One of my favorite Colombian dishes is Ajiaco Santafereño, also known as Ajiaco Bogotano. As you can tell, the soup is named after the country’s capital, Santa Fe de Bogota.
Although it’s originally from Bogota, you can find it served throughout the country. In Medellin, try Ajiacos y Mondongos, though the version I’ve had on my visits to Bogota remains tops in my book.
When I mentioned my love of this hearty soup to Viviana, she responded that it was one she knew how to cook, so we set up a date to teach me how to cook ajiaco.
The first step was her procurement of the recipe…from her grandmother, which made this process all the more fun.
If you prefer a recipe in English, I recommend the one at My Colombian Recipes.
The key ingredients for an authentic ajiaco are the papa criollas (potatoes), and the guasca herb.
Viviana’s family recipe didn’t mention guasca, but having researched it online, I made sure we picked up a bag of it at the supermarket.
Additional ingredients include two other types of potato (papa nevada and papa capira), tomatoes, green onion (scallions), garlic, corn on the cob, avocado, chicken breasts, heavy cream, salt, and pepper.
You can see everything in the photo above, including far too many potatoes!
[Note: When it comes to cooking a nice meal, I prefer to shop at Carulla.]
Since we bought the chicken breasts on the bone, the first step was to boil and cook the chicken.
We boiled water in the pressure cooker, and then added the whole chicken, along with tomato, onion, garlic, and some salt.
While the chicken was cooking, I was tasked with trying to break the corn cobs into smaller pieces.
I quickly learned that it’s a difficult task to try to slice your way through a corn cob with a large kitchen knife.
Ultimately, I managed to use a combination of the knife to cut a shallow mark, and then my hands to split the cob. It’d be a lot easier safer if you could just buy them pre-cut.
Once the chicken was cooked, we removed it from the pot, and I began shredding the meat off the bone, first with a fork, and then once it was cooler, my fingers.
It’s the tender, juicy, white shredded chicken breast meat that was going to make this soup worth eating.
And the avocado. Mmm, avocado.
Next, we put the potatoes and corn in the pressure cooker, and cooked for at least 10 minutes.
I have an irrational fear of pressure cookers, despite my roommate Wilson using one regularly.
They’re helpful for cooking at higher altitudes, but they make such a loud hissing noise when letting off steam , I’m convinced they’re going to explode.
In the photo above, you can see Viviana lifting the little cap to release the built-up steam.
Finally, once the potatoes and corn are cooked, you can pour some of the soup into bowls, add a healthy handful of the shredded chicken, and top it off with a drizzel of heavy cream.
Traditionally, the recipe includes capers, but neither of us like them so we left them out.
When brought to the table, a side dish of white rice and sliced avocado is also provided. I throw both into the bowl as well, before devouring it all.