2011-12-02

Volunteers become "master chefs" cooking as Argentines

Written by Alexia Arts and Andrew Furness
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On Tuesday and Wednesday this week the Community Centre, ‘los Pibes’, in la Boca organized two fantastic workshops. The first was learning how to make ‘medialunas’ and the second ‘empanadas’. I (Alexia) attended the ‘medialuna’ workshop and was once again stuck by the positive atmosphere of the community centre. We arrived and, as always, were warmly greeted by everyone whilst the children eagerly showed us a dance routine they had been practicing all afternoon. Johan offered a tour of the centre for those who wanted it and then we got down to business.   Voluntario Global’s own volunteers, Isabelle and Louisa, along with the cooks, Julia and Natalia, were waiting for us in the kitchen with everything prepared. We were taught how to make the dough from scratch. This was actually more difficult than I expected as it needs to be kneaded in a very specific way, with the butter being folded into the middle at the very end to create layers.   The hardest part though was making the perfect 'medialuna' shape. Julia demonstrated (making it look very simple!) by forming several perfect, evenly sized croissants in about thirty seconds.We eagerly followed suit only to be left with various odd looking ‘medialunas’! However, practice makes perfect and by the end we had fortunately improved somewhat as shown here by Lisa’s work of art..  They were then all placed on baking trays, brushed with a light layer of raw egg and left at room temperature for half an hour before being baked in the oven.  At the end we were allowed to taste and take some of our concoctions home and as one volunteer put it, “these are the best ‘medialunas’ I’ve ever had!”  

Follow Isabelle’s recipe in the article below if you want to impress your friends and family with this typical Argentine pastry at home! The next day brought the turn of me (Andrew) to learn the skills of empanada making. This is one of my favourite Argentinean treats and clearly this sentiment is not uncommon as there was a turn-out of more than 10 people (many not part of Voluntario Global) for the class. Again, the afternoon started with a tour of the centre, of which there are some photos below, showing us the areas used for such initiatives as: a boxing centre, wall murals, after school support, computer literacy lessons and even a local radio station!             After this the real event started. Gathering around the table in the large ‘cocina’ we were given a very professional example of how to roll out our dough before taking it to ourselves and leaving the centre staff in doubt as to whether foreigners knew what ‘a circle’ was. When we had prepared ample amounts of pastry they let us loose on the ‘rellenos’ including potatoes, chicken, beef, onions and eggs. All were chopped and seasoned (largely with cumin and chilli) before being cooked in order to be ‘ready-to-use’. It was particularly interesting to see how chicken stock was used to wet the dough and to cook the potatoes in to give a rich and non-vegetarian friendly taste. The group then filled the pre-prepared pastries and dug into the left-over mixture like pigs to a trough (speaking personally anyway)! Our finished results looked like this...         .... and tasted even better!    We would really like to thank the very friendly and talented team at Los Pibes community centre for the time and effort in giving us these enjoyable days. Keep up the great work you do in La Boca as an example for all of Argentina!  

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