Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cooking Class in Antigua, Guatemala with Ninos Con Benedicion

Cleaning the black off the peppers is delicate work

Alan's sauteing the vegetables
We're now returning to the chilis rellanos recipe started in the last blog post. Now we separated 11 eggs and beat the whites until very stiff. We folded in the yolks until combined and then added some flour. Our chef put a small amount in a bowl and dipped in 3 or 4 peppers, putting them directly in hot oil after dipping. Once the egg mixture gets watery, discard and use some fresh mixture. Cook until browned on all sides and drain. Yum!!!
Our host Mary explains the egg coating for the rellanos

A look at the vegetable version of the stuffing
Our last project was the handmade tortillas. These are pretty much never machine made in Guatemala. There is a sign advertising tortillas everywhere and you can get them right off the grill and hot. First you take masa flour and combine it with water until it doesn't stick to your fingers. Sticky - add more flour; dry - add more water. Knead until smooth and not sticky. Put plastic wrap over and let sit at least one half hour. Then pinch off dough to form a golf ball sized nugget.
 NOW, our teacher showed us how to make these in your hands, but we'll all admit ours didn't come out very well. Then she showed us the short cut. The correct technique is to press the ball outward and flatten while moving it from hand to hand, rounding it off as necessary with your finger tips. Our teacher was terrific and probably every Guatemalan woman, but this takes practice. She had us press or roll the ball out between plastic wrap, but on line I saw a great suggestion to use a gallon zip lock bag with the sides cut up. It's stronger and doesn't wrinkle.
Cook this on the griddle or grill about 30 seconds or so and flip. If light brown spots are flecked over the surface then it's done, otherwise turn it back over after completing this side to finish. After 30 seconds or so on the second side. Press down lightly with your fingers. If it puffs slightly, that's good (but sometimes it doesn't even when done). Basically brown spots spread out over the surface means it's done. Keep warm under a towel until ready to eat.
When the class was finished we adjourned to the restaurant where our table was set up next to the dance floor. The children had been playing music for the rest of the patrons and once we came in they started the folk dances. These were from various parts of the country as were their costumes. Many mimicked the planting and harvesting process, others courting rituals.
Our completed Chilis Rellanos, not consistently sized
We are after all amateurs!
They were terrific and clearly having a good time. After the show they enjoyed our food for lunch as did we.
Niños con Bendición was created in 2006 by Lesbi Chavez and her husband Juventino Guaran so children from economically impoverished families in San Antonio Aguas Calientes could receive a quality education and strengthen their cultural and family ties. 

Children in the program attend school, study together, learn Mayan and Guatemalan folk dance, take music lessons, and share meals. 

Support for the group comes from yearly school sponsorships, calendar sales, entrance fees from dance performances, and other fund raising endeavors. 100% of all donations and profits from the sale of goods goes directly into the children's general fund. 
The children in the band warm up the crowd
These kids were pretty good too
The window made a fun spot to watch the crowds outside
One part of the restaurant turned into the "Green Room"
Everyone wore versions of the dress
favored in various regions of the country
Our Maestra demonstrates how to mix the masa and water
together for the tortillas.
The children performed a number of typical dances from
various regions around the country. This was a harvest dance
They mimic the process of growing corn and harvesting it
Here's our class in total ready to eat what we prepared and
watch the show.
The kids had great fun performing but they were very
serious too about doing a great job (and they did!)
The kids varied in age from 5 to 15. The elaborate hairstyles
with ribbons and cords are seem all over the country and
you'll see later that Heather had an easy one done for her later.
The costumes were exquisite and each one
very different
All the textiles and embroidery is done by hand here in

Check out their website at to find out how you can help.
We loved this event so much we hope to do it again when we get back to Antigua in May. Meanwhile, we're now back in the Rio Dulce working on the boat. It's on the hard at Ram Boatyard and hopefully will go in the water in a few days. We're having some fiberglass work done reinforcing the bow thruster. Meanwhile I'll go back and tell you more about our visit to Antigua and Lake Atilan.

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