Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cooking Class in Antigua, Guatemala

Well, it's been a long time since a posting - my apologies! But they'll be a lot now. We're back in Guatemala in the old capital of Antigua for 8 days and then on to Lake Atilan. This posting and the next one or two will be on our cooking class, given by the excellent restaurant Pena del Sol in Antigua. Owners Bill and Mary arranged a special class on the Saturday we were in town and it was fantastic.
We arrived at 9am for some great coffee and met the other students, our translator and our chef teachers. Then we were off to the market to buy our ingredients. The menu was Chicken and vegetarian Pepian, Chilis Rellanos and homemade corn tortillas.
Lots more coming including the recipes, but I'm off to dinner! I'm now in Panajachel at Lake Atilan.
The Saturday market in Antigua is huge and busy

Some of the vendor specialize!

Usually the kids are smaller in these carryalls!

 Our cooking class tries some new fruits.

In the kitchen of Pena del Sol ready for action
Next morning, well some bad luck last night. I tripped on the irregular pavement on the street and fell hard on my face. It was quite frightening and I look like Scott beats me regularly, but hopefully nothing will become infected. I don't want to think about what is ground into that street. On the positive side, the dinner was excellent at Guajimbo's Uruguay restaurant. The food isn't Uruguayan but the meat was all tender and in huge portions and they served delicious fresh vegetables and boiled potatoes. That's nice after a diet of fried foods, beans and rice.

So back to Antigua over a week ago and our cooking class. The market is enormous and packed with people, customers and vendors. It is hard just to walk. Our guide and teacher pointed out and named everything in Spanish for us and at times had us taste things. I wish I could have written everything down! We spent about an hour shopping, taking photos and meeting some of the vendors - her regulars. Then we returned to the kitchen and began work. The staff there had already done some of the prep work, but we had lots to do. We were not only cooking for our own lunch but feeding the children of Ninos con Bendicion who were coming to perform local dances for the restaurant at lunchtime (more on them later). 

Our teacher left and waitress friend welcome us
There is a huge variety of vegetables
We started on the Chicken Pepian first. The garlic and cilantro were already roasted. Tomatoes and onions were on the grill roasting. After that was finished we roasted two kinds of dried peppers, one red and one black (see photos) until they shattered not bent. We roasted sesame seeds, 2 inches of cinnamon, 3 cloves in one pan and squash seeds in another pan and added all of these with water, and blended the combination. We also added lightly browned flour to this mixture. We were making both vegetarian and chicken versions so used water instead of broth. We pressed this through a sieve twice. The solids were discarded and the sauce put in a large pan. Chicken had been boiled. We shredded it, although the restaurant usually serves the pieces whole, added the broth to the chicken version. After this had boiled for some time and reduced we added the chicken and vegetable. These were carrots, squash (called Christophenes in the French carribbean), potatoes and onions diced into 1 inch pieces. This all cooks until the veggies are crisp tender. This is incredibly delicious and addictive. I'm going to include an attempt at a recipe but I'll warn you, it's a guess on portions.
Meanwhile I'm off again in the present on a bus down to Guatemala City from Lake Atilan, about 4 hours of twisty twining roads - good luck to my stomach. I'll be back later.
Just a few varieties of beans for sale

Fruitas anyone?

We bought our chileis here, the two in front on the left

Our guide at the market from Pena del Sol lectures on site

The chilis are roasting in front for Chicken Pepian

Garlic and cilentro roasted for the Pepian sauce
Our next project was the chilies rellanos. We put red peppers over an open flame until they were blackened, then put them in a plastic bag for a few minutes to steam. Then we peeled off the black part and put them in water. A little massage and the last of the black came off and they went into a bowl of vinegar. Meanwhile others were finely chopping celery, green beans and carrots. These went into a food processor until finely chopped. This mixture was cooked in a little broth or water until tender and drained. I'm not mentioning it but everything is seasoned with salt and pepper as you cook. We also chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes. First we sauteed the onions, added the garlic for a bit and then the tomatoes. This was cooked until somewhat dry and then the finely chopped veggies added. Our chef added browned flour to this to thicken but fine bread crumbs would work well too. Season to taste. Meanwhile the staff had boiled what looked like pork knuckles. We shredded the meat fine and this went into the food processor and then the stuffing.
Others had spread out the peppers and cut them into about two inch squares or triangles, whatever one can manage. You hold the pepper and pile on lots of stuffing, molding the pepper around the bottom half. You should have a small egg shape. Put on a tray until the coating is done.

My next post will cover the rest of the rellanos, the tortilla making and the children.
Tomatoes and onions on the grill and peppers over the fire

Heather straining sauce from the blender

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