Recipe of the Month: Algo para Picar
by Simone Riddle
The most common dish that you can be asked to bring along to a social gathering in Xela is ‘algo para picar’ – something to nibble on. There are really only three acceptable dips to bring along with a mandatory bag of nacho chips: ‘frijoles’ (refried black beans), pico de gallo, and guacamole. So here are two of these recipes with a special twist.
Pico de Gallo
Why is pico de gallo called pico de gallo you may ask? There are many theories. The direct translation is ‘beak of the cockerel’. Some say it’s because of the dip’s vibrant colors while others say it’s because the chopped vegetables look like they have been picked at by hens. I always thought it had something to do with the ‘picante’ involved but I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.
- 1.5 libras (pounds) of tomatoes from the market, washed
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 limes
- 1 Quetzal of cilantro (washed)
- 1 jalapeño chili (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of salsa inglesa (Guatemala’s very own version of Worcestershire sauce)
1. Start by peeling and finely dicing the onion. Place in a medium size bowl and add the juice of one of the limes, mix well and put to one side
2. Finely chop the jalapeño (removing seeds) and add to the onion. If you don’t like it hot just use about half or leave it out completely
3. Using about half of the cilantro bunch, take the leaves off the stalks, finely chop and add to the bowl with the onion
4. Dice and add the tomatoes, squeeze over the juice of another lime, add the salsa inglesa (this is the special twist you may or may not want to share with people), and a large pinch of salt to season. Mix well
5. Taste for seasoning, adding more salsa inglesa, lime juice or salt as needed. Getting a cuate Chapín (Guatemalan friend) to help at this point is advisable to ensure the salsa has acceptably high levels of salt.
The key to good guacamole is a using the best avocados. They say that if a woman can choose a right avocado they will pick a good husband; I am yet to be convinced by this theory. As extranjeros we are often given the worst avocadoes in the market. Check each one well for bruises and ripeness. Don’t be afraid to ask to change them if you’re not happy. If you find a good vendedora de aguacate, stick with them.
This version starts with the same process as the pico de gallo. Finely dice one small onion and leave to sit in the juice of one lime to soften the taste. Add the other half of the cilantro- chopped, and half a diced jalapeño depending on how hot you like it. Dice two tomatoes and add to the mixture. Leave to sit for 5-10 minutes. Making sure the avocados are ripe, scrape out the contents of 3 avocados and add another lime with plenty of salt. Add the mashed avocados to the tomato mixture and stir together. Try and make the dip as late as possible for freshness but a great truco (trick) to stop the guacamole from browning is to add one or two avocado stones to the dip– this really works!
With una Cabro bien fría in hand, enjoy the party and the compliments that come your way, relishing in the fact that today vos ya sos mas chapín que nunca!
Book your cookery class with Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) where Women Circle members offer traditional Mayan techniques. Email AMA@highlandsupportproject.org