by Anouk Booneman
I spent my January traveling in Bolivia. I have a deep appreciation for this beautiful country and its inhabitants. I usually try to get an understanding of a new country in different ways, but a very important one is through food. I eat as much local food as I can, and one of my favorite activities is to go to local markets.
Outdoor markets are everywhere in Bolivia, and literally everything is sold there. Bolivia is a vast country with different and varied climates, and consequently offers a a great variety of natural products, but there are a few traditional staples that can be found everywhere, like many kinds of potatoes, corn, quinoa, and a huge variety of beans.
Quinoa has become an important staple in the US as well. In Bolivia, where it is grown, it is an extremely important product and is an integral part of school lunches. It doesn’t grow on big plantations, but instead is grown in the countryside where you will see little fields everywhere. This grain-like seed has been a longtime staple food of the Andes and was considered sacred by the Inca empire. It is thought to be the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, as well as having many trace elements and vitamins. It’s also gluten free.
The following recipe was inspired by a traditional Bolivian peanut soup and is very easy to make.
Healthy variation of a Bolivian peanut soup
2 tsp. canola oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves
2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup quinoa
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in onions and cook, stirring until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds, then stir in carrots, potatoes, and quinoa. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until quinoa and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the peas and the red pepper and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in peanut butter until combined. Add parsley and hot sauce if desired.
Corn is another very important staple in Bolivia. I didn’t eat a lot of corn based meals but I had a delicious corn based drink that is easy to replicate at home. API Morado is a traditional drink of the indigenous people of Bolivia. The beverage has a thick, smoothie like consistency and is made with purple corn flour (can be found on Amazon) cinnamon sticks, cloves, orange rind, pineapple juice (I would substitute with orange juice) and sugar. The following recipe is from the website Bolivia Bella. I will try it when I return home, but it seems like an easy to follow recipe.
API Morado (Bolivia Bella)
2 cups purple corn
15 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
Rind from one orange
1 cup of pineapple or orange juice
Sugar to taste
Soak the ground purple corn flour in six cups of water for two hours. In the meantime boil the remaining 9 cups of water with the cinnamon and clove so that the water will take on the flavor of the spices. Add the six cups of soaked corn flour to the 9 cups of cinnamon water and add the orange rind. Cook together stirring constantly until just a little thick and taking care to avoid lumps add the pineapple or orange juice and sugar to taste. Serve hot or cold
Anouk is co-founder of Spring Into Health, was a baker at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and a language teacher before moving to Clifton Park. She believes that industrialized eating has created major health crises all over of the globe and that food can be the strongest medicine. She is also a yoga instructor. Click on her pictures for her articles