric could have found a dulce de leche spread at our local supermarket, but decided to try making it by heating a can of condensed milk for four hours, as is done in Argentina. White corn for the locro was found with the Mexican food at the supermarket. The pumpkin was a bit hard to find post-Halloween, but Eric hunted one down, again at our local grocery store.
We enjoyed our meal with a friend who went to Argentina last year, so she was able to shed some light on the authenticity of Eric’s creations. Everything turned out very well. The locro was a dense, starchy stew that went perfectly with the spicy acidity of the quiquirimichi. The empanadas were beautiful and tasted like something from an Argentinian bakery. The alfajores melted in our mouths, and the sweet, sticky dulce de leche was well worth its four hour cooking time.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.