Citizens, it is Easter Sunday and for those celebrating, I wish you all a very happy holiday!
This recipe from the proud country of Paraguay is closely associated with Holy Week and Easter Sunday and is a delicious way to bring a bit of South America to this spiritually uplifting day.
Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is a landlocked country in central South America, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest.
Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de Sudamérica (“Heart of South America”).
The indigenous Guaraní had been living in Paraguay for at least a millennium before the Spanish conquered the territory in the 16th century.
Spanish settlers and Jesuit missions introduced Christianity and Spanish culture to the region. Paraguay was a peripheral colony of the Spanish Empire, with few urban centers and settlers.
Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who generally implemented isolationist and protectionist policies.
Following the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–1870), the country lost 60 to 70 percent of its population through war and disease, and about 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 sq mi) of territory to Argentina and Brazil.
Through the 20th century, Paraguay continued to endure a succession of authoritarian governments, culminating in the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who led South America’s longest-lived military dictatorship from 1954 to 1989.
He was toppled in an internal military coup, and free multi-party elections were organized and held for the first time in 1993.
As of 2009, Paraguay’s population was estimated to be at around 6.5 million, most of whom are concentrated in the southeast region of the country. The capital and largest city is Asunción, of which the metropolitan area is home to nearly a third of Paraguay’s population.
In contrast to most Latin American nations, Paraguay’s indigenous language and culture, Guaraní, remains highly influential. Guaraní is recognized as an official language alongside Spanish, and both languages are widely spoken in the country.
Chipá is a type of deliciously chewy, baked, cheese-flavored roll or donut that is a popular snack and breakfast food in Paraguay and northern Argentina.
Its origin is uncertain; it is speculated that the recipe has existed since the eighteenth century. It is inexpensive and often sold from streetside stands and on buses by vendors carrying a large basket with the warm chipa wrapped in a cloth.
The name is from the indigenous Guaraní language and it is also known as chipa, chipacito or chipita.
Chipá has been prepared in the Guarani region (northern Argentina, Paraguay and areas of Brazil) since humans settled in the area.
Originally, the Guarani people prepared it only with cassava starch and water.
After the arrival of the colonists and Jesuit missionaries, and with the introduction of cattle, chickens and new products derived from this livestock (such as cheese and eggs), chipá began to gradually evolve into the widely-used recipe of the early 21st century.
In Paraguay, it’s traditional to just eat chipa during the semana santa (holy week) since you’re not supposed to be eating meat.
My version does make a few changes to the canonical recipe (all noted), with the primary adaptation being that I use fennel seeds instead of anise seeds. I find anise too intense a flavor for my personal taste and fennel is the same flavor profile. Feel free to use both anise and the noted cheeses for a traditional recipe, Citizens!
½ lb cassava flour – buy it on Amazon here
½ lb cornflour (much more finely ground than cornmeal!)
½ tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup whole milk
8 tablespoons lard (strongly preferred) or unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fennel seeds (TFD substitution, original called for anise seeds)
¾ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup crumbled mild blue cheese (TFD substitution, if you want to go with the original, use feta instead)
½ cup grated 3 year old aged gouda (TFD substitution, original used cheddar)
Fleur de sel
Toast the fennel or anise seeds briefly in a hot pan to bring out their aroma.
Mix the cornflour and yuca starch in a very large bowl. Add the eggs, the lard or butter, and the grated cheese.
Mix this together until it is fairly uniform; it will be crumbly but you should work out any large lumps and make sure the lard and egg are evenly distributed.
Dissolve the salt into the milk and add it to the mixture along with the fennel or anise. Knead until it is smooth and uniform and anise is evenly distributed. It should have the consistency of soft clay.
Divide the dough into 4, then divide each piece into 4 again. Form balls with each piece and put these balls of dough on a plate or baking sheet, lightly dusted with cornmeal.
Cover with a cloth and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Give the chipas a donut shape, slightly dusting the work plan and your hands with cassava flour.
Sprinkle the top with a pinch of salt.
Arrange chipas on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal.
Bake about 12 minutes in an oven preheated to 400F.
Serve hot or warm.