Food has always been a huge part of my life, and when I decided to come to Argentina, just one word came to mind: empanadas. No stranger to the kitchen but a novice in Argentine fare, I decided it was time to strap on an apron and finally learn just how they make those little pockets of heaven.
Familiar with several Argentine cooking classes that were geared for tourists, I decided I wanted a more authentic experience. Enter Norma Soued, a delightfully pleasant Argentine psychotherapist who sees cooking as an inexpensive (and more enjoyable!) version of therapy.
“I feel that cooking gives people an instant gratification: You cook and you enjoy it, and then you eat and you enjoy it! In therapy, it takes a bit more time!” said Norma. She began giving the cooking classes out of her home in Belgrano a little over a year ago.
Originally, she wanted the classes to be centered around middle eastern cuisine; having middle eastern roots, she thought many locals may be interested in learning how to make hummus and babaganoush. However, when Norma’s clientele began to grow, the majority tourists begging her to teach them how to make empanadas, Norma realized she needed to make the switch.
“I realized that this isn’t just a cooking class, it’s a way of transmitting Argentine culture. You’re cooking in a porteño kitchen, in a porteño house, and it’s an experience that you can take home with you.” And literally, you can: the class includes your very own recipe booklet, with traditional Argentine edibles like humita and budin de pan.
When I first arrived at Norma’s home, she welcomed my fellow classmates and I with open arms. She introduced herself and told us a bit about her experience with cooking and sharing it with others. Then, she handed us each an apron and it was time to get to work. On the menu was a sumptuous locro, an chunky Argentine stew that’s perfect for cold winter days. Of course, a meal in Argentina isn’t complete without empanadas and alfajores, the piéce de résistance to a hearty meal.
The locro was nothing but traditional, with ingredients like white beans, corn, squash, chorizo and tomato sauce.
The empanadas, however, were somewhat varied from the usual: we coated the meat with tomato sauce, and added hard-boiled egg, diced peppers and onions, olives and raisins—yes, raisins—which proved to be the perfect touch. We wrapped up the filling in our empanada shells and learned the art of the “twist”: the essential manoeuvre to wrap an empanada correctly.
We prepared the alfajor dough from scratch and filled the fluffy cookies with the infamous dulce de leche, which Norma recommends you buy fresh from the reposteria. Finally, we were ready to eat: we enjoyed our meal with a glass of vino tinto and reveled in our obvious culinary talents.
“I love to teach and I think learning how to cook Argentine foods is a great way to take a piece of the culture home with you,” said Norma. “You can surprise friends at home when you invite them for empanadas and alfajores!”
Classes are ARS$60 per person, and are held on Saturdays from 11am to 2pm at Norma’s home in Belgrano. The class includes a recipe booklet and lunch with wine. For more information or to sign up, email Norma at [email protected]. Buen provecho!