Growing up in a Chilean family, I got treated to a lot of things that my friends didn’t. I didn’t realise this until I invited Katrina over to my grandmother’s to celebrate Chilean Independence Day back in high school. I figured that most things had an Australian equivalent. They did not.

In honour of this Chilean upbringing, I’m bringing you two recipes today: sopaipillas and pebre. In my mind, there is nothing better than this combination, though they’re equally delicious apart.

Sopaipillas are little pumpkin pastries. They’re deep fried and delightfully greasy on your fingers. Going to Nana’s after school, we were frequently scolded for racing around her immaculate house with our sopaipillas clutched in paper towels. “Don’t get grease on the walls!” If you’re not a huge fan of pumpkin, don’t worry – I wasn’t as a child, but you can hardly taste the pumpkin in it.

You’ll need:

1 cup cooked pumpkin, passed through a sieve

2-3 cups of self-raising flour (you’ll use more or less depending on how sticky your dough is)

2 tablespoons of melted butter

Salt

Vegetable oil, for frying

 

Firstly, put your pumpkin, 2 cups of flour, yeast, butter and salt in a bowl. Mix it all together, and knead until the dough comes together. If your dough is too sticky (as in, it’s all over your hands and not going into a nice ball), add some more flour.

When the dough has been kneaded completely and is in a nice ball, grab your rolling pin. On a floured surface, roll the dough out until it’s about 1cm thick. Grab a pastry cutter (or a knife if you’ve got my Nana’s skills!) and cut circles from the mix. You should get about 30, depending on how large you’ve cut your circles. Prick the centres with a fork.

Time to fry these up – fill a deep pan or wok with oil, about ¾ full. (You can re-use this oil later for other frying adventures.) Place it over a medium heat. You’ll know it’s ready to take the sopaipillas when you throw a bit of dough in and it instantly sizzles. Fry until golden brown, turning as they cook. When you pull them out, sit them on paper towel to rest for a little while (but don’t let them go too cold! They’re perfect when they’re warm).

And now, for part two – pebre.

Pebre is a salsa. No, not like the salsa that you buy in jars from Woolies, but your typical South American tomato-and-onion creation. Imagine bruschetta – it’s that sort of consistency! Oddly enough, my Australian mother is the one who’s asked to make this for every gathering. Hers is definitely the best I’ve tried.

You’ll need:

2 tomatoes

1 medium-sized onion (brown or Spanish, doesn’t matter – just depends how spicy you’d like it!)

Chopped coriander (I usually use a couple of sprigs)

Lemon juice, to taste

Salt, to taste

Oil, to taste

Optional: 1 long chilli, chopped finely

 

If you want this to be truly Chilean, you’ve got to peel your tomatoes. Don’t blanch them to get the skins off! You can use a knife, or if you’re fond of your fingers as I am, make a cross in the top of the tomato, and use a peeler. Dice them up. You want them to have a bit of texture, so don’t chop too finely.

Peel and dice your onion. If you’d rather have the taste without the zing, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, running them under cold water immediately after you’ve blanched. You don’t want them to keep cooking, or they’ll turn mushy.

Mix the two together with your coriander (and your chilli, if you want it). Now comes the fun part – taste testing! Put a bit of lemon, salt and oil in – better to start off with not enough than too much – and work until it’s the taste you want.

I’m getting hungry just thinking about this.

Anyway, if you don’t want to put the pebre with your sopaipillas, variation time! Sopaipillas work amazingly with caramel. In Chile, it’s called manjar; I believe it’s called dulce de leche over here if you get the South American style caramel. You can make it yourself by boiling condensed milk, but seeing as I’ve found it in most delis in Brisbane, give that a shot. Pennisi’s at Woolloongabba has just about everything, including that. Love that place.

Pebre works brilliantly on fresh sliced baguettes, or as an accompaniment to steak and rice.

I hope that satisfies all of you for now – eat it while listening to some salsa music for the complete experience!

Tash Pavez