The passion behind writing and compiling The Latin American Cookbook was to observe – and celebrate – what we Latin Americans have in common: the meals we eat, the foods made in the streets, the drinks we enjoy and the dishes served for decades by neighbourhood restaurants. While the flavours may change from country to country, what we discovered during our research was that these recipes provide a shared identity. In Latin America the commitment to making delicious things to eat unites us all.
The project started as an exploration of the food in Peru – in its national, social and cultural context. However, over time we realised we couldn’t limit our research to Peru and expanded our focus across Latin America. We met food and drink producers, home cooks, village elders and anthropologists, and pored over ancient texts. This has allowed us to provide a snapshot of Latin American cuisine, including traditional dishes and classic drinks and foods, but also contemporary food culture and an overview of trends in the restaurants, bars, vineyards and street markets.
The book has enabled us to record and preserve our recipes. It came as a surprise, even to me, how many ways there are to express different ingredients; many are used throughout the Americas – cacao and corn, for instance – but are prepared differently from place to place.
The wine and drinks industry is integral to our culinary culture. Some of the most important wineries in the world are based in Argentina and Chile, and we have emerging wine cultures in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and beyond. Just as Latin American food has travelled across the world, it’s impressive to see how many people are involved in winemaking and how it has grown to become an essential economy in South America. Wine today is as important as the food, and enriches the whole culinary experience.
Creole stew (locro criollo) recipe
Linked to 25 de Mayo, the date of Argentina’s independence day (1810) celebrations, locro is a form of hearty, vegetable-driven stew found throughout the Andes. Argentinian versions tend to be meatier, often adding offal.
Preparation time 20 minutes (plus overnight soaking)
Cooking time 2 hours 20 minutes
- 180g dried hominy*
- 225g salted pork belly, cut into cubes
- 100g flank steak, cut into cubes
- 100g Boston butt (pork shoulder),cut into cubes
- 50g chorizo, cut into cubes
- 1 white onion, chopped
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
- Sweetcorn kernels, cut from 8 corn cobs
- 450g butternut squash, cut into cubes
- Salt and ground pepper
1. Put the hominy in a bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.
2. In a medium pan, sear the pork belly over medium heat for 4 minutes, turning the pieces to colour on every side. Add the other meats, the onions and bell pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes.
3. Add the drained hominy and enough water to cover the ingredients by 5cm. Add the rest of the vegetables, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
4. Mash the vegetables with a wooden spoon and stir, until the locro has a thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot in a soup dish.
*Hominy is dried corn kernels treated with an alkaline bath, in a process called nixtamalisation. In Latin America you can buy it dried or canned. It is available from specialist ingredients companies such as Sous Chef. Hominy can be enjoyed as it is, similar to how you might add beans to a dish. Suggested alternatives include chickpeas, corn or buckwheat grits – these would provide a different texture and slightly different flavour to hominy.
The wines to drink with Creole stew
The skin contact that orange wine undergoes, along with the often grippy tannins and almost ‘red wine’ texture, make the style a perfect match for this boldly flavoured dish. The flavours in the wine are exotic, and the colour arresting – it’s an unusual match that showcases the versatility of this exciting and growing wine category.
Maturana Wines, Naranjo Torontel, Loncomilla, Maule, Chile 2019
From a 4ha plot of 80-year-old Torontel vines, fermented on skins in concrete eggs. Intensely aromatic, with peach, apricot, lychee and orange peel leaping out of the glass. The textured palate is more restrained with subtle stone fruit, orange and lemon citrus, spice and good cleansing acidity. Crisp and juicy, a perfect orange wine for people who say they don’t like orange wine. 97 points.
Drink 2022-2023 | Alcohol 13.5%
Cabernet Franc is a food-friendly red grape that comes in various styles. To match a fully flavoured red meat dish such as this, look not to the Loire, but to a riper, fuller-bodied New World style. Argentina produces some stunning Cabernet Francs, with the fleshy fruit opulence and oak to perfectly complement this Latin American stew.
Angulo Innocenti, Cabernet Franc, La Consulta, Mendoza, Argentina 2018
DWWA 2021 Gold medal winner. Clean, precise fruit on the nose, fresh notes of black cherry, plum, raspberry and violet, mushroom and smoky toast. A very smooth palate with a refreshing finish. 95 points.
Drink 2022-2025| Alcohol 14%
The Latin American Cookbook, by Virgilio Martínez and Nicholas Gill, is published by Phaidon (£35)
Virgilio Martínez is chef-owner of Central Restaurante in Lima, as well as two London Peruvian-style restaurants, Lima and Lima Floral