In early December I got the amazing opportunity to attend a Pachamanca at the house of one of the participants in a program I work for. Pachamanca (meaning "earth pot" in Quechua) is an Andean manner of cooking where you either dig a hole in the earth or make a brick oven, build a fire and heat very hard stones over it. You then remove the stones from the fire, fill the oven with various types of potatoes and sweet potatoes , cover those with rocks, and then layer various types of meats with hot rocks, before coving the whole thing in rocks and topping it with fava beans. You then wrap the whole oven in wet cardboard, followed by plastic tarps, followed by blankets, and seal it so no heat escapes. Then you let everything cook at this super hot temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, and then uncover it all and dig in! Traditionally, you stand over the oven and eat everything fresh from the oven with your hands. We started that way, and then moved things over to plates :)
Here is a picture guide from start to finish of how to make Pachamanca - plus a few other recipe goodies I learned that day.
The Pachamanca oven. We are in Lima, so digging a hole was more difficult, so the family who invited us just built it on the concrete of our friend's roof. It was a circle of bricks stacked 4 bricks high with a mouth for monitoring the fire. You get a really good fire going inside, then put a grate or metal wires over it and stack the rocks on top. I don't know what kind of rocks they are, but they have to be any kind that can be heated to very high temperatures without breaking. They must be somewhat large but not too large (you have to pick them up while they're hot), like the size of 2 large fists. Let the rocks heat over the oven until very hot, about 2 hours. You want the oven to be reducing to coals around this time too. Once you have let the rocks heat 2 hours and you have coals, the oven is ready.
Ingredient #1: Papas! (potatoes). You must use several types of potatoes, as the Andes are filled to the brim with close to 4,000 types of potatoes. These were Huayro (a personal favorite of mine, the red and yellow skinned ones, that are yellow in the inside), Yungay, and Huamantanga (both yellow on the outside, white on the inside). You can use other potatoes, I was told "papa blanca" is a good alternative. Wash the potatoes thoroughly.
A photo of the Huayro potatoes and the fava beans. You wash the fava beans too, and keep them in their pods. These ones are awesome, because the beans had little swirls on them just like the Peru national symbol.
The washed potatoes and sweet potatoes (camote) are laid out in the sun to dry. They must be completely dry before you put them in the pachamanca.
The types of sweet potatoes used were camote rosado, camote amarillo and camote anaranjado. They were most similar to a Japanese sweet potato for the camote rosado and an American yam for the camote anaranjado. The camote amarillo is something I haven't seen anywhere else, though it was by far my favorite thing on my plate that evening. I'm not sure how many potatoes we used, but basically just make sure you have enough to fill your oven - a couple large sackfuls of each type.
Finally, you prepare the meat. This can be cuy (guinea pig - which is more traditional), chicken, beef, or pork. This time we did chicken and pork - 1 whole chicken (feet and all) and 10 kilos of pork (which I believe was all pork belly. You want to use a fatty cut of pork). With this, you make a marinade of:
- 1/2 kilo chincho (there is no English name for this) or huacatay (Peruvian black mint), leaves removed from the stem and stem discarded. You may be able to find this in a Peruvian store or on the internet, using dried herbs should be fine (just use around a little less than 1/4 kilo dried herbs). Or just grow your own from seeds bought in the internet! Otherwise, I think if you used a combination of equal parts basil, cilantro, and mint you would kind of get close to the flavor of these herbs.
- 1 c. peeled garlic cloves
- 2 ají monito peppers, sliced. They can be whole or you can take out the seeds for less spice. This is a spicy red pepper that would probably be best replaced by serrano or cayenne peppers.
- 1/2 liter vinegar
- 1 small bottle coca-cola (this, Adely says, is her secret)
- 5 to 6 Peruvian limes, juiced (these are smaller limes, like a key lime. I'd say this would yield 1/2 to 3/4 c. juice)
- cumin, pepper, and salt, to taste
You put all the marinade ingredients except the peppers into a blender and liquefy. You want it to be enough to cover all the meat, and if it doesn't just add water. Add the peppers into the marinade with the meat, and make sure everything is fully submerged. Let this sit in the marinade in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
When your rocks are hot and the coals are ready, remove the rocks from over the oven to a safe place. We used balsa wood, and you may want fireproof gloves for this. Remove the grate that was under the rocks.
Put the dried potatoes directly into the oven over the hot coals.
Seal the oven mouth with additional bricks.
Put one layer of hot rocks over the potatoes.
On top of that layer, put the pork in and press it against the rocks. The order you put the meat in matters - the tougher to cook meat goes first. On each piece of pork, you cover it with rocks and add another layer of pork until you've used all the pork and covered it all with rocks. Then add the chicken (feet first!), and pile the rest of the rocks on top.
Here's the wood after we took off all the hot rocks.
You then cover the top with fava beans.
And pour the remaining marinade over the top of the fava beans.
Soak cardboard or heavy paper in water and put several layers - around 5-10 - on top of the whole oven. Make sure you cover the whole thing.
Making sure the paper covers the whole oven.
Then, put around 3 plastic tarps over the whole thing, and put a rope around the bottom to cinch everything in.
Cover all that with blankets...
Seal the bottom with bricks
Here, they added an extra plastic tarp on top to keep heat in. The bottom was lined with bricks. You want to make sure you do not see any smoke coming from the oven. Wait 30 minutes to 1 hour. We waited 1 hour because it was an above ground oven and less well insulated.
Meanwhile, we made the salsa. This was just sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, salt, and lots of lime juice. Kinda like a pico de gallo.
Hidaila, Adely's mom, also served us a delicious beverage! It is a quinoa, kiwicha, seed, and milk drink. She didn't have a name for it, so I just called it Hidaila's drink. Here's the recipe for it:
- 1/4 kilo Quinoa
- 1/4 kilo Kiwicha (a grain like quinoa but smaller)
- 100 grams sesame seeds
- 100 grams flax seed
- 100 grams dried maca
- 100 grams "harina de platano", which I believe is green banana flour
- 100 grams alpiste, "canary grass" seed (it's a seed kind of like millet that comes from the mediterranean. Apparently you can get it in bird food stores)
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3-5 cloves
- 1 liter milk
The ingredients under "to grind" are the dry drink mix (kinda like hot cocoa or ovaltine or nesquik). Grind these in a food processor or other grinding device until they are finely ground. Put 4 Tbs of mix with the milk, cinnamon, and cloves, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until everything is flavored with cinnamon. You can serve hot or at room temperature.
Hidaila's delicious drink. It tastes kind of like rice pudding :)
After 30 minutes, we open the oven.
Pachamanca from above!
Here, we just picked everything out with our bare hands. The potatoes were caramelized and the meat was literally falling apart as we tried to pick it up. We ate things straight from the oven as we transported it to other pots for later. The rocks were removed with oven mitts and cloth into a pile on the concrete.
Potatoes with smoke streaming through them.
This must be where the game hot potato comes from. We picked them up and threw them asap into a pot Adely held.
Cooked chicken feet.
Camote amarillo - my favorite!
Adely pulling out fresh pork belly.
And then we ate! Here's my plate with the meat before I piled on the fava beans and potatoes.
My plate full of all the pachamanca goodies.
We all ate with our hands in pachamanca tradition.
Filling up the plates.
All gone :( We all left completely stuffed, to say the least.
Adely and her toddler :)
After eating, we played some games.
Hidaila and Adely bought us hats, and had us close our eyes so they could put it on our heads. Here's me with my shiny new hat!
That's all. Pachamanca was really a special experience. It was social too, so what looks like a lot of labor became a really fun event shared with friends, so it really seemed like we put in very little effort for how much we got in return! I'm starting to think I should do pachamanca when I camp rather than just hotdogs and marshmallows, what do you think?