Back in January Rudy marked his 1000th post with a pic of pacaya cooked in egg batter and duly polled readers for their interest in a series on comidas envueltas en huevo. There did seem to be some enthusiasm for this at the time, so I thought I’d relate here how my wife and I cooked up some ejotes envueltos for lunch recently.
This light vegetarian treat is very easy to prepare, especially if you possess an electric whisk. (Unfortunately ours appears to have gone AWOL.)
It’s also a very typical local dish. We were inspired to make ours after being served it up by some Guatemalan friends just a few days earlier — though our version has one or two Mediterranean touches.
French beans (ejotes) have been a common sight on Guatemalan tables for generations, but production in the highlands was increased dramatically during the 80s along with that of other so-called non-traditional export crops (NTXs) such as sugar snap and snow peas, radicchio and baby carrots — thanks largely to the ministrations of external development agencies.
Start by boiling or steaming some thin French beans; just enough to soften them up. Then whisk up the whites of several eggs — we used three for our pound of ejotes.
After about ten minutes your arm will be sore and your egg whites will have have fluffed up such that you can hold the bowl upside down over your head with some confidence.
Now add the yolks and stir very gently with a fork until the colour and texture of the mixture are consistent. Add some salt and pepper according to taste.
At this stage you need to decide how messy you want your hands to get. The authentic Guatemalan chef will have pinched the ends off the beans and organised them into little piles, consisting of approximately ten of roughly equal length. These will be picked up individually and manually dunked into the egg mix and thereafter deposited immediately into a lightly-oiled frying pan.
Alternatively, you can place your bean maletitas on a separate plate and use a spoon to cover them. This is how we did it. We also used olive oil and as some of the egg mixture was left over, we dipped a sliced salad tomato into it and slipped that into the pan as well. (Onions and cauliflower can be treated similarly.)
Our egg-wrapped beans were flipped over once and removed from the heat as soon as they had begun to brown. Meanwhile, we had put a pound of plain white rice in a bowl with water and heated it in the microwave for ten minutes. After that we took it out, stirred it, added olive oil and some of the water left over from warming the beans, and then returned it to the microondas for another six minutes.
We then made a sauce by lightly frying some finely-chopped plum tomatoes, red peppers and white onions, before liquidising them with the rest of the ejote-infused water. We also tossed in some torn basil leaves. (Most of the basil — albahaca — I’ve found here ‘in the field’ tends to be the pungent purple-stemmed variety. I haven’t found many Guatemalans who like cooking with it.)
The ejotes envueltos, the rice and the sauce were then united on the plate, as pictured. The final touch was a sprinkling of an admittedly rather Old World condiment,(Spanish smoky paprika) — it’s a spice that goes down a real treat with many traditional Guatemalan snacks, most notably fried plantains. I even sneak a little into in my frijoles.
text and photo by Guy Howard.
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