Ajiaco is a chicken and potato soup, and a regional variation on the better-known sancocho. It originates from Colombia’s capital, Bogota, in the Altiplano region of the country. This region lies 2,600 meters above sea level, making a warming winter broth a suitable local favourite. The key ingredient in the soup is guasca, a herb only produced in the area from which ajiaco originates. It is this herb that gives the dish its distinct flavour.
2 chicken breasts
3 cloves of garlic
2 red onions
salt to taste
2 litres of chicken stock
12 small yellow potatoes (also known as papa amarilla, yellow potatoes can be found in london in South American shops in Brixton, Elephant and Castle and Seven Sisters)
2 corn cobs, cut in half
4 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm slices (new potatoes or jersey royals are ideal)
4 purple potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm slices (also known as truffle black potatoes, purple potatoes can be found in the supermarket. Red potatoes can be used instead, as they also retain their shape when cooked)
1 bunch of spring onions
1 bunch of coriander
8 tablespoons of guasca (this herb can be found dried in Brixton, Elephant and Castle and Seven Sisters; soak the dried herbs in water before use to get a more aromatic flavour)
250 ml of double cream or sour cream
4 tablespoons of capers, drained
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
First, marinade the chicken breasts with the salt, onions and garlic and leave over night.
The next day, place the chicken breasts into a heavy 4-litre casserole dish. Add water, cover the dish and cook until the chicken is tender. When cooked, remove the chicken from the dish. Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Cut the chicken into strips.
Cook the yellow potatoes in the casserole dish with the chicken stock, until the potatoes start to disintegrate. At this point the soup should be thick and fairly smooth.
Add the spring onion, coriander, sliced white and purple potatoes, guasca and corn halves to the soup, and continue cooking.
When cooked, remove the bunches of spring onions and coriander.
To serve, divide the chicken strips between four deep bowls and pour over the soup. Dress each bowl with 3 tablespoons of cream and 1 tablespoon of chopped capers. Place the slices of avocado over the top, and serve.
In the Altiplano, there is less variety in the crops available than in Colombia’s warmer regions. Consequently, whereas sancocho is made with a variety of different vegetables and tubers, the recipe for ajiaco typically uses three or four different types of potato, with each providing different tastes and textures.
(Chicken and potato soup from Bogota)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour