Saturday, November 26, 2011


Bolivia is a landlocked country smack bang in the middle of South America. It is the poorest nation on the continent, but it attracts thousands of thrill-seeking young backpackers each year. Backpackers to Bolivia are recognised by their alpaca beanie with earflaps, they take cocaine with prisoners in San Pedro prison, and they enjoy such activities as mountain biking the 'death road' in La Paz, and setting-off explosives in the silver mines of Potosi (compare backpackers to Australia who are recognised by their 3rd degree sunburn, they drink in English/ Irish pubs, and they enjoy such activities as a climbing the harbour bridge and patting kangaroos). As you can imagine, Bolivia is a Mecca for a different type of tourist.

Unfortunately for me, the first time I attempted to enter Bolivia I discovered that my passport was missing. Of course I immediately blamed the earless noseless Peruvian man that I had run into during Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria: an 18 day festival that involves legions of 'diablos' dancing and drumming their way through the streets of Puno 24 hours a day. The reality of the situation was far less sinister - I had left my passport on a boat. The moral of the story: Don't judge a book by it's cover (or lack thereof). I eventually did make it to Bolivia, but much to my dismay (and no doubt my parents delight) I didn't have time to visit San Pedro prison, mountain bike the death road, or set off dynamite in Potosi. It was difficult to get a grasp on the Bolivian people being there for such a short time, but one thing I noticed is that the South American revolutionary spirit is still alive and well in modern Bolivians.

Bolivia is in fact named after the South American Libertadores, Simon Bolivar, who led revolutions against the Spanish right across the continent. Further to this, Bolivians have a deep love of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, another well known revolutionary (although ironically it was the Bolivian army who assassinated him on orders from the CIA). They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than struggling to articulate the Bolivian guerilla psyche, I will show you a statue that is proudly displayed in the centre of a Bolivian town we stopped at. 

That is a Bolivian freedom fighter guzzling blood from the heart of a slain Spanish soldier. Of the aforementioned backpackers, you will not be surprised to hear that very few of them are Spanish. 

It is not just the revolutionaries that have a taste for human flesh. I read an article recently that described a Bolivian man committing suicide by throwing himself to a school of hungry pirañas. We were told that the flesh eating fish are harmless to humans (this was while fishing for them with chunks of raw beef in neck deep water). Turns out our local guide was wrong!

Thankfully the cuisine that is more commonly presented on Bolivian tables is far less gruesome, and infinitely more delicious. I cooked this meal when my other half was away and it is the perfect bachelor feast.



1 Cup White rice
3 Waxy variety potatoes
1 Green capsicum, diced
1/2 Red onion, diced
1 Tomato, diced
1 Fried Egg
2 Tsp Vinegar
2 Tsp Oil
500g ground beef
3/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
4 Jalapenos
2 Tomatoes, cut into wedges
16 quilquina leaves (substitute with coriander)
Sunflower or Canola oil


Boil potatoes for 5-10 minutes until cooked half way through. At the same time cook rice as you normally would.

Massage reasonable amount of salt and pepper into beef with hands. Separate ground beef into 4 balls. Put the breadcrumbs in a pile on cutting board. Flatten each ball and press both sides into ground beef. Roll with a rolling pin on top of breadcrumbs sprinkled with more fresh pepper. Flip over beef patty and roll again. Continue rolling and flipping until the beef is the thinness of a crepe.

Drain potatoes, then slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Sauté in batches (without touching) on medium - high with 1 Tbsp oil. Cool on paper towels.

Cook beef patties in turn, and stack on a fresh plate when cooked. At the same time, fry four eggs and leave yolk runny. 

For the final topping combine diced onion, tomato, and capsicum, and dress in equal parts oil and vinegar, salted generously.

On each plate, put a scoop of rice in the center. Decorate the rim with five potatoes spaced evenly. Put the beef on top of the rice - the potatoes should be poking out from underneath. Put egg on top of beef, and the the colorful salad on top of the egg. Garnish with quilquina leaves or coriander and serve with hot sauce.

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