olive podcast: 10 things you need to know about Argentinian food and cooking
In this week's episode, we chat with Fernando Trocca about Argentinian food and cooking, including the influence of Italian immigration on Argentine culture and why cooking over fire (asado) is important
Executive chef of Sucre restaurant and Buenos Aires native Fernando Trocca talks us through the 10 things you need to know about Argentinian food and cooking, including the influence of Italian immigration on Argentine culture, why cooking over fire (asado) is so important and why you'll never find coriander in an authentic chimichurri. After, check out our best Argentinian recipes here.
Check back next week to hear our Cook for Ukraine special.
Argentinian food and cooking
Parsley vs coriander
Argentina is unique in favouring parsley over coriander. Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Colombia – all of them use coriander. The herb is trendy now but 25 years ago there was no coriander in Argentina – only parsley. And if you go to Italy or Spain, they don’t use coriander either. So that’s a big difference between Argentina and all the rest of the Latin American countries. Parsley is one of the main ingredients in chimichurri – we have many different recipes for it but none of them use coriander. If you’re using coriander, you’re doing it wrong.
In Buenos Aires the food is very European as you have a lot of influence from Spain and Italy. So we have Italian foods like milanese or gelato and if you go to a restaurant you will find pasta and risotto. But if you want to try more typical dishes from Argentina like empanadas, you must go beyond Buenos Aires. Even the empanadas change around the country depending on where you come from. In Salta (northern Argentina), they put potato and eggs in the filling. But if you go to Mendoza, in the central-west part of the country, you’ll find empanadas stuffed with meat and a lot of onion. In Tucumán (north-west Argentina), it’s different again. There are at least three or four regions that make their own version.
Argentinian barbecue is important for every household – even people living in an apartment will have a small barbecue on the balcony. Meat is the star of the show and we use several different cuts, plus sausages – blood sausage (morcilla) and sweetbreads (mollejas) are popular. We’ll have a simple salad on the table and two sauces: classic chimichurri and salsa criolla. In Argentina, we cook without any flame. So the meat cooks very slowly over glowing coals of charcoal or wood. It’s an important part of the ceremony to set up the fire correctly – we will burn the charcoal or wood for about 45 minutes to achieve the right temperature.
Fernando’s top 3 effortless cooking hacks
Salting meat: I like to salt meat in advance – at least an hour. Some people like to salt while they are grilling, or even when the meat is resting afterwards. But I like to do it before. Take out the beef at least two hours before you plan to eat it (so it can come up to room temperature), then salt the meat an hour before.
Short ribs: for me and lots of Argentinians, the beef short rib is the favourite. But the way we get the butcher to cut it is different. It’s called asado banderita – cut across the rib very thin, just the width of a finger, which means you can grill them for only 15-20 minutes.
Dulce de leche: this is really popular in Argentina. A good tip is to use it in a chocolate molten cake or fondant. So instead of chocolate in the filling, you use dulce de leche.
Try Fernando Troccas' recipes here:
Try Fernando’s recipe for Argentina’s popular savoury pie, tarta pascualina.
Ossobuco is from the leg or shin of veal, and is cross-cut to produce steaks with a piece of bone and marrow in the middle. Here, it's served with a vibrant saffron risotto.
These golden empanadas have a British twist, with an aged cheddar and slow-cooked onion filling.
Dulce de leche brings an extra layer of indulgence to this dessert, served with toasted hazelnuts for gentle crunch.
This punchy mix of gin, mezcal and vermouth is given a fruity twist with pink grapefruit soda.