Matilde: authentic dishes cooked with love
Cooking with Matilde who knows all about eggplants. An authentic Argentinian cuisine in the Spanish kitchen, garnished with a lot of love, wisdom and witty humor.
WHO: Matilde, an Argentinian woman full of life, devoted wife-sister-mother-grandmother
HER PLACES: Buenos Aires (Argentina) & Altea (Spain)
HER PASSION: new places, nature, family
HER nutrisophy: simple and authentic homemade food, taking time for cooking, enjoying the process
Matilde & Me
December 2005. I´m travelling to Buenos Aires, escaping from the Estonian winter. My friend Gabriela is already there, visiting her family for Christmas and she invites me to join them.
This is how I first met Matilde, Gabriela`s mother. It wasn´t the summer heat of Argentina which warmed me up after -25°C back home, but the kind welcome and homey feeling during my first Christmas in Buenos Aires. I fell in love with the whole family – their intelligence, witty humor and immense kindness. In the middle of all this was Matilde – cooking, laughing and loving.
We met again 10 years later, this time in Spain where she was visiting her daughters and grandson with her husband Ernesto in a beautiful Mediterranean village Altea in Costa Blanca. I was thrilled to see her! I decided to ask if she was interested in participating in my blog-experiment and she did.
So we met one morning to look for the best eggplants in Altea and cook two authentic Argentinean dishes.
What a lovely day!
As for most people from Buenos Aires, Matilde´s blood is a mix of Spanish and Italian, but she feels more than 100% Argentinian. She loves her hometown and when younger, she often went alone to the downtown to stroll the streets and enjoy this particular atmosphere of Buenos Aires. When I asked her about Spanish cities she likes, she tells me that Madrid is beautiful, but way too small. Very understandable for a person who comes from the city of 13 million…
Matilde´s parents met in Argentina, in the wedding of her dad´s cousin and her mom´s best friend. Three months later, they were married. Her father kept always contact with his family back in Spain and this is how Matilde´s daughters ended up living in Spain, the country of their grandfather.
She grew up with three brothers and the best friend of one of them, Ernesto, has been Matilde´s husband for 56 years. They had known each other for 10 years before getting married and it has been a solid foundation for a long life together. They split their time between Argentina and Spain to spend as much time as possible with their two daughters and grandson.
Matilde & Food
Matilde says that she doesn´t know anything about food, she just cooks.
Her mother didn´t like to cook, but had to do it for the family which included her husband and four children. The most typical plate of the Argentinian families were puchero (the stew of meat and vegetables), simple and nourishing. On Sundays they prepared asado and spent some quality time with the whole family. One of the most common vegetable in the kitchen was eggplant. When her mother prepared „berenjenas en escabeche“ (pickled eggplants), then she used 5-7 kg eggplants at once to have enough to enjoy for some time.
Matilde started to cook when she got married and created her own family. She enjoys cooking and as she says, prepares simple dishes and improvises a lot. No recipes, everything depends on the mood and what kind of products she has in hand. She likes to cook slowly and has incredible patience for this, she knows that good things take time!
In the morning Matilde loves the most typical Argentinian breakfast – drinking mate and eating some sweet cookies. Lots of vegetables for lunch and dinner, rice and legumes are often in her ingredients´ list as well. On Saturdays she bakes pizza, empanadas (the famous Argentinian turnovers with different fillings) or croissants with ham and cheese. For her baby brother (who now is more than 70 years old and happily lets his sister pamper him whenever there is a chance) she always prepares his favourite dish, homemade noodles.
She herself has an incredibly sweet tooth and loves cream, dulce de leche (Argentinian thick, creamy caramel sauce traditionally made with milk and sugar), icecreams, all kind of pastry… Life has to be sweet!
What did we cook with Matilde?
Knowing how much Argentinians love to use eggplant in their kitchen, we decided to use this wonderful vegetable and prepare two typical dishes her own family loves: eggplant “lasagna” with parmesan and pickled eggplants.
Find the recipes below!
Eggplant “lasagna” with parmesan
Berenjenas a la Parmesana
1 big eggplant
2 garlic cloves
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow bell pepper
2 big tomatoes
200 g mozzarella cheese
150 g parmesan cheese
Sea salt, white pepper, basil, oregano
– Cut eggplant into slices (peel before if you wish), sprinkle with sea salt and set aside for a while.
– Chop onion, garlic and bell peppers into small pieces.
– Slice tomato.
– Slice mozzarella and grate parmesan.
– On a frying pan, roast eggplant slices with olive oil, set aside.
– Prepare the vegetable mix. Add onion, garlic and bell peppers to the frying pan and cook until vegetables are soft. Add the spices according to your taste.
– Take a baking pan and place as layers: some olive oil on the bottom, then vegetable mix, slices of mozzarella and some parmesan, tomato slices, eggplant slices. Repeat it: vegetable mix, mozzarella and parmesan, tomato slices, eggplant slices, then again vegetable mix and finally cover everything with grated parmesan.
– Bake in the oven at 175 degrees (350 F) until the cheese is melted and it looks irresistibly good!
Berenjenas en escabeche
extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, oregano, black peppercorns, bay leaves
– Peel the eggplant, slice thinly and cut the slices into thin strips, sprinkle with salt.
– Layer the strips into a colander in the sink, put a plate on top of it, and put something heavy on top of the plate to weigh it down. This helps take the bitterness out of the eggplant. Let them be at least one hour.
– Take a large pot and put the drained eggplant strips into it. Fill with mix of vinegar and water, ratio is 1 cup of vinegar for 2 cups of water.
– Bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, shut the heat off (this way you are avoiding that eggplant slices are going to be too soft-boiled).
– Allow the eggplant to cool in the water. Drain and leave to dry on the sieve overnight.
– In a large bowl place the sea salt, spices and squeezed eggplant. Pour in some extra virgin olive oil (at least a cup) and a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Stir well.
– Place the eggplant in a jar (use hermetic glass storage jar). Leave about an inch/2,5 cm at the top, and pour in some olive oil so that all the eggplant is submerged. Cover with a lid, and let marinate for at least one week (one month if you can resist) in the refrigerator.