Some of you who know me, know that apart from being half Italian, the other half (mama’s side) is Colombian.
Last weekend, I got back from a 2 week trip to the Motherland after 5 long years. I got to hang out with my family, travel around, Salsa, drink rum and of course, most importantly try out all the local cuisine.
As you can see from this blog and my social media, I tend to eat a lot of Mediterranean flavours. However, I cannot lie and must admit that Colombian food is a weakness of mine, but know full well that with my double whammy of Latino genes and my lack of love for exercise that it should remain as treat feast for me.
So, most people before on holiday, have a list of places they want to visit highlighted in their lonely planet guide. Me, on the other hand have list of dishes that I need to eat and tick off.
The first dish to tick off my list, was an Ajiaco Soup. This is a popular soup from Bogota and is chicken & potato based soup and is served with corm on the cob, cream, capers with a side of rice & avocado.
This dish is perfect for the climate in the capita,l as the city is so high above sea water, that even tho it usually has spring type weather (all year round) it can get a little cold especially in the evenings, so this soup is perfect to warm up your cockles.
It also has a specific flavour, which is due the dry herb Guasca which is added to it.
The pic below is not one that i took, but it links to a site called www.mycolombianrecipes.com where you can find the recipe for this dish and other colombian recipes; http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/ajiaco-bogotano-colombian-chicken-and
Next up, is the Bandeja Paisa, which I had on my trip to Medellin at this restaurant called ‘El Rancherito’ (http://www.elrancherito.com.co/), which is a typical dish from the Andean region. I have to say this should not be tried by the fatal hearted as it is a sight. 11 different elements all on one plate. (1) Bean, 2) Rice, 3) Ground beef, 4) Chicharron (pork belly),5) Chorizo, 6) Morzilla (black pudding), 7) Arepa (cornmeal patties with cheese), 8) Avocado, 9) Plantain, 10) Fried egg and 11) Coleslaw).
Mixture of meat and carbs all at once. Sometimes its hard to know, where to even start it. I would say, this gives the British English breakfast a run for its money
In the centre of Bogota, my cousin took me to a little find called ‘los lenitos gourmet’. Here I tried cow intestines for the first time. I was not sure if i was going to like it, but ended up going for more after my first bite. It was deep fried, which gave it a crispy texture. Not as gross as it may sound. Though, I was told its not something you can order at any restaurant as you have to ensure that they are cleaned properly before cooking. EEWWWWWW!
Tamales was next dish. There are many variations of ‘Tamales’ in Colombia, but the one thing they have in common is that they are wrapped in banana leaves which gives them a distinctive flavour.
The filling can vary from region to region, but the one I had was a Tamal Tolimense which people tend to have for breakfast with hot chocolate and ‘arepa’ or ‘almojabana’ (cheesy bread roll).
The filling mainly consists of cooked rice with peas, carrots, potato, chicken & pork belly. Its not the prettiest of dishes, however i can’t recommend it enough, that if you ever get to Colombia, this must be on your food list.
On a Sunday afternoon, I had told my cousin that i had this craving to eat an ‘Arepa de Choclo’ which is made from mashed up corn and cheese. Its like a flat plattie and totally divine.
So he took me to this place in the middle of nowhere by the side on the motorway on the out skirts of Bogota called Villa Quesada.
This place was like a Colombians version of a Little chef but 100% better. You get given a basket with greaseproof paper and you have a choice of a delicious buffet of all different types of food.
We ordered my arepa di choclo, potato criolla, ‘envuelto’ (corn mashed up with veg, similar to a Tamal), longaniza (which is a type of sausage) and morcilla (black pudding).
it would be fair to say, that I went into a food coma not long after eating…
The following week, I went to visit my Great Uncles in great town called Villavecencio, which is 2-3 hours drive from Bogota. I must have up to 150-200 relatives in this town, 4 generations worth.
While I was there, i was taken to a restaurant called ‘Los Arrayanes’. They specialise in fish dishes and they harvest the fish on the grounds in huge swimming pools. While I was there eyeing up which fish I wanted for my lunch, one fish actually jumped out of the water and landed on the side of the pool. I do actually believe it was trying to escape, no joke. Unfortunately it got put back in..Sad. True story!
Anyways, I decided to go for a ‘Mojarra’ (apparently from same family from the Tilapia) deep fried which was served with Plaintain, fried yam and salad. The restaurant said that as the fish weren’t very large, they were serving 2 per dish. They thought the below was small, can you believe it. Def good value for money and mega tasty.
So towards the end of my holiday, i was taken to this cool restaurant called ‘Patacones’ http://www.patacones.com/. So everything is served on a flatten plantain (choose between unripened for crunchy texture or ripe for sweet & soft). There were like 30 different toppings, but i went for the mix grill.
I have to say this was one of my favourite dishes on my holiday, I loved the fact it was served with loads of guacamole and salsa. This is definitely one I am going to try at home and I’m lucky there is a a huge abundance of plaintain in Dalston.
Finally, I came to the end of my trip and there was one last thing that i had not managed to tick off my list and I was getting desperate. Then my aunt came and saved the day and brought around about 10 empanadas on my last day. An empanada is an equivalent of a stuffed pattie and you serve it with ‘aji’ which is a chilli type salsa. No joke, i sat at the table with at least 5 and started to eat my way through it.
After eating 2 empanadas, I was content and satisfied that I had fulfilled my food list needs and could go home happy. It had been an incredible 2 weeks and miss my family already.
Now its time to revert back to regular dosage of vegetables to my diet.
By the way if any of you are interested in eating Colombian food in London, i recommend ‘El Rancho de Lalo’ in Brixton Village. The best Empanadas I have ever eaten and fabulous value for money!