I am stepping out of my hard and fast Eurosphere for this recipe. There are many more European chefs cooking in the UK and their recipes will come. This week, though, before Christmas takes over, I thought it might be enjoyable to cross to South America, where Latin flavours – many influenced by European cooks – exist. The temperature outside my flat is 2C, so why not appreciate a warming chicken soup from Colombia?
I’ve never made it to South America but friends tell me the food there is bright and fortifying and, while consumed in sunshine, is also ideal in colder climes. I don’t know why. Maybe Colombians are versed in comfort. Maybe I would be too if I could spend most nights of the week dancing the salsa.
And so to soup. This one, called ajiaco, is suitably hearty and is a farmer’s dish from the highlands of Colombia, although it’s also popular in Peru and Cuba. In the latter, it kicks off the San Juan festival in Camagüey. The Cuban ethnologist Fernando Ortiz stated that ajiaco was an appropriate metaphor for the country “being a melting pot”.
The soup’s primary ingredients are potatoes, corn and chicken, and these are nourished by cream, spiked by capers, and enriched by slices of avocado. It is a one-bowl meal for Colombians, I’m told, and is particularly popular in the capital, Bogotá. It is also found in Elephant & Castle, which is peppered with lots of brilliant Latin American restaurants, including Paladar, the chef Jose Rubio Guevara’s excellent higher-end restaurant. Enjoy.
Two chicken breasts (on the bone for more flavour, if you prefer)
Garlic and onion
12 small yellow potatoes (papas criollas), cut in half
2 ears of corn, cut in half
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm slices
1 bunch of spring onions
1 bunch of coriander
8 tbsp guascas herb
1 cup double cream
2 tbsp capers, drained
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
Marinate the chicken breasts with garlic, onion and salt, and leave in the fridge overnight.
1. Put the chicken breasts into water, cover and boil until tender.
2. Transfer them to a platter, remove the skin and discard.
3. Cut the chicken breasts into strips.
4. Cook the yellow potatoes in the casserole with the chicken stock until they start to disintegrate.
5. Add the spring onion, coriander, sliced potato and corn.
6. When cooked (about an hour), remove the bunches of spring onions and coriander.
7. Place the chicken into bowls and add the soup.
8. Pour 3 tsp of cream and 1 tsp of chopped capers into each bowl and float the sliced avocado on top.