hallulla michelada pebre

Micheladas

Just like pebre, micheladas are another Chilean classic I refer to (and drink) a fair bit. Well they are actually from Mexico, but are super popular here too.

What can I say about micheladas? They are a beer based “cocktail”, made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and tabasco, and in my opinion are most appropriate on 2 occasions.

1. Refreshing after work drinks with friends in the summer time

2. As a hangover cure the day after a big one. They are seriously re-hydrating, no joke.

Michelada ingredients

The makings of a michelada

Ingredients

The type of beer you use is a matter of personal preference. I prefer a lager or pale ale, nothing too dark or strong in flavour.

  • Salt
  • Tabasco
  • Lemons
  • Beer!

Method

You will need 2 plates, one with some water and one with salt. Dip the rim of a glass into the water and then into the salt so you have a nice, light rim of salt around the edge.

Squeeze the juice out of the lemons, making sure to remove all the pips. Poor the juice into the salted glasses. You want to make enough juice so that each glass contains about 2 fingers worth. Add about a quarter of a teaspoon of salt to each glass and tabasco*.

Pouring technique

Don’t touch the rim!

Pour in the beer SLOWLY, being careful not to touch the rim. The best way is to tilt the glass slightly and pour the beer onto the side of the glass so the liquid runs down into the lemon juice mixture. There will be fizz, so be very careful not to let it touch the rim of salt either or all the salt will dissolve into the liquid. Part of the experience of drinking a michelada is licking a bit salt off the rim as you take a sip.

And there you have it! This drink goes well with some fresh bread, pebre and good company.

*The amount of tabasco depends on how much you like chili and also depends on the brand so feel free to experiment.

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Pebre

Next to bread, pebre is basically a staple here in Chile.  It’s rare that a restaurant doesn’t serve up a complimentary bread and pebre as an appetiser. Seriously, though, watch out for this. I always fall into the trap of eating too much before my food comes because this combo is dangerously delicious and we all know that food tastes better when it’s free, ammiright?

Once again, all my fresh ingredients, came from the local street market

Once again, all my fresh ingredients, came from the local street market

Pebre is a kind of tomato salsa. I associate it with summer time, because of the juicy fresh red tomatoes you can find at this time of year. It’s something I refer to a fair bit in this blog so I thought it would be nice to share this recipe with you. Pebre is great for nibblies, as a side dish, or for an afternoon snack with a beer or michelada (Chilean beer cocktail).

Sorry for the bad photo - it was night time.

Sorry for the bad photo – it was night time!

Prepare pebre close to the time you want to serve it. It will not keep longer than 1 day due to the tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 300g tomato, finely diced
  • 50g brown onion, finely diced
  • 50g banana chili (those long yellowy green ones that aren’t too spicy), finely diced with seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Handful coriander, finely chopped
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • Tablespoon vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Method

Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve fresh with white bread and butter. See I told you it was easy.

I’m a Vegetarian but sometimes I eat chicken: Cazuela de Pollo

stash-1-50f46db89ed2fMost of you are probably thinking that the title of this post makes me sound a little inconsistent. So before you judge me and call me a bad vegetarian, let me explain.

I am vegetarian for ethical reasons. The most important reason is I disagree with the meat production industry today. Factory farming is environmentally unsustainable, unhealthy, often tied up with horrible working conditions, and almost always with animal cruelty. But I’m not going to write an extensive essay about this, if you don’t believe me, you’ve probably been living under a rock, and I suggest you type factory farm chicken into google and take a look.

I am vegetarian because I want to see a shift back to traditional, small to medium scale animal farming systems such as family farms or cooperatives. These are often shown to be more sustainable, practice better animal welfare standards and offer fairer working conditions. Which brings me to why I sometimes eat chicken.

As you probably know by now, a lot of my recipes are based on what I find at the local feria (street market). Today we walked passed an “abuelita” (Chilean for little grandma) selling whole, plucked chickens that she raised at her house. You could tell that they weren’t commercial chickens she was trying to pass off as home grown, because the fat appeared yellow. This is caused by the presence of beta carotene indicating that the chickens had higher amounts of nutrients in their diets, which corresponds with more access to fresh food i.e. pasture and veggie scraps. This is the look of a true free-range chook which hasn’t been living in a packed shed with only the space of an A4 piece of paper to move around in for the entirety of its life.

chooksfr

I am a realist. I don’t expect the whole world to turn vegetarian. But I would hate to see a world where the only option after vegetarianism is meat from multi-national, highly industrial, large scale, factory farms that destroy the environment and reduce the lives of animals to quotas on a production line.

I don’t believe that buying chicken from that woman in the street is against my vegetarian ethics, in fact, not buying chicken from her would be less in line with them! I buy meat from small scale producers because I want those sorts of farms to exist, and to continue to exist.

Cazuela de Pollo (Chicken Cazuela)

P1060238Cazuela de Pollo (chicken cazuela) is a traditional Chilean dish. It is derived from the Spanish cazuela, left over from the colonial days. There is a specific order to eating a cazuela, typically Chileans will drink the broth first and then eat the meat and vegetables. This dish is a regular meal in the country side and also commonly made with beef.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole chicken – if you are in Australia, I suggest Inglewood Chicken, as a sustainable, ethical option
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole but crushed to release the flavour
  • Half an onion, thickly sliced
  • Handful of carrot, sliced
  • Handful of red capsicum, sliced
  • 6 small potatoes
  • 1 large cob of corn, cut into 6 pieces
  • 6 portions of pumpkin with skin
  • Small handful of rice
  • 1 heaped tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Half a vegetable stock cube
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

Prepare the chicken by removing the skin and fat.* Cut into parts (wings, breast, thighs etc.) and set aside. Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add the chicken and fry until white all over. Add carrot, capsicum, potato, pumpkin, rice, stock, herbs and spices along with enough boiling water to cover everything. Cook for about 30 – 40 minutes on low heat. When potatoes are just cooked, add corn and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, each bowl should have 1 potato, one portion of pumpkin, 1 piece of corn, 1 portion of chicken and the bowl filled with the broth. This recipe serves 6.

*Depending on how fatty you want the broth to be more or less fat can be removed.

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A Vegetarian in Chile: Part 3 Guizo de Zapallo Italiano

I am obsessed with food waste. To the point of ridiculousness. I am that person that cuts off the mouldy part at the expense of my health because I would rather increase my risk of cancer and damage to my liver, kidneys and immune system than throw that floppy fennel in the bin. Because I buy my fruit and veg in bulk, I’m often faced with a fridge half full of veggies on the brink of going off. Most of the time I manage to use them up in some burst of creative, albeit not always wonderful, piece of cookery. However there is one vegetable with which I always seem to draw a blank:

Zucchini

Did you know that zucchini can grow up to 1 metre long?

Did you know that zucchini can grow up to 1 metre long?

I don’t know why but I am somewhat uninspired by zucchini recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against the vegetable, in fact I find the texture of a nicely steamed zucchini rather pleasant. I just can’t get passed the sensation of boredom that overcomes me when faced with yet another recipe for zucchini pasta sauce or chargrilled veggies. Do you have this problem? Or am I just weird? Anyway, short story long, thanks to my wonderful Chilean colleagues who never fail to cook up a feast when we are working in the field, I have found a great way to utilise those sorry squashes going soggy at the back of the veggie crisper.

Enter: Guizo de Zapallo Italiano (Zucchini Stew – Chilean Style!)P1060223

This a great recipe because the guizo itself is relatively easy to make, with little prep time, and can be served with a simple rice. To spice things up a bit, we prepared some Chilean style rice and fried potatoes as accompaniments (shown below).

Ingredients

For the sides

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • Small amount of carrot (2 tbs or so), grated or finely chopped
  • 8 small potatoes, washed, with skin
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Merquén

For the guizo

  • 1.5kg zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • Half a brown onion, finely sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • A handful of green capsicum, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Tsp vegetable stock powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)

Method

For the sides

If you are making the Chilean style rice and potatoes, start these off first.

Boil potatoes until just cooked. Place in cold water until cool enough to handle, then peel off skin. Sautee garlic and carrot in oil in a small or medium saucepan until garlic is cooked. Add rice and a generous pinch of salt and stir to fully coat the rice in oil. Add boiling water until it is about 1 cm above the top of the rice. Cover and cook over low heat, without stirring, until all the water is absorbed.

For the guizo

Sautee onion, garlic, capsicum and carrot in oil in a large pot until onion is translucent. Add zucchini and stock powder and cook over low heat with the lid off. Don’t add more water as the zucchini releases a lot. Meanwhile, cut the peeled potatoes into bite-sized cubes. Fry in a small amount of butter and oil until crispy on the outside. Sprinkle with merquén and salt to taste. When zucchini is quite soft, add eggs one at a time, stirring through guizo between additions. Cook for a further minute to allow egg to cook and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the potatoes and rice and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.P1060226

International Women’s Day: A Comment on Abortion and Female Autonomy

Today is International Women’s Day. Although we have achieved much in the fight for equality of the sexes, there are also many areas of contemporary society in which we still have a long way to go. Abortion is one of those areas. Far too many countries still impose Draconian laws on abortion, denying women the right to autonomy over their own bodies, their health and their reproductive liberties.

In Chile, for example, abortion is illegal with no exception, meaning that a woman cannot terminate a pregnancy under ANY circumstances. Not even if she was raped or if her life depends on it. This law was introduced in 1989 under Pinochet’s military dictatorship. It was argued that, due to advances in medicine, it is no longer required to terminate a pregnancy in order to preserve a woman’s life. Abortion carries prison terms for the mother and anyone trying to assist her. To date, challenges to this law have been unsuccessful. Needless to say, many, especially high-profile upper class men, still firmly support the laws which ban abortions in all instances. For example, in 2013, an 11 year old girl became pregnant after being raped by her mother’s partner. The then President, Sebastián Piñera, praised the girl’s “depth and maturity” for deciding to take the pregnancy to term.

In the Western world, where we consider ourselves progressive with women’s rights, there are still many nations and states which impose onerous laws on abortion. Last year we learned that in Ireland, where abortion laws are extremely restrictive, a clinically dead woman was being kept alive against the wishes of her family in order to use her body as an incubator for her unborn child.

In my home state of NSW, Australia, abortion is still defined under the Criminal Act. A pregnancy can be terminated if a healthcare professional deems it necessary after thoroughly considering the women’s socio-economic status, and the potential effects of carrying the pregnancy to full term on their mental and physical health. This is an incredibly ill-defined and grey area of law, which puts women and physicians at risk of criminal persecution. Not only that, but it denies women control over their own bodies by forcing them to defend their choice to terminate a pregnancy.

Abortion law in NSW seems to be going backwards, or at an unsatisfactory standstill to say the least. Just last year, a dangerously slippery bill “Zoe’s Law” was passed through the lower house, which would have given personhood to foetuses at 20 weeks or from 400g. Of course, this was a bill predominately pushed by a few high-profile, male political figures seeking to control the bodily liberties of women, including the Christian Democrat, Fred Nile. Separating the legal status of a foetus from the other carrying it could have serious repercussions on a woman’s reproductive rights. In the US similar laws have deprived woman of basic civil liberties through forced medical interventions or arrests. One example is the appalling case of Laura Pemberton who was forced to have a caesarean against her will. Doctors sought a court order to have her forcibly removed from her home where she was in the process of giving birth vaginally because they were concerned with the risk to her unborn child since she had previously had a caesarean. A sheriff went to her home, arrested her, strapped her legs together and took her to hospital where the procedure was performed without her consent and without the state affording her any legal counsel. She later sued for the violation of her civil rights, but the court ruled that the state’s concern for the foetus outweighed Laura’s rights under various Amendments. She has since given birth vaginally to 3 more children, shedding doubts on the initial concerns of the doctors. Cases like this demonstrate how introducing laws, such “Zoe’s Law”, which give personhood to foetuses, is a slippery slope potentially ending up with women as second class citizens, stripped of their bodily liberties.

To contrast all this negativity, I would like to acknowledge some of the progress made in terms of abortion laws on the international stage. The UN issued a report in 2011 effectively demanding that member states legalise abortion, and has been continually pressuring countries with less progressive laws to change them because they infringe on women’s rights. In 2012 South America, home to 5 of the 7 countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exception, saw Uruguay legalise abortion upon request under the government led by progressive president José Mujica. Further north, abortion has been legal upon request in Mexico City since 2007 and in Cuba since 1965. That’s more liberal than the laws we have in NSW!

In Australia, some states such as Tasmania, have recognised the importance of a woman’s right to autonomy over her health and have legalised abortion on request. Privacy zones around clinics have been established to prevent women seeking abortions from being harassed by anti-abortion protesters. Back to Chile, the current President Michelle Bachelet has sent a bill to legislature which, if approved, would decimalise abortion in cases of rape, fatal foetal illnesses or where the mother’s life was in danger.

In 2015, women should be given the same liberties over their health, their bodies and their choices as men. Abortion laws and how they dictate what a woman can and can’t do to her own body, shape not only the extent of control over our reproductive rights, but how we view the autonomy of women in society as a whole. A world where the fate of a woman’s body is in the hands of a few, high-profile upper class men, is a world where gender inequality and female oppression remain.

My body my choice.

A Vegetarian in Chile: Part 2 Charquican con Huevo

An age old piece of Chilean advice for women who want fuller hips is “comer zapallo detrás de la puerta”  meaning “eat pumpkin behind the door”. Although this probably works, the method is a little introverted, so in an effort to include more pumpkin in one’s diet and still eat at the table, Charquican, serves this purpose equally well.

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Charquican is a type of Chilean pumpkin and potato stew which is also popular in other Andean regions such as in Bolivia and Argentina. Although traditionally made with llama meat or beef, it’s not uncommon to find a vego version of this classic dish served with a fried egg on top.

You can find Charquican in restaurants all year round, but the ingredients vary depending on the season. Pumpkin, potato, onion and carrot are the basis of the dish because they store well throughout the year. At la feria this week we picked up some gorgeous fresh green peas in their pods (arvejas) and some cheap sweet corn. These ingredients are usually found in a summer Charquican due to their availability.

P1060203 P1060206 P1060205

So without further ado, here is a recipe for vegetarian Charquican con Huevo

Ingredients

The weights given here are just a guide to give you an idea of the proportion of each ingredient in a Charquican. Add too much of one ingredient and it will take over the flavour of the dish. Having said that, there’s no need to be totally accurate with the weights, just make sure that potato makes up the majority, and don’t add too much pumpkin because of its strong flavour.

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  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed/ chopped (Fun Fact: In Spanish they’re called “dientes” meaning teeth!)
  • 60g carrot, chopped
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and diced into smallish cubes
  • 60g pumpkin, diced into smallish cubes
  • 40g red capsicum, chopped
  • 100g peas, podded
  • 80g corn kernels (you want about the same size portion of corn as peas)
  • Water, boiled
  • 1 stock cube
  • Tsp cumin
  • Heaped tsp dried oregano
  • Olive oil
  • Merquén (Chilean spice blend) and salt to taste
  • Fried eggs

Method

Sautee onion, garlic and spices in olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir through pumpkin, potato and carrot. Add stock and water until veggies are just covered. It’s important not to add too much water here or the end result will be too runny.* Bring to the boil and then simmer on low heat, covered, until pumpkin is dissolved.

Add green peas and corn and continue to simmer until these are just cooked. Stir vigorously to mash pumpkin and some of the potato through the Charquican. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with a fried egg on top and sprinkle with merquén. This recipe serves 4 (or 3 hungry people).

*NOTE: You can add more or less water in this step depending on your personal preference. I like mine a little runnier, but José likes his the consistency of thick mashed potato. Each to their own.