Monday, June 15, 2015

A traditional Argentine Fiesta: Carbonada

Last week, M and I invited her younger brother and his girlfriend over for a traditional Argentine fiesta. 

We made a gaucho stew that hales from the northern regions of Argentina called Carbonada. While it appeares to call for a lot of ingredients, the truth is its more of a kitchen-sink type of dish, so feel free to get creative with this savory and sweet dish.

We served the stew inside a roasted gourd that is very common here in Argentina called, Zapallio Okaido (cabotea). However any large squash would be fine, but I think acorn squash is the closest Northern American counterpart to the Okaido.

The stew is a savory and sweet dish (that is what the apple and apricots are for). Traditionally the stew was thrown together in the morning and cooked while the gauchos worked and then served at midday when the sun forced the gauchos to stop and rest during the hottest part of the day. 

We invited family over and all shared mate while the stew finished cooking. Once the stew was ready we transferred it to a roasted gourd and served it with a large salad. When we served the stew from inside the gourd, we also scrapped away at the gourd to include some of the flesh of the roasted gourd. If you want, you can skip the roasted gourd, however it does make for a beautiful centrepiece.

While the entire stew takes about 30 minutes of prep and about 1 hour of cooking time, it is a quite easy and very hearty. The stew can also be frozen and saved for future meals.

Serves 5-6

3 medium sized white potatoes - cubed
2 medium sized sweet potatoes - cubed
2 cups of squash or pumkin – cubed
1 cup of brown rice
1 large sweet onion - diced
1 medium red pepper – chopped
3-4 stalks of celery – chopped
¾ red apple – finely cubed
½ cup of dried apricots or a can of dried peaches
1 full ear of corn or 1 can of sweet corn
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 cup of white wine
6-7 cups of veggie broth or water

Spices – Start with small amounts and adjust to taste as the stew cooks

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix (marjoram, thyme, parsley and rosemary)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 bayleafs
½ teaspoon of organic brown sugar (optional or maple syrup)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Begin by sautéing the onion, red pepper and garlic with a bayleaf in a large pot.

Once the onion begins to turn transparent, add celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, and all the spices into the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, apples and apricots along with 2-3 cups of broth. Mix everything together and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.

Once the soup comes to a boil, add the cup of rice. If your pot is not large enough, you can cook the rice separately if needed, however if you can, cook the rice with the rest of the dish as the rice will absorb a lot of the flavors.

Once you add the rice, add another 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of sugar (this is optional however the sugar is very minimal and is used to help enhance the other flavors. If you prefer, try using a small amount of maple syrup - unfortunately we don’t have access to maple syrup down here). Turn the heat down so the stew is cooking on a low simmer. As the rice cooks, and the liquid evaporates, continue adding broth or water in small amounts and stir occasional to keep the bottom from burning.

Allow to cook for 30 – 40 minutes.

Preparing the Gourd

If you want to serve this inside of a gourd as we did, start by washing the outside of the gourd, cut the top off and clean out the inside as if you were craving a pumpkin. We put ½ cup of plant-based milk inside the gourd and then roasted it in the oven at 300 until the milk completely evaporated – roughly 20- 30 minutes. Make sure the skin can be easily pierced, and the flesh of the gourd is soft and brightly colored. Let it cool while the stew is finishing and then transfer everything inside. 

This dish would make for a wonder holiday meal, particularly in the fall and winter months as it is quite hardy.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

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