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.
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