Empanadas are the typical Argentine starter – like cornish pasties filled with mince. My friend Aileen cooked them for us in Mendoza but for my Brixton version I used this recipe which was delicious – especially with the pimento olives and raisins. I managed to bring back some empanada wraps from Argentina which saved me from making them myself. Turns out you cannot find them in Brixton Tesco, who knew?! She recommends squeezing limes onto them before eating and having them with a shot of tequila. This was recreated in Brixton on Saturday night leading to a number of tequila casualties by the end. Fun though, hic, and I think my neighbours were especially pleased.
I also tried a pianida at the Hyatt in Mendoza – similar pastry style and yummy too.
You gotta have steak. I was lucky enough to go to three amazing steak places in Argentina – La Cabrera in Buenos Aires, Francis Mallman’s 1884 in Mendoza (where you can buy a signed copy of his book “Grilling the Argentine Way”) and El Boliche De Alberto in Bariloche (who is grinning from ear to ear while holding two giant lumps of beef in his publicity photo in the resto, love it). I’ve assembled some awesome piccies below for you to drool over – these steaks are “Bife de Chorizo” or sirloin and were amaaazing.
I was also lucky enough to go to a proper Argentine asado – a barbecue where the meat is cooked over the glowing embers from a wood fire, and the beef is typically cooked “agridulce” (sweet and sour) so there are often oranges and lemons cooked alongside the beef and you can squeeze it over the meat if you like.
And we managed to have a sort-of Argentine asado in my garden in Brixton using my rarely-used BBQ. Apart from being muy frio and using charcoal instead of wood, we managed pretty well – see piccies below. We cooked the ribeye steaks with marinated aubergines and red peppers, and served it with a salad of advocado and grapefruit. No need for potatoes or chips – with steaks this huge you don’t need to take away from the meat.
I loved Quilmes and Andes beer. And especially the lovely ritual of having a cup of coffee (I liked cafe costado with leche) and medialunas (small sweet croissants) or alfajores in the afternoon – everyone seems to be doing the same and watching the world go by. Buenos Aires has some really famous grand old coffee houses like the Richmond and the London City. Of course, you have to drink a lot of Malbec and Syrah which comes from the bodegas in Mendoza – I loved the bodegas of Carmelo Patti, La Guarde, Tempus Alto and Alto Vista. Argentines don’t eat until 11pm ish so nights go on veeery late. If you’re looking for typical spirits – 80s favourite Campari & orange was popular as is Fernet & coke (a herby spirit, a bit like Czech Becherovka, strangely addictive). On Saturday night I made margaritas, yum. Oh and everyone drinks maté – a herby tea – all day long, carrying flasks of hot water on buses and day trips to make it. I saw quite a lot of beret-wearing Gauchos sipping on their maté pipes in Bariloche, very cute.
Cafe cortado with a dulce de leche alfajores – deeeelicious
Maté – an acquired taste
4. Sweets – dulche de leche
Dulche de leche is delicious runny caramel and I’m very pleased I came home with a jar of it. You can either serve it in a lump with vanilla ice cream or with flan (creme caramel). You eat it with toast for breakfast and with your coffee after lunch too.
At the front is dulche de leche with flan – amazingly yum
PS. Special mention also has to go to the Pancho Villa hot dog below, found in any Argentine city, and to The Chef for helping me with the asado…
PPS. Here’s Urbanspoon’s list of steakhouses in London if you’re tempted. Santa Maria Del Sur on Queenstown Road is reeeeally good, has live music and came first in Gordon Ramsay’s F Word search for the best Latin American resto in the UK, and I’ve heard good things about Constancia.