Sunday, 2 January 2011

Ajiaco Santafereño

Ajiaco Santafereño to give its full name is the national dish of Colombia, unless of course you are from Medellin, where it would be Bandeja Paisa. No question. Ajiaco is an odd soup. Then again most soups in Colombia are pretty bizarre, but they all taste pretty damn good. It really falls into being a light stew rather than a soup, as the broth and contents are pretty light, but in Colombia they call it a soup, and it is theirs to call what they wish.

In Medellin I have only ever had this at family gatherings, so I always liken it to a celebration food rather than an everyday meal, whereas bandeja paisa or mondongo are easily available from restaurants all over and outside of Medellin. Ajiaco is a special treat worthy of a special occasion.
Lina opted to make this for our Xmas eve dinner we were having with some homesick friends. Some Colombian, some not. It is actually a very easy dish to make for large groups, as it is pretty quick and easy to prepare and execute. 

There are however two key ingredients you must use to get a pretty authentic Ajiaco. They are guascas and papa criolla. Both are now readily available in any good Colombian or Latin American retailer. I.e. any shop near to Seven Sisters and that pink monstrosity in Elephant and Castle. Or as we recently found out some shops on Blackstock Road near to Finsbury Park as well.

The papa criolla are needed as when they cook they dissolve and give the soup its traditional yellow colour. Guasca is needed for the taste.
You can do most of this well in advance and a day of mixing those flavours together will do it no harm at all.

Ingredients for 4 (kind of)

1 Chicken breast
4 chicken thighs
Several pounds of as many different types of potatoes as you can get
2 ears of corn, cut in half
2 handfuls of guascas
Chicken stock or water

To serve with

Double cream or crème fraîche
Cooked rice
A banana each
Slices of avocado if you are so inclined. I am not.


  1. Get a frying pan pretty hot and add some oil. Add the chicken thighs and crisp up the skin. Pop in the oven to finish cooking. This is better this way, as most people put the thighs in the soup to cook and the skin goes soggy. Not nice. Keep warm.
  2. Bring the water or stock up to a simmer. Add the chicken breast and a handful of the guascas. Simmer till the breast is cooked.
  3. Remove chicken breast. Set aside. Once cooled, shred.
  4. Add the potatoes and corn to the pot. Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the corn and potatoes are cooked.
  5. Remove some of the potatoes and mash with a fork. Add back to the pot to thicken. Add the rest of the guascas.
  6. Add the shredded chicken breast back to the pot to warm through. Season.
  7. Place one chicken thigh, ½ an ear of corn, and several good ladles of the soup into bowls.

Serve the rice, banana, capers and cream separately, you can then add or not add as you wish to your soup. I like to add a bit at a time so I have the soup with bits of cream and capers but not all the time. When you order Ajiaco in a restaurant in Colombia, the cream and capers are added on top just before service.
Don’t ask me why the banana with a soup. I don’t know. But it does work. I prefer to eat mine separately, but some people mix it in with the soup.
Slices of avocado are generally eaten with most Colombian meals, not only soups. I am not keen on this green mushy mess, but if you want to then this is up to you.
Enjoy this wonderful warming and hearty soup in these dark cold days. 


catty said...

Colombian or wherever they're from, these look delicious! Happy new year! x

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe, I had this in Colombia and could not wait to try it out myself and I can't think of anything you missed out - not even the banana!

Mzungu said...

Catty - They are really delish .....

Anom - The banana is an essential part of most Colombian soups

Bryce Canyon Inn said...

Thanks for the post. There are several things I need to know about this delicious dish.

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