First of all, by far the most famous Venezuelan food is the “Hallacas”. Most try it in December as this is a holiday food; but, you can also find them in between the rest of the year. So let us turn you on with this wondrous and exotic food of South America. In Venezuela there are as many Hallaca recipes as there are families. This is one of those and, as your taste buds will find, perhaps the best ever created.
The original recipe, amazingly good as it is, does not contain Worcestershire sauce, as we prepare it here; or pickles nor almonds, but I add them because this is my own personal family’s recipe. It has been handed down from generation to generation. I’m so pleased to have you enjoy it as we all have these many years.
These corn tamales wrapped in plantain leaves, are the undisputed protagonists of the Christmas table, and they are a secret passed from generation to generation and is usually not written anywhere, because as a family we gather together and split the steps so we can work as a team.
Yes, preparing Hallacas could be a really hard work, if you do it on your own. That is why when you start doing it you prepare lots of them at once. That is so for the rest of the month, you won’t have to prepare anything additional because you will just have to put them in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Pork and chicken Hallacas. Enough for 20 Hallacas.
Ingredients for the “guiso” stew:
3/4 cup of lard
8 ounces of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of scallions (green onions), chopped
2 cups leek, chopped
1/2 cup of pickles in mustard
1 cup of cooking wine (Muscat type)
1 cup of papelón (panela or piloncillo), grated or chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Cumin 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar 6 pounds (about 3 kilos) of pork leg, clean and diced in half-inch (just over one centimeter cubes)
2 1/2 cups of red bell pepper (pimento), deveined, seeded and chopped
6 “ajíes dulces” (sweet peppers), deveined, seeded and chopped
2 1/2 cups of tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 1/2 cups of onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 hen, cut into pieces
1 cup of hen broth
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
Preparation of the stew:
1. In a food processor, blend the onion, garlic, chives, leek, bell pepper, sweet peppers and tomato.
2. In a large saucepan, over intermediate heat, put the lard and liquefied seasonings using the pork, sauce, pickles, wine, papelón, salt, pepper and cumin,
and cook for about 4 hours, stirring recurrently, until the meat is entirely cooked. To see if the meat is prepared, take out a bit and shred it. If the meat
is white, it is already finished.
3. In the meantime, in a pressure cooker with 2.5 liters of water, cook the shards of chicken for 45 minutes, till the meat is tender.
4. Take the hen from the pot and let it cool. Once airy, shred the meat and reserve 40 parts of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) length each to be used as decoration for
5. Adjoin a cup of hen broth to the pot with the stew, along with the shredded chicken meat.
6. Turn off the stew and let it stay overnight exposed and at room temperature.
7. The next morning, put in the tomato paste and taste the stew and correct the seasoning.
Ingredients for the Dough
3 tablespoons of onoto (achiote or annatto) seeds
1 cup of red bell pepper juice, strained
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of “melado de papelón”* (panela or piloncillo syrup)*
Fine sea salt
1/2 pack of precooked corn flour, the one used to make arepas.
1 cup of lard (you can substitute it with corn oil but, in my opinion, the taste that lard gives is irreplaceable)