The folk at Santa Maria sent me over a lovely package of products to try. I am new to the world of Latin American cuisine, but with my interest in Mexican cooking it seemed like a natural step in my culinary curiosity. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all the sauces, rice and seasoning so I got creative and did some reading about what sort of vegetable side dishes one might find on a table in Cuba, Brazil, Peru, Chile or Argentina.
Turns out it’s a cuisine that is not huge on green vegetables, well, not the kind that I can readily get my hands on. My research turned up a lot of plantain recipes and plenty of corn to go along with a cuisine that is rich in beans, rice and meat. I decided to go with simple corn on the cob, a green salad tossed in Ranch dressing and some beans. Take no notice of the spring rolls, they’re a go-to for my youngest son who can be a very picky eater. I don’t know what nationality my beans ended up being most akin to, as I read up about Columbian and Peruvian recipes but I think it’s safe to say that, like a bolognaise, everyone has their own bean recipe and like a magpie I picked the bits from a few different ones that I liked and came up with something pretty nice.
From the Santa Maria range we feasted on sirloins seasoned with Argentinian-spiced rub, that we sliced and gobbled up before you could say ole! Inspired by the famous Argentinian barbacoa (or ‘asado’) the seasoning is super smokey , flavoursome, not too spicy and would make an ideal filling for tortillas, shredded iceberg, guacamole and salsa. I rubbed sirloin steaks with the seasoning and a little bit of oil, let it sit in a zip-lock bag for a few hours and fried it up in a smoking hot pan just before serving.
We also tried the Brazilian XinXim Peanut Sauce, cooked up with chicken breast which was a lot more zesty than I expected, but fresh and light and perfect with rice. Instead of cooking up the Caribbean Pineapple and Chilli Sticky sauce in the same recommended way, I used the sauce to marinade some chicken thighs, baking them until they were falling off the bone, caramelised and sticky. This was a hit with the kids.
I don’t know if I’d recommend the pre-cooked rices as they didn’t have as much flavour as I expected, but they go nicely with the saucy dishes and are perfect for people who aren’t confident to cook/steam rice or don’t have the time or ingredients to whip some up on their own. The packet is microwave safe, so all you have to do is heat and eat.
While not all of the entire product range takes my fancy, it is a whole new world of taste and we had such fun trying out all the different flavours and textures. My youngest son and fussiest eater had the best time of anyone and felt very courageous having tried all the dishes. It’s not a cuisine we know much about, so it was great to take baby steps with the Santa Maria range. Served up on colourful plates with corn, beans, tortillas, garnished with wedges of lime and coriander, you can take your family on a culinary journey with very little effort at all.