Saturday, January 8, 2011

Being vegetarian in a meat loving country

If you are a vegetarian, you are probably not really waiting to eat your tasty veggies in front of a grill full of meat, blood sausage, heart, intestines and cow boobs. Well, it happens.Some people in Bolivia find it very hard to understand the concept of being vegetarian. No meat?! How strange, why on earth would you even consider such a thing? Even if you ask for a meatless meal they manage to slip some on the side. It makes you paranoid, and even fried bananas are regarded with great caution. Or perhaps that is just me?! But it is not all bad, that is for sure! The veggies and fruits are very tasty and inexpensive. And guess what, there are even vegetarian restaurants in the centre with delicious food (Vida Y Salud Ayacucho 444; Cuerpo Y Mente, Velasco 358; …). Even in the normal restaurants they have at least one vegetarian option and in the smaller restaurants around the Quinta they will prepare some non meat dish on request.

There are also veggie traditional foods: cheese empanadas, humintas (mashed corn and cheese in a corn leaf), sonso (mashed yucca and cheese on a stick), arroz con queso, cuñapé (cheese bread balls, see recipe below), the smoothies and juices of all the fruits you can imagine and so much more. If you want to cook, you will find everything you need: besides the vegetables you can find lots of different beans, quinoa (see recipe below) and even (dried) soya meat.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) is one of the most interesting South American seeds because of the high mineral and vitamin content, including magnesium and iron. The Incas referred to it as chisaya mama or 'mother of all grains'. Yucca (Manihot esculenta) is a root rich in starch and calcium and is very abundant in South America. It can be used as flour, or on its whole baked, fried or boiled so it is very diverse in use.
Expect people trying to convince you to become a vampire or carnivore (again). If you are not showing the slightest hesitation people will assume you are a secret meat eater at night. We all have our secrets, no? Although they say it is impossible to keep secrets at the Quinta…

Cuñape is a salty snack eaten at tea time. The name has an origin in one of the Indian languages still spoken in Bolivia, Guaraní. Cuña means "woman" and pé means “breast”. The baked canapés form little bubbles that could look like a woman’s breast.
1 cup yucca (manioc) starch
3 cups of white cheese
1 egg

Salt, water and milk as needed

Crumble the cheese into a big mixing bowl (it should crumble easily) and add the yucca starch and egg and a little salt. Knead it with your hands until you have a dough-like consistency. At this point, if it's too dry, you can add some milk or water.

Make little balls of the dough and insert your thumb into the bottom to make a hole. Place them on top of a non stick or a floured plate. Let them rest for 15 minutes.

Place them in the oven between 15-20 minutes, 350°F or 175°C.

QUINOA QUICHE (5 portions)

300 grams quinoa grains
100 grams shredded cheese

2 medium onions
2 peeled tomatoes
2 sprigs of parsley
3 tablespoons of ground red or yellow chili pepper
Garlic, spices and salt to taste

Boil the quinoa grains until they are thick mushy (2 cups of water for one cup of quinoa)

Cook the oil, finely chopped onion, garlic, chopped parsley, and hot peppers for 10 minutes. Grease an appropriately sized baking pan. Mix the cooked quinoa with half the shredded cheese and spread half of this mixture on the bottom of the baking pan. On top, place the filling and distribute it along the entire surface. Sprinkle this with the remaining shredded cheese. Cover this with the remaining quinoa covering the entire surface uniformly.

Place it in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the surface has browned

Buen provecho!

No comments:

Post a Comment