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Aymara, Spain and a Free Bolivia…..

Bolivia is a land-locked country situated in the center of South America. Known officially as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, it is home to one of the worlds most ancient advanced civilizations, The Aymara. The Aymara arrived in the area over 2,000 years ago. Now all that is left of the ancient civilization is the ruins of the city of Tiwanaku. This city is famous in conspiracy and alien theorist circles (along with Puma Punku) for its mysterious origins. The Aymara ruled over this land, absorbing cultures and other peoples along the way, until about 950 AD. During this time, a drought caused much of the ruling elite’s power to crumble, and eventually the city was abandoned around 1000 AD.

Around 1438, the Inca Empire gained control of much of western Bolivia, however this would only last a short while, because around 1524, the Spanish conquest of the Inca began.The Spanish empire ruled over present day Bolivia until the early 1800’s, when calls for independence began to ring more clearly. The next 40 years would see many failed attempts at securing independence, until 1825, when the Republic was established, and named Bolivia after Simon Bolivar, a key political and military leader in the Hispanic struggle for independence.

The next 150 years is a story of turmoil, war and fighting for freedom from dictatorship. In 1953, many of the industries that had been privatized and sold off to foreign interests were nationalized. Also, suffrage was granted to all people, including the indigenous people, who make up more than 60 percent of the Bolivian population. But this would be followed by high inflation and economic hardship, causing the country to borrow money from the USA and allow foreign interests to control its resources and industry.

Even today, Bolivia is torn between nationalization and privatization pressures from economic superpowers such as the US. Bolivia is a country rich in resources, but far to often exploited by other countries without substantial benefits for the Bolivian people, much of whom live in poverty.

 

In recent years, a proxy war on drugs by the US has seen many of the local coca farmers organize in protest. The documentary above tells that story.

But Bolivia is also a country of magnificent culture, art, music and more importantly to us…..food!

So let’s get cooking!

The Recipe: Makes 32 Salteñas

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Today we are going to be making Bolivian Salteñas. Much like Empanadas, these savory pastry snacks are a staple of Bolivian cuisine. The process is a bit more difficult than many of the recipes we have done so far, but if your up for an adventure, it is worth the effort! Saltenas are made in various ways, but the main ingredients are beef, potatoes and most importantly….the Aji chili. We decided to make these because we were going to attend a Bolivian themed lunch for Australia Day in the Blue Mountains (outside Sydney). This was to be our contribution to the menu!

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 600g Beef Mince (1 1/2 lbs)
  • 3 Potatoes (peeled)
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1 or 2 Spring Onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Teaspoons sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons aji chili powder (or substitute for cayenne pepper/hot paprika)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 7g Unflavored Gellatin (.25 oz/1 package)

Toppings:

  • 1 Jar/can sliced black olives
  • 4 eggs (hard-boiled)
  • 1 cup raisins

Dough:

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (cubed)
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon aji chili powder (or cayenne pepper/hot paprika)

Method: Takes 2 Days For Completion ( About 1 1/2 hours Time)

The very first thing to do is to prepare the potatoes. Peel them and then boil them in water for about 10 minutes. You want them to be firm but cooked.

While they are boiling, chop the onion, spring onions, and parsley and mix the spices together in a dry bowl.

When the potatoes are done, remove them from the water and allow them to cool for 2-3 minutes.

Next…ready the gelatin and water mixture. Measure out 3/4 cup of water in a bowl and then pour the gelatin into the water and stir through. Leave this to sit for about 10-12 minutes

Shred the potatoes in a cheese shredder or grater and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and then fry the onion and spring onion until they are clear which will take about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef (mince) and cook until it is brown. Now add in the potatoes, the parsley and the dry spice mix and cook for about 2 minutes or until heated through.

Saltenas Filling Cooking

Finally, stir in the water and gelatin mixture and stir through the mix and then remove from heat. Put it in a container and refrigerate overnight. This will allow the gelatin to work its magic. Without this step, filling the pastries would be very difficult.

The Next Day…

Now it is time to prepare the dough and do the actual cooking.

First thing to do is to hard boil the 4 eggs. This will take a few minutes to do. All you do is to put your eggs in a small to medium pot and fill with cold water. Now bring the water to a boil and let boil for about 4 minutes. Once this is done, remove from heat and let the water sit and cool while you are finishing the dough.

Hard Boiling Eggs

To make the dough, Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. I went ahead and sifted them together. Next cube the butter and then cut it into the flour using a knife. Once the pieces of butter are too small to cut through, use your hands to rub the butter into the flour mixture. It will resemble coarse crumbs with a buttery yellow tint once everything is mixed through.

Butter and Flour Mixture

Slowly add the hot water and knead with your hands until it is mixed through enough to lay out on a table. Then proceed to kneed for 1-2 minutes until everything is nice and combined into a dough ball.

Mixing Saltenas DoughKeading Dough IMG_1851

Cut this dough in half, then those two pieces in half, and repeat until you have 32 balls (for larger Salteñas, you can make 16 balls instead).

Before you fill the pastries, go ahead and preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 Fahrenheit)

Go ahead and grab the meat mixture from the refrigerator and set it out. Get your black olives and raisins ready, and peel the hard-boiled eggs and chop them up to prepare to fill the pastries.

Grab one ball and roll it in your hands and then press it down on the table. Roll that out into a flat disc shape about 1/4 inch (2-3 cm) thick. Once this is done, place the flat dough in your hand. Fill that with one tablespoon of meat mixture, about 3-4 olives, 3-4 raisins and one teaspoon of eggs.

Rolling out Saltenas Dough IMG_1854

Now it is time for the tricky part….

You are going to fold the dough over the filling and press the sides together with your hands to seal it in. It will resemble a half moon shape with a bulge in the middle where the filling is located.

The last step is to Fold the dough over the filling. Seal and scallop the edges of the dough together. To scallop, start at one edge of the half circle: fold a small piece of dough (the size of your fingernail) over the seam and press gently. Fold another small piece of dough over the seam so that it overlaps the first piece; repeat until you have sealed the half circle. (You may also seal them by pressing a fork around edges.) This came from the original recipe on allrecipes.com. I thought the instructions were perfect so I copied and pasted them.

You can view a video of someone using this technique by clicking here.

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Once you have finished this, place them on a greased cooking tray/sheet.

After you have done this with all 32 of them (we did a mixture of large ones and small ones so our number was 16 small and 8 larger). The last step is to baste them. Whisk two eggs and the aji chili powder together in a bowl and then, using a brush, baste the outside of the Salteñas with the mixture and slide into the oven.

Each batch will need to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the outside is golden brown throughout.

Take them out of the oven and serve them hot with hot sauces, salsas or just eat them plain!

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EVEN MORE INFO ABOUT BOLIVIA!!!

The Rights of Mother Earth…

The Law of the Rights of Mother Earth is a unique document. It states, in no uncertain terms, that nature should be and is entitled to the same rights as the humans and animals which inhabit it. This law was a landmark in the fight for changes in environmental policy across the globe. TO READ THE FULL LIST OF RIGHTS CLICK HERE.

Of course you might have guessed that the Law was passed in Bolivia. After over 2 years of discussion and waiting, this new law, the first of it’s kind in the world, was passed in October of 2012. It has widespread ramifications, including many which are not yet fully understood, but one thing is for certain: this is one of the most progressive and pro-environmental policies in the world, and arguably the most important to date.

Death Road…

A Treacherous path from La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia has earned the distinction of being known by many people as the most dangerous road in the world. This roads real name is the Yungas road. Here is a little video explaining “Death Road”.

 

Credits and Extras:

I would have been lost without the guide recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

Also, the Aji chili powder was impossible to find, but thanks to my brother-in-law Tim, who grows them in his garden, I was able to get my hands on some of his dried chilies for the meal.

And lastly,  thanks to Lachlan and Marcela (who is from Bolivia) for hosting the Bolivian Australian Day and allowing us the opportunity to enjoy your home, your culture and your oven!

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