Hallacas Caraqueñas: a Venezuelan Christmas tradition
Hallacas originated in Venezuela during colonial times. It is a dish that has evolved into several regional versions in the country, and apparently owes its making to the church, who’s catholic priests requested gratitude towards the indigenous people and slaves from the Spanish colonisers during Christmas more than 500 years ago. In response to the demand of the clergy, plantation owners handed out Christmas food scraps and hence, Hallacas have olives, nuts, raisins and capers, ingredients autochthonous to Europe. Hallacas are in essence an aromatic sweet and spicy stew encased in a corn dough wrapped in banana leaves. An invention made from scraps, on an ingenious plate, and love of for food.
There are many recipes for Hallacas that can easily be found on a search. As a ground recipe, I follow Armando Scannone’s, from -Mi Cocina-, a fabulous book that documents traditional Venezuelan cuisine. The main variations that I have worked into my Hallacas are: Olive oil replaces lard in all instances and I add cumin to the stew. I also up the spice and flavour accents, for instance with the vinegar, chillies and mustard. As it is difficult to find raw sugar cane outside of the Americas, when in need, I use brown unrefined sugar.
In the photographs: Hallacas Caraqueñas made in Berlin!