Book Review: A Bite of Latin America

A culinary diary

Susie Chatz-Anderson

Human & Rousseau

Review: Brian Joss

The author, South African Chatz-Anderson, and her husband Mike, resigned from their office jobs and spent a year travelling through Mexico and South America searching for the unusual tastes of those countries. The Mayans, Aztecs, Incas and Portuguese all made their influence felt on the food and later immigrants from Africa , the Caribbean, Asia and Europe, resulting in complex layering of  flavours which give the dishes a special appeal.

Chatz-Anderson has adapted many of the recipes to suit South African palates.  Their travels took them to places as diverse as Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador and points beyond. There is a selection of  recipes from each country or town they visited. Most of the dishes are quite unlike those you get served at Mexican restaurants that  have proliferated in South Africa. In Guatemala for example, the citizens enjoy Gallo Pinto (Central American Rice and Beans); Cebollas Marinadas (Marinated Red Onions) that add a bit of bite to a goat’s cheese open sandwich, a tacos or any meat meal.

In Costa Rica another dish is a Sugar and Spice Ice-Cream Sandwich.  Although not a traditional Costa Rican recipe you can pick one up at the corner store on the way back from the beach. Chatz-Anderson has adapted the recipe and made it spicier to suit South African tastes. She has also added sweet wine and a berry sauce that she says, complements the spicy biscuit and the creamy vanilla ice cream.

Arroz con Leche is a rice pudding for adults mainly because of the addition of white rum, any dessert wine or orange liqueur.  In Columbia you can enjoy Rijoles con Carne (beans with ground beef) , similar to Chile con Carne, or you can have a Tortilla de Espinacas, a spinach omelette –Spanish style. Limonada (green apple and mint) appears to be quite popular in a country which is sometimes better known for its hard-bitten and vicious drug cartels. It’s also where the author had an Agua de Panela, a drink made with raw cane sugar and sometimes lime juice.

From Argentina comes Empanadas Saltenas (Argentinian beef and onion pies; Higos Rellenos con Helado (Argentinian roast figs served with ice cream)  or Alfajores (caramel-filled cookies to have with your Café de La Montana (liqueur coffee, ideal for cold winter days or nights. There are many more recipes that will have you stepping out of your comfort cooking zone. The step-by-step instructions will help to make your life in the kitchen easier and you will amaze your friends with your culinary efforts, especially when you serve up some of the more exotic dishes which sound very moreish.

Thoughtfully the author has included a shopping list and a chilli scale to help you decide how hot or not you want it. There is also a comprehensive index.

The full colour images are by Myburgh du Plessis, Dirk Pieters and Chatz-Anderson.

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