There’s an interesting phenomenon in Argentina. You have your age-old coffee culture, your beautiful ornate cafés all over Buenos Aires, the daily Argentinean ritual of morning and afternoon (or evening) coffee. And then you have your ‘coffee’.
The espresso here is, dare I say it, terrible, and many extranjeros will agree with me on this. It doesn’t matter what your order – cafe con leche (flat white), espresso, cappuccino, it will be scaldingly hot, weak as piss and watery to boot. So you’ll be sitting in a cafe, be it dingy or grandly ornate, and you’ll decide it’s time to give up on coffee altogether. And there’s plenty of time to make that decision, as the time between a mozo setting down your coffee and it being cool enough to take a sip averages 10 minutes.
I was here 2 years ago so I knew all this before I came back, but memory is a tricky thing and I fooled myself that somehow, somewhere I would find a decent espresso. I’m sure there’s one out there, somewhere. But I’m yet to discover it.
If anyone has any coffee (not café) recommendations for either Montevideo or Buenos Aires, sock it to me.
If I’m asked to choose my favourite food from a particular country, it’s likely to be a condiment. In the case of Argentina, I can’t go past the pulpy, herby, vinegary mess that is chimichurri. Made of parsley, oregano, oil, vinegar, garlic and ají molido (fine, mild chilli flakes), this sauce is slathered on meats after cooking for an extra bit of zest, flavour and texture.
Image courtesy of Food Stories
Contrary to popular belief, this salsa isn’t always a lurid green, nor is it mandatory at Argentine asados. It also doesn’t have to be served fresh – it can last for months in the fridge. Allowing it to sit for a few hours or even a few days will allow the flavour to mellow and the dried herbs to soften, and many people prefer it this way. If you’re interested, you can read more about chimichurri in this excellent post from Asado Argentina.
A word of caution – dried chilli flakes in Argentina are a lot milder than those we get in Australasia. Our chilli flakes are larger and usually include chilli seeds, thus if you are using these kind of chilli flakes, use them sparingly. Chimichurri is not traditionally a hot condiment, sometimes the chilli is omitted altogether but usually it’s added to taste.
1 cup very finely chopped fresh parsley (use a food processor if you like)
½ a head of garlic, very finely chopped
1 bay leaf, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon fine salt
Ají molido or dried chilli flakes, to taste
½ cup of oil – olive or grape seed for example, something mild yet suitable for salad
1 cup wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
Mix all herbs and spices together. Add oil and vinegar, if the chimichurri is too thick; add enough water to thin it out. Add chilli flakes to taste and leave to sit for at least 2 hours.
1. The Presentation of all things Food
Crisp white tablecloths without paper covers. The old-world charm of BA restaurants. And more recently, the beautifully arranged fruit and vegetable stands in every neighbourhood. Although the aesthetic can be homogeneous, there is something lovely about the Porteños’ eye for detail when it comes to food.
2. Cake is sold by weight
In panaderias, smaller cakes, pastries and biscuits from medialunas (small croissants or ‘half moons’) factures to alfajores are often sold by weight rather than quantity. There’s something very decadent about ordering half a kilo of a combination of meringue, dulce de leche and sponge cake to take away.
3. Fresh OJ
Fresh Orange juice is like running water here and not, in the words of Basil Fawlty, ‘rather sticky’. Cafés, restaurants and confiterias all make and serve it, as do some convenience stores and market stalls. It makes that breakfast of coffee and pastry seem a tad more balanced.
These sugar-coated nuts, usually peanuts or almonds, are cooked and sold by the side of the road in autumn and winter. In the mornings you can see the vendors wheeling their carts to their allocated spots for the day. It’s the kind of snack that is considered gourmet and is expensive where I come from, but here in Buenos Aires a small packet of garapiñadas costs only 2 or 3 pesos (about 50 Aussie cents). Freshly made and with fresh peanuts, they are more addictive than peanut butter. And since peanut butter doesn’t really exist here, they make a tasty substitute.
One of the most fantastic things about this city, besides most restaurants being open until around 2:00 am is that practically anything you want can be delivered. You want empanadas at midnight? Done. A coffee and a medialuna at 10:00 am? No worries. Most shopfronts have their phone number displayed so that customer can ring up and order what they like. It’s not uncommon to see waiters with a covered tray in hand dodging traffic as they try not to spill coffee for someone a few doors down. There’s no minimum delivery and no delivery charge.
We all know no one wants to hear about other peoples’ holidays, if only because it incites jealousy. But if the success of twitter is anything to go by, EVERYONE wants to read about and see pictures of what people are eating, anytime, anywhere.
With that in mind, even though we’re off to Argentina and Brazil for a month, the Corridor won’t stop kitchening (or something), and rest assured we’ll be eating, cooking, café hopping and eating (definitely gonna be doing at least twice as much eating as anything else) all over the place, Chilean volcanos permitting.
Lau@corridorkitchen.com and entourage.
There are some recipes that are solid crowd pleasers, and these are the ones I tend towards when it’s time to celebrate something. This orange cake, which I first saw on Food Safari is a classic Jewish Middle Eastern cake made of Oranges, almond meal, sugar and eggs. It takes about 10 minutes to throw together and although it’s been blogged to death, I can’t resist posting it here. Believe the hype, I’ve made this cake more times than I can count and I’m not about to stop now.
The flavour is intensely orange, the texture is creamy and dense. One tip though; make sure you don’t use oranges with very tough, thick skins, as this will give a bitter flavour. I once made this cake with very thick-skinned oranges (I didn’t realise it at the time) and although it was still tasty, it left a bitter aftertaste that I wouldn’t want you to repeat…
Kosher Whole Orange Cake – Batia Slater via SBS Food Safari
250g caster sugar
250g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
Canola spray (for greasing the pan)
Wash the oranges and place unpeeled, in a pot of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain the water and allow the oranges to cool for at least 10 minutes. You can boil them ahead of time if you prefer.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease a 20 cm round baking tin with canola oil spray, cut a circle of baking paper and place it in the bottom of the tin (use the tin as a template).
Break 6 eggs into a mixing bowl. Add caster sugar and blend together with an immersion blender.
Place the two oranges into the egg mix. Break up the oranges and then blend together to a smooth consistency. Add the almond meal and baking powder and blend.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour and a half or until the top is golden brown. If it starts to brown too early or too much, cover it with foil. Makes 16 slices.
Popular posts this month…
- 3 great hole-in-the-wall CBD Cafes posted on April 13, 2012
- Review – Philips Saeco Intelia posted on January 10, 2012
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths posted on March 1, 2013
- Kosher Whole Orange Cake posted on July 5, 2011
- Café Review – The Grounds of Alexandria posted on April 4, 2012
- SMH Good Café Guide 2013
- Smokey O’s Popup, The Rag Land, 13-14 May 2013
- Eggplant Parma and Family Recipes
- Pigeonhole Gatherings
- On Healthy Eating – 5 tips from a food blogger
- The National Multicultural Festival 2013, Canberra
- Black Coffee Revolution – Get Brewing!
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths
- Café Review – Naked Espresso, Melbourne CBD
- Black Coffee Revolution – Aeropress
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.