Recipes from Colombia: Avena

I spent five weeks in Colombia this summer. In my memory it was, and forever will be, a country of dynamic beauty. On one particularly long and arduous journey from Salento to Bogotá, my friends and I were astounded by what we saw outside the grimy windows of the collectivo bus that left a thick trail of black smoke in its wake. Mountains like ragged gods with roads gouged precipitously from their sides, so swerving that I lost count of how many roadside shrines we passed with headlights from previous accidents watched over by the Virgin Mary.

Image 10-7-14 at 12.28 PM

Our experiences of Colombian food were as inconsistent as its mountainous terrain. Not long before that bus journey we had decided to go walking in a valley. Naïve and unaccustomed to physical activity, we took no snacks: two hours of hiking through thickly covered jungle and scrambling over rocks left us hungry and tired.



Finally we reached a large hut built into the side of the valley, where the only thing on the menu was a choice of two beverages: Aguapanela (sugar cane juice), or Chocolate con Queso. Craving sustenance, I chose the latter. I was brought a watery, tepid bowl of thin brown liquid through which I could see a white block of cheese lurking like a pale and unwelcome creature at the bottom of a pond. Unwilling to melt and with little distinguishable flavour, this was the sort of cheese that would outlast all forms of life in a nuclear disaster. Chocolate con queso aside, there were definite culinary high points.



This week I will share with you the recipe for Avena – an oatmeal based drink that you can buy on the street in Colombia. I regretfully only discovered it late on in my trip: it’s sweet, but not too sweet, with a cinnamon edge.



  • 45g rolled oats (or any form of oatmeal, the finer the better)
  • 1 litre milk
  • 250ml water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar (or honey)


1 Put the oats into a large pan along with the milk and water. Bring to a simmer and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 Add the spices and sugar. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

3 Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to the fridge and leave for at least 2 hours.

4 Blend until you have a smooth consistency, adding water if required.


Next week we’ll discover another great Colombian recipe: Torta Negra. Stay tuned!

Recipes by Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby (co-founder of healthy fast food restaurant chain Leon)

Title photo original via flickr-user Liliana Fuchs, edit courtesy of Isabella Hoskins