Cookbook Extract: The Food of Argentina, by Ross Dobson & Rachel Tolosa Paz

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Take a gastronomic journey into a little-known cuisine that is tipped to become the next global food trend for food lovers everywhere. The Food of Argentina celebrates the very best recipes from a passionate foodie nation which, until now, have been kept under relative lock and key.

Filled with beautiful location and food photography, The Food of Argentina cookbook takes you from a carnivore’s dream to herbal teas. Learn how to make pastas and gnocchi, potato tortillas, stews and casseroles as well as sweet offerings including dulce de leche, strudels and caramel flans. If you prefer the tastes of tiny bars and eateries, there’s chorizo rolls with salsa criolla, traditional empanadas, veal croquettes and fruit-filled pastries.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia, we’ve got three recipes for you to sample but don’t stop there. The book is out now and our review will be coming soon. Until then, get your own taste of Argentina with Gramajo’s Scramble, Veal Croquettes and a wonderful Quince Tart.

REVUELTO GRAMAJO (GRAMAJO’S SCRAMBLE)

SERVES 4

  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) waxy potatoes, cut into 5 mm (¼ in) thick chips (fries)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 200 g (7 oz) smoked ham, sliced
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • large handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ‘pan de campo’ (rustic bread), to serve

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the chips and sauté, turning frequently, for 20 minutes, until golden. Using a metal slotted spoon, remove the chips from the oil and set aside to drain on paper towel. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil in the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and sauté for 2–3 minutes, until softened. Add the ham and cook for 2–3 minutes, then return the chips to the pan. Cook for a further 2–3 minutes, then pour in the beaten egg and cook for about 2 minutes, until the egg is just cooked but not dry. Remove the pan from the heat, stir through the parsley and season well with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with the bread on the side.

Authors note:
Revuelto gramajo is a typical dish found in traditional ‘bodegones’ (neighbourhood restaurants) on both sides of the Río de la Plata. There are a number of stories surrounding the creation and naming of this dish, but historically it started to gain popularity in the 1880s, and it is most probably a reference to Argentina’s famous Colonel Artemio Gramajo who served with General Julio Argentino Roca (although there are other tales).

This dish is typically served at lunch in restaurants and private clubs, and could well be compared to the English ‘fry-up’. As with its English counterpart, it is considered a pretty good hangover cure.

 CROQUETAS DE TERNERA (VEAL CROQUETTES)

MAKES 12

  • 300 g (10½ oz) boneless veal leg, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 200 g (7 oz/2 cups) dried breadcrumbs
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Place the veal and onion in a saucepan and cover with 2 litres (68 fl oz/8 cups) cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover and cook for 2 hours until the veal is completely tender. Transfer the veal to a bowl and reserve 85 ml (2¾ fl oz) of the cooking water in a separate bowl. Discard the onion. Allow the veal to cool, then use two forks or your fingers to finely shred the meat. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, stir through the flour to make a thick paste. Stir through the reserved stock and cook, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and stir through the veal, oregano, parsley, lemon juice, half the parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper, then refrigerate until completely cold.

Using wet hands, form the mixture into 12 equal-sized meatballs. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and set aside in the fridge to firm up. Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and the remaining breadcrumbs in another bowl. Dip the meatballs in the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs until completely coated. Place back on the baking tray and return to the fridge until ready to cook. (The croquettes can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

Heat 5 cm (2 in) of vegetable oil and the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and is sizzling in the oil, add half the croquettes and cook, turning frequently, for 4–5 minutes, until golden brown all over. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the croquettes to paper towel to drain and repeat with the remaining croquettes. To serve, scatter the remaining parmesan over the hot croquettes and serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.

Authors note:
When you arrive for dinner or an asado at someone’s house in Argentina there will often be a ‘picada’ waiting in the wings.

A ‘picada’ is a platter, generally served on a large wooden board, filled with ‘fiambres’ (cold meats, such as salami, ham, prosciutto and mortadella), cheeses, olives, peanuts, bread and other small treats. ‘Croquetas’ (croquettes) also make the perfect addition to any ‘picada’, although they take a little time to prepare. Beef can be substituted in this recipe, but there is something about the gentle flavour of veal that makes these croquettes especially delicious.

PASTAFROLA DE DULCE DE MEMBRILLO (QUNICE TART)

SERVES 8

  • 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) good-quality quince paste

Pastry:

  • 175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter
  • 145 g (5 oz/²∕³ cup) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 egg, beaten

To make the pastry, place the butter, sugar and egg yolk in a bowl. Beat with electric beaters to make a smooth mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir through the flour until you have a rough dough. Tip onto a well-floured work surface and form into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30–60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 20 cm (8 in) flan (tart) tin.

Cut the dough into quarters, re-wrap one-quarter in plastic wrap and return to the fridge. Gently press the remaining three-quarters of dough back together and roll out on a sheet of lightly floured baking paper to a 25 cm (10 in) circle (this is a buttery, damp dough so it will be fragile to work with). Transfer the dough to the prepared tin, pressing into the base and side. Trim the dough and use the trimmings to cover up any pastry cracks, if necessary.

Lay some baking paper or foil over the pastry and fill with baking weights, uncooked rice or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes, until the pastry is pale golden and dry to the touch. Set aside.

Combine the quince paste and 1 tablespoon water in a saucepan. Stir over low heat for 4–5 minutes, until the paste is soft enough to pour into the tart shell. Pour the paste into the shell and evenly spread using the back of a spoon or a palette knife.

Roll the remaining dough on lightly floured baking paper into a large rectangle about 30 cm (12 in) wide. Cut out ten 2 cm (¾ in) wide strips of dough. Lay one strip across the centre of the tart, trim off any excess dough and press it into the edge of the tart. Lay two strips of dough either side of the centre strip, trimming and pressing the strips into the edges as necessary. Repeat with the remaining dough strips in the opposite direction.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra sugar. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Authors Note:
‘Pastafrola’ takes its name from the Italian term ‘pasta frolla’, which describes the particular kind of pastry used. In Argentina, ‘pastafrola’ is signified by a lattice crust and the filling can include ‘dulce de membrillo’ (quince paste), ‘dulce de batata’ (sweet potato paste) or dulce de leche. It is considered a classic tart in Argentina and is often served with ‘mate’.

From The Food of Argentina: Asado, empanadas, dulce de leche and more, by Ross Dobson and Rachel Tolosa Paz. Photography © Rachel Tolosa Paz | Food styling © Vanessa Austin (Smith Street Books, November 2018 – AU$ 49.99, NZ$ 59.99)

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