September 19, 2006

Venezuelan Hallaquitas

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This is a Venezuelan delicacy, hallaquitas or hallacas are usually eaten during the Christmas season. It is like tamale but the meat filling is so much different, it is more like the Filipino/Spanish pastel but encased in corn meal instead of pie shell. Like the Filipinos, Venezuelans also use banana leaves, not corn husk. I was given these bundles maybe 5 years ago around Christmas time by a Venezuelan couple friends. The wife told me they make it only on special occasions. I love it and had made it once, this is just the second time I made them. This delicious treat reminds me of the Philippines, both the banana leaves and the filling.

Meat filling: ½ pound each diced lean beef and boneless skinless chicken breast, 1 small can sliced vienna sausage, 1 cup raisins, ½ cup each diced tomatoes, red bell peppers, potatoes and carrots, 1 diced chorizo, ½ cup each chopped black or green olives and capers, 1 chopped onion, 5 chopped garlic cloves, 1 cup sherry, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil, add onions and garlic, saute for 2 minutes, add meats, saute for 5 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients, simmer for 30 minutes, making sure the stew does not dry out completely. It should have a little bit of sauce. Let cool completely before filling cornmeal.

Cornmeal: Mix 3 ½ cups lukewarm chicken broth, 2 cups of PAN cornmeal (this is the only brand that I use as do the Venezuelans I know in my area), 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix well.

To assemble: You should have plenty of rectangular banana leaves already cleaned. Tear thin pieces for tying the bundles. Place about 2 -3 tablespoons of cornmeal mixture in the middle of leaves, spread into an oval. Spoon the meat in the middle of the corn, gather leaves towards the center, fold then fold both ends. Take another leaf and repeat, tie loosely at both long ends, each bundle should have 2 leaves to ensure filling and corn do not come out while boiling. Boil a large pot of water, submerge all the bundles and simmer for 20 minutes.


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