Gloria's Ajiaco

Ajiaco is a Colombian staple. In Columbia they have a much greater array of potatoes with different flavour profiles. The recipe must combine potatoes that dissolve with potatoes that add flavour and colour so they do not disintegrate with the cooking.

In this recipe Gloria uses 4 kinds to mimic the variations found in traditional Ajiaco. Ideally she would add a 5th variety - papa criolla - which have a deep yellow colour (and can be bought frozen in Colombian shops). The same goes for the traditional guascas, which she has managed to locate for us at the Colombian shop in Seven Sisters. She also tricks the eye and palette by adding fresh watercress for the illusion of fresh guascas. It’s all in the aesthetics!

Ajiaco for 5-6 people

Ingredients

1 free range chicken

1 celery stick

4 clove garlic – 2 for the stock, 2 to be fried with the chicken later

1 large carrot

1 red pepper

The green ends from a bunch of spring onions (save the other end for ají)

1 red onion – half to go in the stock, half to be diced and fried with the chicken

1 white onion - half to go in the stock, half to be diced and fried with the chicken

Bunch coriander (washed and chopped)

Half a bag of watercress

4 sweetcorns (1 for the stock, 2 cut in half for each bowl of ajiaco)

300g anya potatoes (skin on)

400g new potatoes (skin on). Charlotte potatoes also work

300g apache potatoes (peeled)

1 baking potato (peeled and thinly sliced so that it dissolves easily)

Bag of dried guascas (optional – for added authenticity)

To garnish:

Sour cream

Capers

Half an avocado per person

Method

  • For the chicken stock (to reduce preparation time you can use pre-prepared chicken stock)

  • Cut the celery, garlic, onions, carrots, peppers and spring onions into big chunks. Add one corn on the cob (for extra corn flavour) and put all in a pressure cooker with the whole chicken and enough water to cover it. Add salt and for more flavour you can chuck in any other rogue vegetables you need to use up.

  • Cut the top leafy part from the coriander bunch and save for the ají. Tie the rest of the bunch with string ready to add to the pan with the broth. While the chicken is cooking you can prepare the ají (see separate ají recipe).

  • After 20 minutes, remove the chicken and, when cool, skin, debone and shred it. Add the bones and coriander bunch to the broth and cook for a further hour.

  • For the shredded chicken

    In oil, fry one red and one white onion, finely chopped, until soft and golden.

  • Put the shredded chicken and the fried onion in a sealable container with enough stock to keep them moist, and put it in the fridge to marinate.

  • While the broth is cooking further, roughly chop all the potatoes into little chunks - about 1cm cubes (leave skin on the anya and new potatoes; if papas criollas are used leave them whole and with their skins)

  • After an hour, remove the chicken bones and vegetables from the broth. Transfer the broth to a big pan, which will now be the main ajiaco pan, add the peeled baking potatoes and cook for about 15 min until the potatoes start to dissolve.

  • Add the rest of the potatoes, half corn cobs and guascas to the big pot and cook for a further 20 minutes.

  • Take the shredded chicken from the fridge, add salt to taste and warm it up.

  • Just before serving, stir in the ripped up watercress.

  • To Serve Put ají (for heat and acid), capers and sour cream on the table to be added according to personal taste. Serve the soup, for each person, with a heap of chicken, half a corn cob and half an avocado.


    To make the ají

Finely chop and combine in a bowl:

15 spring onion ends (about 2 inches)

Liquid – 1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water (about a shot glass worth, or enough for the liquid to just cover the ingredients).

Salt

Juice of half a lime

Bunch chopped coriander leaves

2 red chillies

1 large tomato (skin taken off). Chop and add the tomato JUST before serving