Argentina is a montage of many memories for me; the most however are from the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
One of the quarter-finals that year was between England and Argentina and the tension between the countries and the supporters was electric, in part due to previous intense rivalry, but mainly because of the Falklands conflict that had occurred 4 years previously between the two countries. I remember watching on the television at home as a young teenager and just sensing the feeling in the stadium. The game itself was nothing short of sensational and mostly due to the maestro that was Maradonna. He was one of the most gifted footballers ever to live, but most English supporters will remember him for ‘the hand of God’ – the infamous goal where supposedly a 5’5″ player (Maradonna) out-jumped a goalkeeper (Peter Shilton) of 6’1″ to ‘head’ the ball in to the net – one of most glaring mistakes by a referee at a World Cup. On the other hand, not long after this incident, was the sublime goal he scored, beating 5 or 6 England players to score what I think is the best World Cup goal ever scored in my lifetime. This made it 2-0 and England was dead and buried. But the World Cup wouldn’t be the World Cup without any drama and England started to press Argentina and got a goal back late on through Gary Lineker (who won the Golden Boot for top scorer). I remember shaking on the edge of the sofa willing England to equalise, and they nearly did right at the end when a cross came over and, I think it was, John Barnes headed just wide of the goal. Argentina went on to win the game 2-1 and Maradonna continued to dazzle as he almost single-handedly helped Argentina win the World Cup.
In this World Cup, Argentina has their modern day Maradonna in Lionel Messi. Having not previously managed to perform as well for the national side as he does for Barcelona, he is now coming good for them. They beat Switzerland last night in a very tight game and will find it tough against Belgium in the quarter-finals. It should be a belter of a game.
Just as an addendum I saw the current coach of Argentina Alejandro Javier Sabella (known as Alex Sabella) play for my team Leeds United in the early eighties. So there is a little bit of sentiment there for me.
I have always considered Argentinian cuisine to be about meat; in particular beef. This started the time I once overheard a conversation at an English football match, of all places, where the rather salubrious lady – ok it was in corporate box – said
Oh, I only ever eat steak in Buenos Aires; wouldn’t touch it anywhere else.
I thought it’s ok for some. But in retrospect I have read much about Argentinian cuisine over the years and I have to say beef seems pretty popular. Cows were introduced to Argentina by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century and the favourable conditions meant they bred well and multiplied quickly. Over time the beef market has become part of Argentine culture, often with careful cross breeding of cows to create higher quality beef. Given Argentina is in the Southern hemisphere the export market grew because during the months of the year it was plentiful in Argentina, beef was less on hand in countries in the Northern hemisphere.
I have yet to try steak in Buenos Aires but it is on my bucket list of things to do, for sure. In fact, I have always wanted to go and see some club football in South America, in particular Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. I have therefore saved the beef until I am there and decided to go the Chorizo route for my dish for Argentina. Choripán is as iconic as you will get; grilled chorizo in a fresh French baguette topped with the exciting flavours of chimichurri. This sandwich is a classic at Argentinian football matches, where fans wolf down the choripán at half-time. I decided to go ahead and make my own baguettes just to capture as much freshness and flavour as possible. The chorizo is from my local Latin American deli and is nothing short of amazing – remember to use fresh chorizo and not the cured version.
Serves: 4 | Preparation: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 25 minutes + 2 hours resting
For the baguette:
1½ tsp. Dry active yeast |
½ tsp. White sugar |
50ml Warm water |
500g Plain flour |
2 pinches Sea salt |
300ml Cold water |
For the chimichurri:
2 large Garlic cloves | Roughly chopped.
5 Spring onions | Sliced – white and green parts.
2 handfuls Flat leaf parsley | Roughly torn.
1 handful Coriander | Roughly torn.
½ lime Lime juice |
1 tbsp. Cider vinegar | Or red wine vinegar.
1 pinch Sea salt |
1 pinch Ground black pepper |
130g Grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.
1 medium Ripe tomato | Finely diced.
4 Fresh chorizo sausages | By fresh I mean uncooked (not cured).
1 medium Red onion | Peeled and sliced.
1 tbsp. Grapeseed oil |
For the baguette: To a small bowl add the warm water, yeast and sugar and whisk. Leave to rest for 5 minutes to allow the mix to froth. To a large bowl add the flour and salt and make a well in the middle. Pour in the cold water and yeast mix and using a bowl scraper (or cold hands) incorporate the flour in to the liquid and bring it together as a dough.
Put the sticky dough on to a very lightly floured kitchen surface and using a dough scraper and your hands work the dough until it is smooth and elastic – this takes about 10 minutes. Form the dough in to a ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough in and a place a damp tea towel over the bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
After the hour, remove the dough from the bowl and cut in to two portions. Take the first one and gently form a rectangle. Fold one edge of the rectangle into the middle, and then the other edge in to the middle. Then fold the dough in half along the crease. Now stretch and roll the dough in to a baguette shape, tapering the ends. With a blade or sharp knife slit the top of the baguette diagonally 4 or 5 times and place on some floured baking parchment on a baking sheet. Repeat for the other dough ball. Place the second baguette next to the first on the baking sheet. Cover with a floured tea towel tucking the towel between the baguettes to stop them touching when rising. Leave for an hour in a warm place.
Pre-heat an oven to 230°C (450°F).
For the chimichurri: Add the garlic, spring onions, parsley and coriander to a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the lime juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and oil and process until smooth, but the herbs are not completely puréed.
Put the chimichurri in to a non-reactive bowl and gently mix in the diced tomato. Set aside.
Remove the tea towel from the baguettes. Put the baguettes in the oven and bake for 12-16 minutes, or until browned. To add crispiness to the outer of the baguettes put a bowl (oven-safe) of hot water on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Put a griddle pan on medium to high heat, add the oil and then put in the chorizo and sliced onion. Keep turning the chorizo to ensure even cooking. Keep agitating the onion so it doesn’t burn. Remove from the pan when cooked.
To serve, take a hot baguette, cut it in to two pieces and then cut each lengthways to open them up. Place 1 chorizo sausage in each baguette piece and spoon over some cooked onion and chimichurri. Repeat for the other baguette and chorizos.