A Taste of Colombia - Sancocho Colombiano
By Charyn Pfeuffer
When it comes to travel wish lists, Colombia tops mine for 2012. As you may already know, I have a soft spot for Latin American countries; especially Colombia's nearby neighbors Peru, Ecuador and Panama. Several of my friends have spent time in Colombia and have nothing but kind words for its country and culture. However, very few of them seem to venture much beyond the big cities of Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena.
I want to explore Colombia's coffee country, about 180 miles west of Bogotá. Colombia's Coffee Culture Landscape has been declared a Natural Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO. Situated in the southern part of this region, among plantain, manioc, orange and pineapple plantations sits Hacienda Bambusa.
Chef/owner of Hacienda Bambusa, Santiago Montoya, shares a very traditional recipe for Sancocho Colombiano, a traditional soup or stew found all across Latin America. Sancocho is derived from the Spanish verb "sancochar," which means "to parboil." The recipe varies by country, mainly by the type of meat and vegetables available in the region. It is the quintessential cheap, quick and easy Latin American comfort food.
"In Colombia, we are different in that we use almost any kind of meat, or a combination of meats - and on our coasts, the people use fish alone," says Montoya. "This probably comes because Colombia is so diverse in our cultural heritage and in our landscapes." This version is more of a highland Colombian Sancocho; focusing on the wonderful potatoes and corn grown in Hacienda Bambusa's small organic garden. "The ingredients are very basic, but merge together into a wonderful flavor and aroma," says Montoya. "The best part is finishing your Sancocho is eating the corn off the cob, which has been cooking and soaking up all the flavor into its kernels - it's like desert!"
Hacienda Bambusa's Sancocho Colombiano
1 - 1 ½ lbs. chicken, beef or pork (loin), or all three together (cut into large chunks; fish can be substituted for non-meat eaters)
1 large green plantain (cut into chunks)
3 large potatoes (peeled and cut into large chunks)
2 ears of corn on the cob, cut into various 2" long sections (bigger the kernels the better)
bunch of cilantro
salt to taste
1 onion (chopped)
2 carrots (optional, chopped)
Cook the meat in a large saucepan to release its juices. Once the meat is cooked, remove it and sauté the remaining ingredients in the meat broth, except for the plantain, which will be added later. Next, add the stems of the cilantro, which will add flavor, but not overpower the stew. Save the cilantro leaves for the garnish. After a quick sauté of the ingredients, add water until the contents are like a soup and bring to a boil.
Once the soup is boiling, add the plantain chunks and then continue to cook until the plantain is soft. At this point, it is ready to serve. If you want more of a stew-like consistency, you can mash up a few of the potatoes in the soup. As for the previously cooked meat, some people put it on a plate accompanied by rice, while others mix the rice into the Sancocho. This flavorful stew is traditionally accompanied by a fresh sliced avocado, mixed green salad or corn bread.