Food for Thought by Camino

Steamed Nettle & Goat Cheese Pupusas

 

This month's recipe offers a chance to use two seasonal items available on the island during this part of the season: Leaf fat from island raised pork and nettles. The pork fat can be used to fry them and you can also incorporate a small amount of the fat into the dough for more flavour. Nettles are abundant throughout the island at this time of year. If you have never picked them before, be aware that gloves and a long-sleeved shirt and pants are a good idea. They can sting your bare skin. Once steamed they are no longer an irritant.

 

Pupusas are a kind of pan-fried self-contained masa harina stuffed pancake from El Salvador. I’ve made many different kinds while working in a Central and South American restaurant. This recipe focuses on the dough and a simple filling. Traditional fillings are usually just cheese, beans and cheese or pork paired with a topping of curtido, a mixture of cabbage, carrots and oregano covered with vinegar, sugar and salt to pickle and or ferment it.

 

Ingredients:
 

  • Dough
    4 cups masa harina
    1 teaspoon of salt     
    3 cups warm water         
    Leaf fat (vegetable oil is an option)

 

  • Filling
    1 large bowl of steamed nettle leaves, chopped and squeezed as dry as possible. Combine with 2 cups crumbled goat cheese, season with your favorite spices for more flavour. Cumin, pepper, oregano or paprika are all good combinations.

 

Method:

 

Combine the masa, water and salt in a large bowl. Knead until it comes together and is smooth. Add a little more water if too dry or a little more masa if it becomes too moist. Apply a small amount of oil or fat to your hands if the dough is hard to handle.

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a cloth and let it rest for ten minutes.

3. Shape into fist sized balls and press them flat with your palm on your cutting board. Add a tablespoon of the nettle cheese mixture to the center. Push the side of the discs around the filling and wrap the filling around them completely. Make sure is well sealed. Then press them slightly again into discs. The thinner they are the easier they will be to cook. Experiment until you find the thickness that comes out the way you like it.

 

4. Lightly fry them in a heavy pan with your choice of fat or oil. Flip them once the first side is golden brown and repeat. Take your time, if your pan is too hot, they will look ready but be raw inside. Serve    immediately.

 

Simple Curtido:

 

Combine 1 thinly sliced onion, 1 jalapeño, 2 carrots, 2 green onions and ¼ of a cabbage in a shallow bowl. Whisk ½ cup of water, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano together and toss the vegetables until well coated. Let them sit for at least a half hour and serve or refrigerate for up to a week. Note that you can make a fermented version in a canning jar and it will last longer.

The possibilities of toppings and fillings are endless with this dish and making them is a lot of fun for the whole family!

 

Have a great time in the kitchen.  See you in May,

Camino

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