Tag Archives: spices


I recently heard about this dish from one of my Chilean students and I immediately knew I had to try it. Corn? Basil? Pumpkin? Count me in.

Charquicán is a word that derives from the Quechua and Mapuche word, charqui, which means jerky. During Andean times, meat and fish would frequently spoil, so they would dry their meat in order to preserve it. The charquicán stew is traditionally made with dried meat and an array of South American vegetables (squash, potatoes, corn) and topped with a fried egg.

Over time, people began to substitute fresh beef (ground or shredded) for the jerky because of the jerky’s strong, sometimes abrasive taste. Which is exactly what I did.



1 white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 lbs of lean beef (You can either use ground beef or thin filets)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large chunk of pumpkin (called zapallo in Chile, but you can use squash if you like), cubed

2 cups of beef stock

1 hand full of fresh basil, roughly chopped

3 cups of fresh or frozen large kernel corn

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 tablespoon rosemary

3 tablespoon of cumin

3 tablespoons sea salt

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon of oregano

2 tablespoons of olive oil


Cut the beef into strips and simmer in 1/3 c caldo for 1 hour. Shred the beef and save the juices. (If you are using ground beef, skip this step)

Sauté the shredded beef (or ground beef) with the  onion, garlic, pumpkin, potatoes, spices, and salt and pepper in the olive oil in a large, deep pan. Once the beef is cooked and the vegetables nice and fragrant, add the beef stock and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are soft (about 20 or 30 minutes). One the potatoes are softening up, mash them up a little to give the stew some thickness, then add the corn and basil and stir. Let the stew simmer for about 10 more minutes until it is nice and thick. Taste for salt or  more spice.

Serve hot in a bowl with a fried egg on top.

Note: Feel free to add more, different vegetables (tomatoes, peas, green beans) and whatever spices feel right. You can’t go wrong with this homey, comforting dish.

This stew is lovely with a free green salad or ensalada chilena and a big glass of Chilean wine.

Another great idea would be to make this a vegetarian stew (use vegetable  or chicken stock and no meat) and serve with a nice juicy steak.



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Mote con Huesillos y La Vega

Happy Saturday!

It’s yet another, beautiful sunny day here in Santiago. I’d feel bad saying that, but I don’t. Because it was expensive to get down here, so this is my reward.

Yesterday was fun. I got up and went to La Vega with Titus and Katie C (there are now like a thousand Katies in my life). It was awesome. I was a total nerd and kept taking pictures of tomatoes and vegetables like the dorky food blogger I am. I was all, “take a picture with me in front of this fruit!”

Titus was a good sport and helped me out.

La Vega is pretty spectacular. Granted, it is not quite as elegant or as organized as the Market in Barcelona. That market is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been and the displays are pure art. La Vega is less of a tourist attraction. It is more functional, a place where regular people go to pick up food rather than a big display for foreigners. It is a great place to take your extra pesos at the end of the week and stock up of some fantastic produce. Some of which you can’t find in many places around the city (Black corn, ginger, spices, chilean eggplants, etc).

The market is pretty lively on a Friday morning.

Beautiful colors. Love all the peppers!

Spices, grains, beans..

Across the street a little ways is the fish market. The fish market is incredible, but also incredibly stinky. Unfortunately, I feel a little out of my element here because I really don’t know much about buying fresh seafood (to my dismay), especially not in Spanish, but I’m determined to cook up some mussels or clams at the least. There are a handful of seafood restaurant right inside the market, ranging from very expensive to only sort of expensive. I checked out a menu and it looked phenomenal. Fresh crudo, scallops, mussels, whatever you want. See the octopus in the picture? I won’t be cooking that.

I think I’m not alone is saying that markets like these allow us to transport through time to an idyllic setting before the food industry was destroyed by corporations (rah rah take down The Man!), at least in the United States. Buying tomatoes from your “tomato guy” at the market feels real, tangible, and the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe it’s a fantasy image that we’ve developed from watching too many movies set in Italy, but I think many American’s can agree that we’ve lost this direct interaction and are now fighting to get it back through developing local farmer’s markets and other farm-to-table programs. But, even if we were able to recreate this old world setting, where people walk on cobbled streets, hang dry their clothes, and buy fresh fish at the market everyday, the central and most crucial problem lies in the  physical structure of the States. Everything is too spread out! We can’t suddenly  start having people walk from Bremerton (where they can afford to live) to Pike Place market to get their food everyday. Because this separation between food and people is a tough one to crack, I savor the time I have here in Chile where I can wallow in my market place fantasies and pretend I’m the first gringa to have felt this way.

After strolling around the market, I bought my first mote con huesillos. Huesillos are dried peaches and mote is cooked, husked wheat. Wikipedia takes it from here…

“The huesillos, or dried peaches, are washed and soaked the night prior to preparation in order to rehydrate them. Once hydrated, they are cooked for thirty minutes or more in a sugar and water mixture, optionally with some natural cinnamonsticks. To give the drink its honey hue, sugar is heated in a sauce pan in order to caramelize it and bring it to a rich orange ruby color, which is added to the syrup mixture although this method is not always used. While the huesillos are cooking, the mote, or husked wheat, is cooked in water until tender. Once the mote are cooked, they are drained and added to the sweet huesillos drink, and left to cool. This combination is served chilled, in a tall glass with a tall desert spoon for easy serving.”

There you go. It was yummy and the wheat did make it more filling and sastisfying.

I didn’t buy much this go around, except for some cilantro and a peach, but I will definitely go soon and stock up (once they fix my freaking oven!!…Chileans. Seriously. Now would be great).


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