Learning how to make ceviche, empanadas and peras al vino tinto with Uncorked Cooking
As I poured out my pisco sour, it distinctly lacked the frothy foamy head that this drink is famous for. In fact, looking at it again, it didn’t really resemble anything like Matias’s cocktail, the chef who taught me how to make it. Anyway, looks aren’t everything; it tasted delicious.
With a pisco sour in one hand and sopaipillas (deep-fried pumpkin fritters) with a spicy pebre sauce in front of me, it was a very good start of great things to come.
That morning saw me standing outside the Mercado Central, the hustling and bustling outdoor food market in Santiago, hearing all about what we had planned that day from Matias, the chef at Uncorked Cooking, a food tour and cooking class in the city.
Matias always likes to start his food tours at the Mercado Central to show everyone where the food he buys and cooks with comes from. When you’re cooking something like ceviche (a raw fish dish), it’s always nice to see the fish you’re cooking with actually being passed over the counter.
Walking around the market, seeing all the sellers shout out what’s on offer, seeing the customers shout something back, you quickly sense that this place has its own voice, its own language.
Matias was saying that haggling isn’t really done at the market, though if you keep on coming back, if you build up a relationship with the sellers, then they’ll give you a discount.
Anyway, while at the market we all picked up some fish (corvina, a white fish) for the ceviche, some meat for the empanadas, and lots of vegetables too.
From the Mercado Central we caught taxis (included in the price of the Uncorked Cooking Workshop tour) back to Bellavista where Matias has his working kitchen. There he gave each of us an apron and a little recipe book of his own recipes before going through how we were going to make each one.
However, before we got cooking, we need to wet our palette first, and for that we needed a pisco sour.
For those of you who don’t know, pisco is a grape brandy that’s distilled in South America and it’s rather punchy. It’s one of those spirits that no matter what you mix with it it still tastes extremely potent, but I have to admit a pisco sour is extremely tasty (even if I struggled to make one!)
With drink in hand, we went on to make empanadas. These are the traditional street food snack found throughout the continent, and each country does them ever so slightly differently.
Essentially, they are stuffed pasties, and you can put whatever you want in them, though we made the traditional Chilean pino empanadas with mincemeat, olive and egg.
To make empanadas is simple, which is one of the reasons why they’re so popular as street food. All you need to do is make a pastry (however you want, though we did it simply with equal parts flour and water), and then add whatever you want to stuff in it.
For our filling, we sweated off some onions in lard, added the mincemeat, and cooked until brown. Once cooled down, we packed our pastries with the meat, then added a little bit of boiled egg (chopped up) and an olive (sometimes they don’t pit the olives so watch out when you’re munching these on the street!)
These were shoved in the oven (200°C) for 20 minutes and when they were good to go (though obviously piping hot!) It really is a simple as that!
After the empanadas we made another South American classic – ceviche.
Now I really do love ceviche; I love how sharp the lime is, how you get the heat of the chilli afterwards, and of course at how refreshing it is.
To make our ceviche, Matias said the most important thing was to keep it cold, otherwise bacteria can get into the fish causing it to go off.
So, the first thing we needed was a big bowl of ice. As soon as the fish was chopped up small (whatever size you want), it went straight into the bowl and it was constantly mixed to keep it cold.
Into the same bowl went the chilli, ginger, shallots (all finely chopped), and the juice from a lime. Again, it was all mixed together. Now, that’s essentially how you make a ceviche, and anything else you want to add on top of that is personal choice. In ours, we added avocado (which obviously makes everything better) and cress to give it a little crunch.
I’m not going to lie, I always thought ceviche was this complicated dish with loads of ingredients, but I was so surprised at how easy it was to make, and at how delicious it tasted too.
No meal with be complete without dessert, and Matias showed us one of his favourites – peras al vino tinto, poached pears in a crème anglaise.
Now I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of desserts, but this one was pretty damn good and it was nice to learn some classic flavour combinations.
For this one, we poached the pears first in red wine and spices (cinnamon, cloves and star anise) for 30 minutes and left to cool by the window.
For the crème anglaise, we simmered cream and again a mixture of spices. With this dish, everything was in the prep work. Once it came to plating up we just had to make it look nice, and even I just about managed to pull that one off!
With every dish Matias had paired a wine to it, white with the ceviche, and red with the empanadas and dessert. Obviously Chile is a massive producer of wine, and Matias had chosen a couple of lovely bottles from vineyards around Santiago.
I thought it was a nice touch that you could help yourself to wine or ask for more, so the heavy gluggers amongst you shouldn’t worry about holding back here, though with so much food it’s hard to find the room!
When travelling, I love learning all about the national cuisine, and in Matias I had a someone who could answer all my questions, and it really gave me an insight into all the food in Chile while learning some new recipes too. Perfect, right?
The Uncorked Cooking Workshop costs £72 ($95) per person and runs from 10am until approximately 3pm. The cooking class includes all food and wine for the day and you even get to keep the apron and recipe book.