Tasting cool Chile

Chile's AntarcticaWhat travellers love about Australia: Desert, big outdoors adventures, rainforests, wine, food, surfing, terrific climate. Mineral deposits (if you’re looking for a job in the mining industry, that is). And some ice and snow. What travellers love about Chile:  Desert, big outdoors adventures, rainforests, wine, food, surfing, terrific climate. Mineral deposits. And a lot more ice and snow. The two nations are completely opposite shapes. My home of Australia is a wide brown land, and skinny Chile is the longest country in the world. Both have Antarctic territories, and hearty cuisines with lamb attached. Who would have thought they have so much in common?

I had no idea until I went to a Chilean cooking school lesson in Sydney, ate what I cooked and consumed some ultra-terrific Chilean red wine from the Carmenere grape, which is now exclusive to Chile. it was originally a French grape, but is no longer produced in France. Carmenere is like a merlot, and intensely aromatic. It’s mainly exported to the US and Europe. We cooked marinated lamb with a crushed walnut crust, fancy schmancy mash (pumpkin, potato, peas and corn flavoured with smoked chilli flakes, cumin, Chilean salt), a berry chutney, followed by a spiced milk quinoa dessert and a side of pastry with caramel.

Chilean cooking lesson

Anyway, I was in a room full of food and travel journos and the blah blah and tweeting was getting more intense as the wine flowed (usual media claptrap), until the hosts screened a video about Chile. And then I stopped talking. And here’s why.

Atacama Piedra Coyote Chile

Patagonia Torres del Paine  Chile

Chile 2

  • Chile has 2,006,096 sq km of surface area rooted in three continents, from Easter Island at the eastern most edge of Oceania to the immense Antarctic territory, to the southern most extreme of South America.
  • It was first settled 150 centuries ago and the population today is 15 million. There are still ridges, glaciers and cliffs that humans have never visited.
  • The geography ranges from the Atacama desert, to rivers tumbling over waterfalls, volcanoes, vineyards and mountain ranges.
  • Parts of South America are a challenge for travellers. The crime rate is high. But Chile is the safest country for visitors. It’s a prosperous and stable nation, a founding member of the UN, and a member of the OECD.
  • It has five world heritage sites, celebrating cultural heritage and geographical wonders.
  •  Chile has yet to be discovered by the hordes – only about 2.5 million tourists go there annually.
  • An 8,000km trail for hiking and bicycling has been created.
  • According to Surf Locker Chile, the country has the best waves in South America on a 4,000km coastline.

Surfing-in-ChileChile 6

Patagonia Cavernas de MármolJorge Sánchez ChileRecipe for Charquican (the Chilean version of mashed veges):

120g potato, peeled and chopped  (Chile has 400 varieties)

120g pumpkin, peeled and chopped

60g corn kernels

60g peas

Pinch of merken (smoked chili pepper)

Pinch of cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the potato and pumpkin to a pot of boiling water until cooked. Add salt to another saucepan, and cook peas and corn for three minutes. Strain the potato and pumpkin, then place in a bowl and mash with a fork, then add the corn and peas and mix well but don’t smash the peas. Add salt, pepper, cumin and merken to taste.

Chilean walnut crusted lamb with mash and berry chutney looks like the Chilean landscape
Chilean walnut crusted lamb with mash and berry chutney looks like the Chilean landscape

Berry chutney

160g mixed berries

100g chopped white onion

20ml white vinegar

4g sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Add a dash of olive oil to a hot pan and saute the onion. Add the berries, vinegar and cook uncovered for five minutes. Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir through, turning off the heat and covering the pan to keep it warm until serving.

Magallanic walnut crusted lamb

500 lamb cutlets

6g finely chopped garlic

2 sprigs rosemary

60ml white vinegar

40g crusted walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180 C. Place lamb cutlets into a bowl and add the garlic, rosemary, white vinegar, salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for 10 mins, then coat with the crushed walnuts and seal the cutlets on each side in a hot pan brushed with olive oil. Once sealed, place on a baking tray and cook for six minutes. Cook several minutes longer if you like your lamb well cooked. Serves 2. Also serve with: Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere or Maycas del Limari Reserve Syrah, or Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc.

More about Chile: www.chiletourism.com. Qantas flies there three times a week from Australia and is set to increase the number of flights.


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