Colombia is a country of contrasts. Hot Caribbean beaches, deep, dense jungles and cold, steep mountain ranges. African-influenced music such as champeta plays next to the indigenous music bambucco, with some modern day reggaeton thrown in the mix too. While these are differences to be celebrated, Colombia also possesses less desirable contrasts, such as the stark comparison between the rich and the poor.
Thankfully, there are many charities within the country working to help change the situation of millions of families who live in poverty. One such organisation is TECHO, who work to provide emergency housing for families living in sub-standard housing conditions.
I’ve already written about some of the work I have done with TECHO here, and my most recent experience was the task of feeding 80 hungry volunteers during a weekend of construction with four families in Puerto Colombia, down by the beach here in Barranquilla.
I had to provide two breakfasts and one dinner and my job involved planning the menu, managing the budget, buying the food and of course…cooking it all too! Another volunteer and I worked together to achieve this mammoth task. We came up with a menu of well-loved Colombian classics, two of which I’ll share with you all today.
The breakfast on the first day was huevos pericos served alongside bread rolls. This is a classic Colombian breakfast dish and is a quick, easy and nourishing option that is just a tad more exciting than your everyday scrambled eggs recipe.
Spice up your scrambled eggs with the recipe here below!
Huevos Pericos (serves 4)
– 6 eggs
– 3 finely chopped tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons olive oil (replace one of these with butter if you like your eggs a bit richer)
– 2 strands of spring onion, finely chopped
– Salt to taste
1) Add in oil (and butter if using) to the pan while it heats up. Once the pan is warm, add in chopped onions and watch and stir until the start they change color.
2) Add in chopped tomatoes with a good pinch of salt. Stir around with onions for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are looking cooked but not mushy.
3) Now crack eggs straight into the pan and mix around, and when starting to scramble turn off heat. Stir around a bit more, but don’t let them dry up – runny eggs are best!
This can be served with some chopped coriander stirred through, or sprinkled on top.
Breakfast on the second day was a very traditional dish called cayeye – boiled guineos (smaller, green plantains) mashed up with butter, salt and cheese. Added suero (a kind of sour cream) is optional, indulgent and completely recommended! Sadly, in the sheer mayhem of boiling 80 bananas and grating over 5 kilograms of cheese (all before 5:30 am this is), I forgot to take any pictures. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say this is one breakfast dish you should try!
Breakfasts done, what’s for dinner? The much-loved Colombian dish arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Tackling such a classic dish, I did my research talking to various mums/grandmas/cleaners and cooks in order to get their top tips. Everyone has their own little tricks for making this dish, and here is a compilation of those pearls of wisdom to help you try your hand at this classic Colombian eat.
Arroz con Pollo (serves 4)
– 250 g (1 cup) of white rice
– Stock cube of chicken stock
– 3 cloves on garlic, chopped
– A fair bit of salt (various pinches, we will say)
– Trisazon spice (now I doubt this is hanging around in Tesco. It’s basically a mix of cumin, garlic, paprika and red colouring. Use these 4 and you should be good!)
– 1 teaspoon tomato puree
– 3 carrots, grated
– Half a bunch of coriander, chopped, with some leaves reserved for serving
– 1 green pepper, cut into small cubes
– 1 red pepper, cut into small cubes
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 2 chicken breasts
1) First cook the chicken. Place breasts in a pot with the first 3 chopped cloves of garlic, the stock cube, and cover with water until all of the chicken is submerged. Boil for about 30 minutes until the breasts are cooked through, and remove chicken to cool on a plate but reserve this chicken stock (you will use it to cook your rice).
2) Now, in the water you cooked the chicken in, you’re going to cook your rice, adding in the grated carrot for colour. Make sure there is exactly twice as much water as you have rice – if you haven’t got enough chicken-y water for your rice, add in more plain water. Likewise, if you’ve too much water, drain some out. Simple!
3) While the rice is cooking, shred your chicken breasts with two forks. Save aside, and crack on with the veg.
4) Cook onion in a separate pan until it starts to take a golden colour and then add in peppers. Add salt and spices and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, and then add in tomato puree. Add in shredded chicken, chopped coriander and give a good stir for about 1-2 minutes.
5) Checking your rice is nice and cooked (about 20-25 mins), it’s time to mix it all up! Add cooked chicken and veg to rice, stir it all up and taste. A bit pale looking? Try a squirt of tomato ketchup! Not feeling flavorsome enough? Add some more spices. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh coriander, and enjoy.
Arroz con pollo is a great feed-a-crowd dish, and if I managed it for 80, this recipe for four should be a breeze!
Overall, the weekend was a tough, long, but unforgettable experience. It was my third time participating in a construction with TECHO, and it never ceases to amaze me how in just two days the lives of families can be transformed so positively. So after you’ve hit the kitchen to cook up these two Colombian classics, please also take the time to read up about TECHO and the work it does across Latin America.
Until next time, where BidmeadBites takes a brief holiday away…stay tuned to find out where to!