Sunday, August 20, 2006

What's in Your Pantry?

Today's post is going to be brief as I have to get ready soon for our celebration, not only our paper anniversary but the joys we are anticipating in the coming years.

I have received a number of emails from readers of this blog in which they asked me where they could track down peanut butter, unsweetened yoghurt, golden syrup etc. in Buenos Aires.

First of all, peanut butter...there are two brands which are manufactured in Argentina. They are sold in some dieteticas (health food shops) and Barrio Chino (China Town) in Belgrano. The texture is very runny due to a high proportion of hydrogenated vegetable oil. In short, you would be spreading no small amount of scary trans-fat on your toast. I wouldn't even want to imagine the scenario of you spooning this kind of peanut butter directly into you mouth.

You may find American style peanut butter at Jumbo in Palermo. Stock goes fast; there must be quite a few expats craving a taste of home in this town. If you get beaten to the gondola (an aisle at the supermarket) by your fellow Americans, don't despair. I had previously named a natural Nutella recipe; and making peanut butter at home is just as easy.

All you need is a cheapo processor, not a blender though. I just use my trusted Braun multi-stick. Process the shelled peanuts on high and watch the natural nut oil come out and form a thick spread. If it is too thick, you can add some sunflower or canola oil to thin it out a little. Some may even like to add a pinch of salt to the nut butter to bring out its flavour; it is all up to individual taste. Now, you can rest, knowing you have a jar of peanut butter far superior in quality than any commercially made ones.

Since Parmalat closed down, it had been difficult to get unsweetened yoghurt. I have been making my own using a tub of Activia natural yoghurt to 450ml full fat milk. It is a simple process: just boil the milk and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Let the boiled milk cool to blood heat, then strain the skin and solids with a sieve or a tea strainer. Now whisk the yoghurt, in a bowl, until smooth. Add a few spoonful of milk and whisk to combine. Then gradually add the remaining milk, keep whisking until well combined. Pour the mixture into a thermo flask. Let the flask sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours (the longer it is left out, the more sour the taste), you then have a pot of natural yoghurt. Store the flask in the fridge thereafter.

However, there is a much easier way thanks to Barbara of Barrio Norte. Plain, unsweetened yoghurt can be found at a panadería called Damasco, on Scalabrini Ortiz 1283. Telephone is 4773-2146. You have to specify that you want the liquid yogurt; otherwise they might sell you the labneh. Labneh is Middle Eastern yoghurt, very thick in texture, commonly used in cooking.

English golden syrup, on the other hand, is even more elusive than American style peanut butter. I have only seen it once at Jumbo. I must admit, I generally try to avoid recipes with golden syrup or black treacle because I cannot find those signature Lyle's tins here. I have found that Argentine molasses, sold in some dieteticas, can be used in place of treacle. If it is the lighter golden syrup you are after, the closest substitute is the Chinese molasses, sold in plastic tubs at Asia Oriental, Mendoza 1677. It is dark blonde in colour, made from wheat. I have found that the texture is only slightly thicker than normal golden syrup so I don't need to adjust my recipes.

That's all for today folks! Have a good day shopping!

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