Citizens, today we scale the magnificent Andes mountains to bring you a favorite recipe of the proud country of Bolivia!
Bolivia, officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia (Spanish: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia), is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. It is bordered to the north and east by Brazil, to the southeast by Paraguay, to the south by Argentina, to the southwest by Chile, and to the northwest by Peru. One-third of the country is the Andean mountain range, with its largest city and principal economic centers located in the Altiplano.
Before Spanish colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire, while the northern and eastern lowlands were inhabited by independent tribes. Spanish conquistadors arriving from Cuzco and Asunción took control of the region in the 16th century. During most of the Spanish colonial period, Bolivia was known as Upper Peru and administered by the Royal Court of Charcas. Spain built its empire in great part upon the silver that was extracted from Bolivia’s mines.
After the first call for independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simón Bolívar. The country’s population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians and Africans. The racial and social segregation that arose from Spanish colonialism has continued to the modern era. Spanish is the official and predominant language, although 36 indigenous languages also have official status, of which the most commonly spoken are Guarani, Aymara and Quechua languages.
A salteña, a very popular recipe in the country, is a type of Bolivian baked empanada.
Salteñas are savory pastries filled with beef, pork or chicken mixed in a sweet, slightly spicy or very spicy sauce, and sometimes also containing peas, eggs, olives, raisins, potatoes and other ingredients. Vegetarian salteñas are sometimes available at certain restaurants.
Typically salteñas can be found in any town or city throughout the country, but each area has its variations; Cochabamba and Sucre claim to have the best version of this snack, and many will go out of their way to try the variation from Potosí.
In La Paz, it is a tradition to enjoy salteñas as a mid-morning snack, although vendors often start selling salteñas very early in the morning. The pastries are sold anywhere from 7am to noon; most vendors sell out by mid-morning.
Historian Antonio Paredes Candia states that during the early 19th century, Juana Manuela Gorriti was the first person to create the current version of this product. This lady later married Presidente Manuel Isidoro Belzu.
Gorriti was born in Salta, Argentina and was exiled to Tarija, Bolivia during the Juan Manuel de Rosas dictatorship. The Gorriti family endured extreme poverty, and they came up with the recipe in the early 19th century in order to make a living. A variation of these pastries was known at the time throughout most of Europe.
The product, nicknamed “salteña”, became very popular. Candia states that it was common to say to kids: “Ve y recoge una empanada de la salteña” (“go and pick up an empanada from the woman from Salta”). In time most forgot the name Manuela Gorriti, but not the nickname. Eventually the salteñas left the city of Tarija and became a Bolivian tradition.
Salteñas are juicy, like a stew in a pastry. The juiciness is achieved by making a stew out of all the ingredients and adding gelatin, so that the stew hardens in the refrigerator, and then slowly melts when they are baked. This ensures that the dough does not get soggy even while providing a very juicy filling.
They are more football-shaped than flat like empanadas. The trick to eating them is to hold them upright, nibble the top corner and work your way down without spilling any of the hot juices. Llajua (Bolivian salsa) complements it well.
You can freeze salteñas (unbaked) as long as they are very well wrapped. When you want to bake them, place them immediately from the freezer to the oven – do not thaw.
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- For the dough (masa):
- 1 pound of flour
- ½ pound of shortening
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- ½ cup of water with ½ tsp. salt dissolved
- 2 tablespoon of chili powder (yellow aji, in Bolivia)
- 1 tablespoon annatto seeds
- 2 egg yolks (save the 2 egg whites, you’ll use them prior to baking)
- For the stew inside (jigote):
- 1 cup lard
- 1 cup ground spicy red pepper (cayenne)
- ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ tablespoon black ground pepper
- 1½ tablespoon crumbled oregano
- 1½ tablespoon salt
- 2 cups white onion, cut into small cubes
- 1½ cups green onion, finely chopped
- 3 pounds lean beef, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup potato, peeled, cooked, and cut into small cubes
- ½ cup cooked green peas
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tablespoon vinegar
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 spoonfuls unflavored gelatin dissolved in 3 cups beef stock
- 1 black olive per salteña
- 3 raisins per salteña
- 1 slice of boiled egg per salteña
- You will prepare the dough AFTER preparing the stew. The stew must remain overnight in the refrigerator. So prepare the dough the next day right before getting ready to add the stew and then bake the salteñas.
- Combine shortening and annatto seeds in a saucepan; cook over low heat 5 minutes or until shortening melts. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Discard annatto.
- For the dough mix the flour, sugar, shortening, and yellow chili pepper in a blender. When the dough starts to get thick add the water and egg yolks. The dough will be come very firm. Knead the dough until it is well blended.
- In a casserole add the lard and the cayenne. Set to boil over high heat until the lard separates from the pepper.
- Next add cumin, ground black pepper, oregano, and salt. Let cook for ten minutes over low heat so that the mixture does not stick. Stir constantly.
- Next add the white onion and let it cook for five more minutes. Finally add the green onion.
- Remove the casserole from the heat, add the sugar, vinegar, parsley, potato and cooked peas.
- In another casserole add the three gelatin stock cups. Let it cook over high heat and as soon as it starts to boil, add the meat. Mix quickly and remove from the heat.
- Mix the first preparation with the gelatin and meat.
- Let it cool in the refrigerator overnight or until it thickens. If wanted, add the olives, raisins and egg before it thickens or add them directly on the dough when preparing the salteñas.
- Preheat oven to 450°. Shape dough into 16 (1 ¼ inch) balls. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into a 5-inch circle on a floured surface.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons filling into center of each circle, compacting into an oval shape. Fold dough over filling to make a half-moon shape; press edges together to seal.
- Hold upright so seam is on top. Starting at 1 end, pinch dough seam between finger and thumb and twist seam into rope against filling, continuing to pinch and twist until you reach other end to seal.
- Sealed salteña should resemble a 4-inch-long football with roped crimping on top. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and filling (cover salteñas to prevent drying).
- It is VERY important it be completely fully sealed because while it is baking the stew will become juicy again.
- Place the salteña upright with the sealed edge on TOP on a greased cookie sheet.
- Brush the entire exterior with the egg whites (this will cause your salteñas to come out shiny after baking) and bake at 450° for 18 to 20 minutes or until crust is set and filling is thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
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