My goal when we set out on this journey was to have a local in each country teach me how to cook a local dish. How hard could that be, right? There are people just like me everywhere, who enjoy cooking and would be thrilled to share that part of their culture with someone else.
Actually, it hasn’t been easy. We were only in Guatemala for a few days, so I didn’t really make the time to work on it. Honestly, I didn’t love the food in Nicaragua, so didn’t make it a priority. And then the food we experienced in Panama was mostly international. So once we landed in Colombia, I made a vow that I would add a dish to my repertoire. And just as we were reaching the end of the trip, the perfect opportunity presented itself.
Tino, the owner of our hostel in Cartagena – Santo Domingo Vidal – tells me that he trained and practiced as a chef in Australia for five years. JACKPOT! I asked him what his favorite dish is, and told him that I’d buy the ingredients if he’d help me refine the recipe and walk me through the process.
The resulting dish – Cazuela de Mariscos – was a rich and flavorful seafood stew, prepared with tomato, onion, celery and a splash of coconut milk. I’d say it sits in between an Italian cioppino and a Thai curry. Either way, super delicious and incredibly easy to make.
For some reason, fresh seafood was difficult to find in Cartagena, so I caved and bought a pack of frozen Cazuela de Mariscos seafood mix at the store. It was annoying, but it ended up fine. Next time, I’ll use fresh. I would also finely dice some onion, bell pepper and celery and hold it until after blending the base, to add back in for some texture.
- (2) White Onions, roughly chopped*
- (1) Red Bell Pepper, roughly chopped*
- (4) stalks Celery, roughly chopped*
- (6) Roma Tomatoes, roughly chopped*
- (3) cloves Garlic, minced
- (1) tbsp Tomato Paste
- (1) Fish Stock bouillon**
- (1/2) pound prawns
- (1/3) cup mixed seafood
- (1/2) cup shrimp
- (1) cup White Wine
- (1/2) 13.5 oz can Coconut Milk
- (4) tbsp Olive Oil
- salt & pepper to taste
*Because the base is blended, the onion, bell pepper, celery and tomato don’t need to be uniform. Just chopped enough to cook through.
**Feel free to substitute fresh or canned fish stock in place of water ad bouillon.
- Fresh Cilantro
- Use a stock pot – set stove heat to medium and add (2) tbsp olive oil.
- Add chopped onions and sautee until starting to caramelize – around 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add Bell Pepper and Celery. Sautee for another 5 minutes, then add garlic and stir.
- Add Tomato Paste and cook for just a few minutes.
- Add Roma Tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until they begin to soften.
- Add water to cover vegetables and add Fish Stock bouillon cube
- Simmer for 20 minutes, then pull from heat and cool to room temperature-ish. When cooled, blend in a blender and put aside.
- In the same stock pot, add (2) more tbsp olive oil.
- Add seafood and sautee for a a few minutes.
- Deglaze with cup of White Wine and cook for 3-5 minutes, until alcohol dissipates.
- Add blended vegetable sauce back in and bring to a simmer
- Add coconut milk and let simmer for 30 minutes
- Garnish with cilantro and avocado and serve. Can be served alongside white rice.
I of course fed anyone who was at the hostel, mostly Colombians, who all said that it tasted like what they grew up with. The receptionist even took some home to her mother, who sent back her stamp of approval. Whether it tastes 100% authentic or not, it was really really tasty, and I’ll be making it again soon.