by Simone Riddle
One thing to note with ‘caldos’ (stews in English) is the Guatemalan obsession of cooking their vegetables whole. Why waste all that time chopping verduras into bite-sized chunks when you can cook them in their entirety? This nutritious Guatemalan ‘caldo’ is available in most comedores or mercados but tastes even better homemade, especially if you just got your fresh produce from domingos organicos. Huisquil (a hard round veg with a green prickly skin) – love it or hate it – tastes at its best in any kind of caldo. So, if you’ve got one lurking at the back of your cupboard & you have no idea what to do with it, this may just be the recipe for you!
I’m never too sure which cuts of beef to ask for. I’m told Costilla de res o hueso de paloma work well for this recipe but if you tell the butcher which dish you’re preparing, they usually know which cut is best to use. You ideally want beef sold on the bone in order to make a really tasty stock. If not, you’ll need to add a stock cube to give it some extra flavour.
The vegetables & quantities listed below are just a suggestion. Add whatever is available to you. Should serve 4-5 people.
1 pound of a whole cut of beef
Oil for browning the beef
1 small tomato with an ‘x’ cut in one end
1 small onion peeled with ‘x’ cut in one end
2 whole celery stalks (apio)
1 red chile pimiento, seeds removed & halved
1 yuca root, peeled & cut into chunks. If you can’t find yuca, a couple of pieces of calabaza or ayote works equally well, thrown in with the skin on
2 whole carrots, peeled
1 huisquil, peeled, cutting out the core & quartered
2 corn-on-the-cobs broken into 1/2s
½ a small head cabbage, quartered
4 whole small potatoes, peeled
4-5 chiltepe chiles (the tiny green ones)
½ a diced onion
About half a quetzal of chopped cilantro
Jugo of 1 lime
1.Cut the beef into portions, roughly one per person & leaving the bone attached to some of the meat. If this is difficult, cook the cut whole then divide up when ready to serve.
2. Heat some oil in a large pot or pressure cooker (without using the lid), add the beef & begin to brown over a low heat turning frequently to cook on every side.
3. When the beef is almost browned add all the vegetables.
4. Add enough water to almost cover the vegetables; don’t be afraid to add more water later if it needs it. Cover the pan & cook on high heat to bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, add plenty of salt & pepper & the stock cube should you need it. Simmer until the beef is tender & the vegetables are cooked.
For the Salsa (for those that like it hot)
6.Toast the chiltepes until brown on every side, this is traditionally done on a comal but can be done in a frying pan without any oil, careful they don’t jump out & burn you! Put them into a chirmolera (they’re about Q15 or less in the market but every legit host family should have one), or use the back of a heavy cooking utensil to grind them up a little.
7. Add the diced onion to the chiltepe, the washed & chopped cilantro, & the limejuice. Mash briefly & set aside.
8. When the caldo is ready, serve in big bowls dividing up the meat & veg fairly with plenty of tortillas (black are always my preference). Serve with the bowl of salsa & a plate of chopped lime slices & a couple of avocados quartered for the truly chapin experience.
Book your cookery class with Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) where Women Circle members offer traditional Mayan techniques. Email AMA@highlandsupportproject.org or check out their website (www.amaguate.org) for more information.
My food blog online can be found at: http://recetasguatemaltecasymas.blogspot.com/