Though the vast plains of Argentina are synonymous with
meat – only Uruguay eats more beef per capita – there's
more to the cuisine than simply steak. While green
vegetables may not play a big part in the traditional diet, indigenous
ingredients like corn and squash pop up a lot in stews and savoury
porridges… often generously garnished with sausage.
Indeed one such stew, locro, is so bound up with Argentinian identity that the
National Day, celebrated on 25th May, is popularly known as Locro Day.
Versions of the same dish in Ecuador and Peru tend to be largely vegetarian,
but perhaps unsurprisingly, Argentinian locro is almost always a meaty affair,
full of brisket, tripe and other cuts too tough to grill.
That said, like many everyday staples, there are no rules with locro; it's made
with whatever is to hand on the day, so in place of the usual dried corn, which
is hard to come by here, I've used cornmeal, which you can find in the world
food aisle of big supermarkets, or polenta, and instead of meat, Feta, the
closest thing to the queso fresco found locally.
If you'd prefer to keep it vegan, however, leave the cheese out; it'll still be a
very satisfying meal for a cold day. Sweet, starchy and warming, it's delicious
with a glass of silky, brambly Argentinian Bonarda.
Recipe: Argentine Locro
A hearty South American stew (Serves 4-6)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, cut into strips
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 litre veg stock
- 100g cornmeal or dry polenta
- 400g tin of butter beans, drained
- 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 200g tin of sweetcorn, drained
- 1 medium squash, peeled and
chopped into roughly 2cm chunks
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 120g Feta, crumbled (optional)
For the topping
- 4 tbsp neutral oil
- 6 spring onions, white and most of green part, sliced
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or
casserole dish over a medium-low
heat. Add the onion and pepper
and fry until soft and golden.
Stir in the garlic, tomato puree,
herbs and cumin and fry for a
minute or so, then add the stock.
Bring to a simmer, then pour in the
cornmeal, stirring continuously.
Tip in the beans, chickpeas,
sweetcorn and squash. Bring back
to a simmer. Turn down the heat,
partially cover and cook gently for
about 35 minutes until the squash is
tender, stirring occasionally so it
Meanwhile, make the topping.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, and add
the onions. Fry for a couple of
minutes until soft, then stir in the
paprika and chilli and a pinch of salt.
Take off the heat.
Stir the lemon juice and cheese
into the stew and season to taste.
Pour the topping 'drizzle' over the
top to serve, either on its own, or with bread, rice or quinoa.
Try a ripe, deep coloured, fruit bomb of a wine with explosive black cherry fruit and a fresh finish – Las Piletas Santa Rosa Bonarda is a delicious Argentine red for matching with this hearty stew.
Felicity is an award-winning wine and food writer with several
cookbooks to her name and a regular column in The Guardian as well as