Sopa de Paraguay

I am reminiscing about our South American travels. What a wonderful trip we made this year! Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay…

So we went into this café, advertising Sopa de Paraguay and other local dishes outside. I could eat some soup! I tried ordering this Parguayan soup, but they didn’t have any soup, the owner of the café exclaimed! What is this soup I keep reading and hearing about, I exclaimed in return. He showed us this dish is nothing like a soup, more like a cornbread. Allright, now we got it! Turned out that the soup that wasn’t a soup tasted darn delicious and we ended up eating it numerous times, for lunch, as a snack or as a side dish during a real South-American parilla, aka enormous BBQ time!

They make all kinds of varieties, I think they just sneek in some leftover meat from last night’s parilla, or some fresh veggies they have lying around. It’s all good! They really do have wonderfull produce over there. And so much corn, it’s unbelievable. The basic version of sopa contains …. cheese! Perfect combo no?! You can eat it warm but it’s delicious as well the next day with some butter on it. (What is not delicious with butter I think….)

The recipe is for a medium tray. Sopa de Paraguay is something best shared with friends while grilling enormous amounts of meat, the Paraguayans feel.  This recipe is for a slighty more managable amount. I did stick to the most basic version: The cheesy kind.

Ingredients – serves 4:

  • 4 eggs – seperated
  • 200 grams of fresh corn kernels (otherwise from a tin)
  • 200 grams of fine polenta or cornmeal
  • 150 ml of milk
  • 150 grams cheese of your choice, grated. (Cheddar, Feta, Dutch Farmer’s Cheese, Swiss cheese… )
  • A pinch of salt, pepper and cayennepepper
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 75 grams of soft butter

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Finely chop the onion and bake in a tablespoon of butter until soft. Add a small pinch of salt, pepper and cayennepepper.

Mix the remaining butter with the onion and cheese in a bowl. For the cheese I used about 50 grams of crumbled feta and 100 grams of grated Dutch farmers Cheese. Other cheese will work nicely too. I don’t really know what kind of cheese they use exactly in Paraguay, but I am quite sure we don’t get Paraguayan cheese here.

Add the polenta or cornmeal and cornkernels and stir it all together. You can season with a little more pepper and salt. It’s time for the milk to go in there as well.

Seperate the eggs. Add the yolks to the cheese mixture. In a clean bowl whip up the eggwhites until stiff. So now you have got the cheesemixture and your eggwhites. Get a spatula and carefully fold those two together. The sopa we had over there always was quite light, despite the cheese or other fillings. I think the whipped up eggwhites ensure a little lightness in the mixture.

Grease an ovendish with some butter, sprinkle in some polenta or cornflour instead of breadcrumbs. In goes the mixture. Add some extra cheese on top. At least that’s what I always do when cooking with cheese – more, more, more!

A sopa this size will need at least 30 minutes in the oven on a 175 degrees Celcius. After 30 minutes check if it’s done with a wooden skewer: if it comes out clean, it’s done!


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Some impressions from our trip:

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South American Parilla

 

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Dinnertime @ La Granja

 

Cheesy Onion Bread

I have been wanting to try this for ages! I remember the smell from my childhood when my mother came back from the bakers and we would have warm onion bread for sunday lunch. Wait, I don’t think she got the bread from the bakers but from a Cheese and Dairy truck that drove through our neighbourhoud on the weekend. I remember it being a huge truck you could enter and buy milk, eggs, cheese and this delicious bread. My memory might be mistaken, but not on that bread, which always tasted great!  It’s almost weekend, so good enough of a reason to give this recipe a go! I always try to put some wholemeal flour in my bread, since I think it is healthier and better for you then only eating white bread. Some breads also call for a lot more salt then mine, but since the cheese is already quite salty, I consider 8 grams more then enough. We already eat enough salt as it is!

Ingredients:

  • 300 grams of wholemeal flour
  • 200 grams of plain flour
  • 8 grams of salt
  • 12 grams of dried yeast
  • 300 – 400 ml water
  • a little olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 100 grams of cheese (more or less) I used a matured Dutch famers Cheese. Other hard cheeses will do nicely too. Grated and/or cubed both works.
  • A hand of fresh thyme

 

Start with sifting the flour together. I tried something new and I mixed the dried yeast with some water and let that stand for a few minutes. Then I mixed it in with the flour and added the salt. I just wanted to see if the proving process would turn out differently by solving the yeast in water but I noticed no big diffrence. If you want, you can just add it to the flour and then add the water. Just make you don’t let the dry yeast and salt touch until you add the water.

Do not add all the water at once. If the dough needs more, simply add a little more. The dough should be a little wet, but definitely not sticky or soggy. Start kneading the dough on your workbench. You can lightly oil your bench or sprinkle some flour on it. Work the dough for a minimum of five minutes. The dough should feel soft and be a little shiny and smooth now. Turn it into a ball with your hands and put it into a slightly oiled bowl. You can make a large cut in the dough, which can make it easier to incorporate the onion and cheese at a later stage.  Cover with clingfilm and a clean, dry tea towel. Leave the dough to rise for at least 90 minutes, but two hours is definitely fine as well.

Take this time to thinly slice the onion, grate and cube the cheese, get some fresh thyme from your garden and relax with a cup of tea.

Once the dough has rise to almost twice the original size, take it out and use the cut you made earlier to incorporate the onion, thyme and cheese. Start kneading and incorporating. I actually found this quite hard because onions kept falling out. I just kept going and decided this was as good as it was going to get. Onions falling out would give it a nice, rustic look, or at least I hoped.

Now you can choose to divide the dough in two for the second rising. I found that it rose easier and, more importantly, baked faster and easier in the oven when I put in two small loaves instead of one big one.

Let your dough rise on an oven tray, covered again with some plastic and a tea towel. Turn on your oven to 200 degrees celcius. Once your dough has grown to almost double it’s size again, take off the plastic and tea towel and pop the tray in the oven. You can sprinkle it with a little leftover cheese if you like.

The time needed in the oven depends on the size. A big one will need 35-40 minutes, two smaller ones about 25 minutes. Check your bread on time, it might need a few minutes less (or more). Once you knock on your bread and it sounds hollow, it is done!

Let it cool on a rack or tuck in straight away. Bring out the butter and some more Dutch farmers cheese!

An extra note: If you do net let it cool on a rack, the bottom will get soft. It needs air to keep it’s crust crisp and fresh.

I do hope you will enjoy this bread as much as I did. The next day you can toast it for a minute, and eat it warm again.

 

 

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A kitchen essential

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Absolving the yeast in tepid water

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Mixing in the water, yeast and salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Start Kneading!

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Make a deep cut into the dough. This will help incorporate the onions and cheese in a later stage

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Onion, fresh thyme, finely grated cheese and some cheese cubes for an extra cheesy surprise inside

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See how it grows!

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Use the opening to add the onions and cheese

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Just a little bit more onions and cheese please 🙂

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knead it for a minute to incorporate the ingredients

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More cheese you say?

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My bread exploded a little… But it did not lack in flavor!

Spelt Bread

One of my new passions is baking bread. Thank you Paul Hollywood! He says it is not too hard for a home baker to turn out good breads – and guess what, he is right! I started baking bread about a month ago and I have already tried so many varieties! I am really loving working the dough, waiting for it to rise and rise and then after it’s finished slathering on an unhealthy amount of butter and munch away the first slice.

Here is a recipe I made for today’s lunch. It is made with spelt flour. There is no special reason I chose spelt flour, I just wanted to try something new again. Contrary to what some believe, spelt does contain gluten, only less then normal wholemeal flour. Therefore you need to knead and work it a bit longer then normal flour, let’s say minimal of 10 minutes.

I only make small loafs. I like my bread fresh, so I keep the batches small. If you want you can easily double the ingredients for this recipe.

So I tried to make some photo’s with my iphone… you can see here how it all turned out!

SPELT BREAD – small loaf

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams of spelt flour
  • 15 grams of soft butter
  • 5 grams of salt
  • 5 grams of yeast (if you have a 7 gram sachet that should be fine too)
  • 150 ml of water
  • some olive oil
  • some extra flower for dusting.

 

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  1. Combine the flour, butter, salt and yeast. Make sure the salt and yeast don’t touch each other just yet.
  2. Start adding the water, sometimes you will need a little bit more, sometimes a litte bit less. Start mixing the dough with your hands. If it is still very dry you need more water, if it get’s too wet, mix in a tablespoon or so more of the spelt flour.
  3. lightly flour a surface and start kneading away. Put on your favorite workout music or radio station and start working that dough!
  4. After about ten minutes it should feel softer and smoother. Put it into a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with clingwrap and a dry, clean towel.
  5. Set your timer again, this time for an hour and a half. In this time, the dough should double in size.

Here you can see how what that 90 minutes did for my dough:

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6. Now it is time to knock back your dough. Tip it out on a lightly floured surface, knock all the air out, and form it into a bowl again. Put it into the desired shape and tin you will be using in the oven.

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7. Leave it to prove again, this time for about an hour. Cover it with clingfoil or a plastic bag.

8. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius.

9. Pop your bread in the oven! It should take about 25 minutes. Tap the bottom of the bread when you turn it out, if it sounds hollow your bread is done!

10. Leave it to cool on a wire rack. If you cool it on an even surface the bottom will become soft.

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Time to enjoy your bread! I forget to say that you can sprinkle some flour over the top before you bake it and/or make a pattern on top with a sharp knife.