Colombian Ajiaco

Ingredients

  • approx. 2 kg (4 lb) free-range or organic chicken
  • 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • a handful of coriander sprigs
  • 3 litres (5 pints) water
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) soft-cooking potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) firm potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 500 g (1 lb) small waxy salad potatoes, scrubbed and halved, or left whole if small bunch of watercress, leaves only
  • 3 or 4 ears of sweetcorn
  • fresh green or red chilli, or crushed dried chillies to taste
  • salt to taste
  • fresh coriander

Method

Rinse and dry the chicken, and remove any cavity fat. Put the bird in a large saucepan with the onion, coriander stalks and water. Add more water if necessary, to cover the chicken. Bring to the boil, remove any scum from the surface, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the soft-cooking potatoes, and cook for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the coriander and onion and discard. Take out the chicken, and put to one side.

Put in the rest of the potatoes, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the first batch is quite soft enough for you to break up with a fork and the other two kinds of potato are still firm but cooked. Meanwhile, remove the meat from the chicken carcass. Add the chilli and watercress to the pan with the corn cobs, each cut into three or four pieces, plus the salt, and bring to the boil. Put in the chicken meat, and simmer for about 5 minutes until the corn is tender. Stir in the fresh coriander, ladle into deep soup bowls, and serve very hot.

The traditional accompaniments for ajiaco, served in separate bowls for each to help themselves, are: thick yoghurt or cream, capers, chopped parsley and aji (a hot sauce of finely chopped spring onion or leek, tomato, fresh chillies and fresh coriander leaves, mixed with lime juice or vinegar). Each person is also served half an avocado, peeled and sliced on to a side plate.

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