I realized this week that I haven’t written much about Valparaiso, the colorful and gritty port city in Chile that I fell head over heels for. How could I not? The brilliantly hued houses, murals and mosaic street art, historic trolley-buses and especially the funiculars–more than 20 of these vertical rail lines climb the hills all over the city!
But even with all of this beautiful urbanity, my favorite memories of Valparaiso involve food.
By the time we arrived, I was desperate for a nutritious meal. I’d spent the previous 2 weeks of our travels through Easter Island and Torres del Paine eating endless cheese empanadas and white bread sandwiches filled with hearts of palm. If you aren’t careful, Chile can be a tough place to be a vegetarian!
I had told Oliver and Pilar, the owners of our comfortable B+B Casa Kultour, about my struggles and they said they could arrange a traditional Chilean cooking class for us in their home and adapt it to make the main dish vegetarian. I was ecstatic!
At Casa Kultour’s chilean cooking class, Valpariaso, we got top-notch instruction from Pilar, her mother, Nina, and even her grandmother, Maria! The kitchen we used was in the multigenerational home they all share. With Kevin and I, that made five of us, which made for one crowded kitchen!
The ladies taught us to prepare three typical Chilean dishes:
- Pastel de choclo: Corn and beef casserole (we made it as is and also adapted their recipe to make a vegetarian version using a soy-based beef substitute)
- Ensalada chilena: Tomato and onion salad
- Turrón de vino: A dessert mousse made with sweetened red wine!
All of this was served alongside a peach sangria, using a crisp white wine from Chile’s Central Valley (Emiliana Organic Vineyards).
Everything was very tasty and easy, though properly shearing the corn off the cob for the pastel de choclo was time-consuming. It is good to work as a team on things like that.
We had a great time learning the ropes from the family in their own lovely kitchen and definitely recommend looking them up if you go to Valparaiso. Casa Kultour is the perfect place to stay, and their family’s cooking class was a very special opportunity to experience life in Valparaiso the way the locals do.
Try it yourself! Here are our recipes:
Recipe #1. Pastel de Choclo
Ingredients for the pino (meat filling *)
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- 1 large onion peeled and chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ cup of raisins
- ½ cup of pitted olives
- 2 boiled eggs (sliced)
- 4 pieces of cooked chicken
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt and pepper
* To make a vegetarian version, substitute 1 cup soy meat for the beef, and leave out the chicken.
Ingredients for the choclo (sweet corn)
- 8 cup sweet corn (scraped from the cob)
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 10 tablespoons butter
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- In a frying pan heat the oil and add the onion and the garlic. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the ground beef (or meat substitute) and cook for 10 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Season with a bit of salt and pepper
- Puree the corn and the milk together in the blender for 15 seconds or so until it is the consistency of a smooth paste.
- In a pan heat the butter and add the corn puree. Cook for 8 minutes.
- Add a layer of the corn puree to a baking pan, then add the chicken, olives, raisins. Add another layer of the corn to cover.
- Add a layer of the pino mixture. Then add a final layer of the corn puree to cover it.
- Sprinkle the sugar over top of the corn topping, and put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes (until bubbling and golden brown on top).
Recipe #2. Ensalada Chilena
- 2 onions
- 6 big tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- Cut the onions in thin slices. Rinse the onion in a colander under running cold water then put in a dish. Add a bit of sugar and squeeze the onions thoroughly with your hands. This helps to moderate the strong flavor of the onions.
- Peel the tomatoes. Cut in thin slices, similar to the onion strips.
- Mix the onions with tomatoes and add salt and pepper and oil
Recipe #3. Turrón de Vino
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup red wine
- 3 egg whites
- Combine the sugar and the red wine in a saucepan over moderate heat and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and make a syrup. Simmer uncovered until reduced in volume by about half.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff form. Add the wine mixture into the bowl slowly as you beat them.
- Optional: Served with walnuts
Please try the recipes and let us know what you think in the comments!
Have you ever taken a cooking class when you travel?