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Colombian "sancocho"
The typical soups of Colombian Christmas have a unique charm. Photo: Pixabay

Get to know some Colombian Christmas delicacies

As December reaches its end, there are several recipes Colombian families look forward to enjoying during special nights and share in the middle of the …

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Colombia is synonymous with diversity, not only in regard to its extraordinary range of climates, landscapes, plant and animal species, but especially thanks to its multicultural spirit that enriches, among many things, family traditions, such as gastronomy.

Hand-in-hand, and alongside Colombian chef Isadora Herrera, here are five recipes that cannot be absent on the tables of the country during the December festivities. Here are the recipes and preparation methods, with secrets included, of these incredible dishes that never get old. It is important to remember that each may present some variations depending on the region of the country where it is prepared.

'Tamales'

Tamales depend on the region, and in this case the instructions followed are from the department of Tolima.

Ingredients: 500 grams of ground white corn or 500 grams of corn flour dough; 250 grams of cooked rice; one chicken cooked and cut into pieces; 500 grams of pork rib; 500 grams of bacon; 250 grams of cooked peas; four boiled eggs; 250 grams of peeled and chopped potato; carrot; salt; cumin; scallion; three garlic; achiote; pepper; water; plantain leaves; a piece of rope to tie.

Preparation

Before cooking the chicken, it should be marinated for at least three hours. Then add cumin, salt and pepper. When the cooking is finished, cut the chicken into medium pieces and preserve it.

Cook the pork rib with the bacon in water, boiling for 20 minutes with a little salt. Keep it along with the broth.

Take advantage of the fat that came out of the bacon to fry the long onion with three minced garlic cloves and the achiote. Then, the corn dough is mixed with the parboiled rice, the peas, garlic, onion, and achiote. Incorporate everything and let it rest for an hour.

On each plantain leaf, serve a bed of dough with pieces of chicken, bacon, pork rib, potato, sliced carrot and a sliced or halved egg, making sure that there are equal portions of each ingredient appear on every leaf. Place another layer of dough to cover.

A package is assembled and tied tight with a rope, verifying there are no open spaces in the sheet.

Finally, put the tamales in a large pot with pork broth and water. They should not be completely covered with the liquid, just enough so the water does not dry out during cooking, which will take approximately two and a half hours. This should be done with the pot covered and over low heat.

Depending on the region of the country, the ingredients vary. For example, the people of Santander use chickpeas, capers and raisins; the vallunos, capers and abundant hogao or giso; the nariñenses carry a mass of white rice with cheese, butter, egg and baking powder and are wrapped in achira leaf; and the bogotano carries sausage and chickpeas.

'Ajiaco'

Ajiaco is a typical soup from the interior of Colombia, more specifically, from the Cundiboyacense region.

Ingredients for six to eight servings: three chicken breasts with skin and bone; four cobs divided into two pieces each; scallion; garlic; a pound of washed creole potato; three peeled pastusas potatoes; three peeled sabaneras potatoes; guasca leaves to taste; salt; pepper; chicken broth in a cube or envelope; water; cilantro; cream and capers to taste.

ajiaco colombiano

Preparation

In a large pot, place three to four liters of water and add the scallion, chicken, garlic and corn cobs. Let them boil over medium heat for approximately 40 minutes.

Preserve the chicken in the same pot, add the pastusas and sabaneras potatoes cut into thick slices and the cob cut into portions. After 20 minutes, add the creole potatoes and the shredded chicken breast in generous portions. Then add cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat until the creole potatoes fall apart and incorporate a generous handful of guascas.

Once it is cooked and the ajiaco thickens, it is served in bowls with some capers and cream. It can also be served with avocado and rice.

In the Boyacá region it is usual to add arracacha.

'Lechona' (typical Tolima preparation)

Ingredients for six servings: two pounds of pork skin; 1/4 cup of lard; four green onions; four garlic cloves, finely chopped; one teaspoon of ground cumin; one teaspoon of saffron seasoning or color; 3/4 cup yellow or green peas; 1 1/4 cups of cooked rice; salt and pepper; two pounds of pork, cut into small pieces.

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees celsius (around 450 degrees fahrenheit). Melt the lard and add the green onions and garlic. Cook for about three minutes. In a large bowl, mix the pork, rice, cumin, seasoning, peas, salt and pepper.

Add the lard and onion mixture to the meat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

To assemble: wash the pork skin in cold water and pat dry. Place the pork skin on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spread the mixture of rice and meat.

Fold the pork skin to cover the mixture completely and close the skin with thread. Bake for about 40 minutes uncovered to allow the skin to brown. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 45 more minutes.

'Sancocho'

Depending on the region of the country, ingredients are added or omitted, but basically it is a slow-cooked soup with meats, plantain, vegetables and tubers.

Ingredients for four servings: four chicken legs; four pieces of beef rib; four pieces of meat or pork rib; four pieces of corn cobs; a green plantain cut by hand into four portions; a fresh yucca cut into four portions; four potatos, peeled and cut in half; scallions; onion; three garlic cloves; cilantro; water; salt; pepper; cumin; tomato (optional to make a stew).

sancocho colombiano

Preparation

Marinate the meats separately with garlic, onion and coriander for three hours. In a pot with enough water and crushed garlic, add the yucca, plantain and corn cob. Add the prime rib and pork until the meat is tender. Add the chicken and potatoes.

Prepare a hogao with the chopped scallions, tomato and coriander (tip: cimarrón coriander leaves). Season with salt, pepper, and cumin before adding to the stew. Thicken and serve.

The sancocho paisa and the santandereano have cabbage leaves, arracacha and ripe plantain. It also has chickpeas, ahuyama, chorizo and rice. It is also traditional, although not as usual, to add chorotas, which consists of a preparation based on corn dough in the form of chorote (vessel), stuffed with meat of minced and stewed pork.

"Natilla"

Ingredients: two liters of milk; two cups cornstarch or cornstarch; half a pound of scraped panela; five cinnamon sticks or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon; one tablespoon butter; raisins (optional).

natilla, postre navideño

Preparation

In a large pot, add a liter and a half of milk with the cinnamon and cook over medium heat.

When the boiling starts, add the panela until dissolved and incorporate the half liter of cold milk. Incorporate the butter. The mixture must be stirred constantly with a wooden spoon for several minutes while it is still boiling and over low heat. Keep stirring until it is thick.

Add the optional ingredients, transfer to a mold and let it cool.

'Buñuelos'

Ingredients: ¾ cups cornstarch; ¼ cup of cassava flour; ½ cup of coastal cheese; one cup of peasant cheese; two eggs; sugar; salt; milk; baking powder; vegetable oil for frying.

buñuelos colombianos

Preparation

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl, mix and knead the cheeses, cassava flour, cornstarch, two eggs, a tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of baking powder, and a tablespoon of milk.

Mix by hand until a uniform dough without lumps forms, then create very round balls of the desired size.

In a deep pot, put enough vegetable oil so that the balls of the mixture can float without sticking to each other. When the oil is very hot, add the balls carefully, one by one and make sure they do not explode or burn.

If necessary, lower the temperature of the oil a if you notice browning is happening very quickly. The fritters should be golden and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

When they turn golden, remove them from the oil and place on absorbent paper.

With that, you have a delicious Colombian Christmas to prepare for all. Now, you can prepare a complete and delicious Christmas or New Year's dinner with one or more of the most exquisite dishes of traditional Colombian cuisine. Get out of the routine and celebrate these special dates with the most incredible variety of flavors and textures that only Colombia can bring to your kitchen.

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