In our family everybody loves pasta, especially Gnocchi! Pasta! Gnocchi! You might ask, doesn’t sound very South American. In fact because of Italian migrants in South America pasta is a big part of peoples diet. In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, eating gnocchi is a popular tradition on the 29th of every month. This tradition we have been following all our lives but we don’t know why. We do know for certain that Gnocchi was a recipe brought to South America by Italian migrants during the great Italian emigration of 1876-1926. It was one of the largest modern emigrations any country has seen. An estimated 8.9 million Italians settled in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay as well as Venezuela and Peru. Hence the great influence of Italian cuisine in South America.
Savoury biscuits are very popular in South America and can be readily bought in supermarkets or corner stores. This recipe is for home made Galletas Malteadas which originate from Uruguay. They are a bit of a vice, you eat one, you eat two you just cant stop. South American kids love these with a bit of jam or just plain.
You would describe them as a dry savoury biscuits very popular in Uruguay with diabetics due to the fact they contain no sugar. Argentina has a slightly different variation of the recipe for Galletas Malteadas called Galletas Marineras using butter and eggs not lard and yeast. They are a great companion to a great coffee or with your afternoon mate!!
Pascualina is a pie with a top and a bottom layer of puff pastry covering in the middle a filling of spinach and egg. It originated in Italy but has been very popular in Argentina and Uruguay since the late 1930’s. I have forgotten how many times we have cooked this recipe, it’s so delicious and a great way to get your kids to eat spinach.
While doing some research we found a variation on what we always thought was the traditional recipe using spinach and ricotta cheese.
Place flour in a bowl together with salt, olive oil and warm milk.
Bring mixture together to form a ball.
Place dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 minutes or until smooth.
Divide into two pieces and roll into two circles to fit a 30 cm tray. This will make the top and bottom of the Pascualina. Now we go make the filling.
Making the filling
Sauté the onion in a fry pan until transparent, then add the spinach (well drained). Mix in well with the onions and cook for 5 min. Add salt, oregano, pepper, cheese and 1 beaten egg and mix in well. Allow to rest for 5 min.
Putting the Pascualina together
Place one of the pastry circles onto a 30cm tray (lightly spray with oil) and spread the filling.
With a soup spoon make four indents in the filling and place a whole egg in each in each indent. Season with salt and lay the second pastry circle over the top.
Trim edges and secure pastry together by pressing down edges firmly using a fork.
Pierce the top of the pie and bake for 25-30 min or until golden brown.
A traditional foodstuff of Argentina and Uruguay is Faina – a flatbread with notes of pepper made from chickpea flour. It’s related to the Italian flatbread Faranita.
A great gluten-free option for cheese boards, fainá can also be served with toppings, though is traditionally served as an accompaniment to mozzarella pizza(muzza). It is typical to have a slice of muzza, with a slice of faina on top, and this is called pizza a caballo(pizza on horseback). It brings back memories of being teenagers in Uruguay and going to our local Pizza Bar to have some pizza a caballo.
The only special ingredient that you might not see at your local supermarket is the Chickpea or garbanzo bean flour. Chickpea flour or besan is made from the ground pulse. Popular in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine, the gluten-free ingredient is a delicious alternative to plain flour. Use besan as a batter, a tasty thickener in soups, or a binding agent for fritters and meatballs. It can be found at most health food stores.
Fainá is a nutty, peppery flatbread made with garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour.
Author: Silvia and Grace
Recipe type: Flatbread
Cuisine: South American
Serves: 8 to 10
2½ cups garbanzo bean flour
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
4 small chorizo sausages, or 1 large
1 cup shredded fresh spinach leaves
4-6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Whisk the garbanzo bean flour together with the salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, parmesan cheese, and a generous amount of ground black pepper.
Whisk in 1¾ cups of water until well mixed. Set aside for about a half hour, to let the flour absorb some of the water.
Remove the casings from the sausages and roughly chop the sausage. Cook the sausage in a skillet until well browned, adding a tablespoon or so of vegetable or olive oil if they are sticking. Remove sausages to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When it is hot, place the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 12 inch pizza pan, and heat in the oven until very hot.
Stir more water into the batter if necessary, until the batter is just thin enough to pour. Carefully remove hot pizza pan from oven, and pour batter into the pan. It should make a thin (about ¼ inch) layer. Place in the oven and bake until fainá is just golden and crispy (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from oven and top with sausage, spinach and crumbled blue cheese. Return to oven for a few minutes longer, until the blue cheese starts to melt and the spinach is just wilting.
Budin de Pan or Bread Pudding its English name is our favourite dessert to make. Many countries have different versions of this dessert but specially throughout Spanish speaking countries like in the Caribbean Islands which make Pudin de Pan or Capirotada(Mexican Bread Pudding).
We learnt from our mum who was taught by her mum to make it the way it’s done in Uruguay, were it was known as the poor people’s dessert because it was usually made with stale bread. Our mum made it often when we were kids, not that our bread ever made it to stale in a house with six kids. I think it was more that it was an affordable and easy dessert to make. But when done well it’s a great looking and delicious dessert.
The only thing you might need to buy is a fluted mould. We used to use an Aluminium fluted mould but then we found this silicone mould which works just as well. If you can’t find one at a local retailer click on the highlighted fluted mould word to buy it online.
Alfajores are one of South Americas favourite treats and one of our favourite sweets to make. They come in many sizes and flavours although we prefer them with Dulce de Leche(caramel).
Each region of South America has its own version but they are mostly popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil. We like Alfajores best when they are freshly made, so that the crisp cookies contrast the soft filling, but many people prefer to wait a couple of days for the cookies to soften, so that the cookie and the filling have the same texture. Waiting makes them melt in your mouth as you bite into them.
Making Alfajores brings back memories of when we were kids hoping mum would make some for our birthdays or just as a treat. It’s a fairly simple recipe made simpler by the fact you can buy ready to eat Dulce de Leche(caramel) in a can, back when we were young mum had to make it from scratch. If you are really ambitious or just to make the Alfajores extra special make your own Dulce de Leche. The full recipe and instructions are below.