El Salvador Pupusas

I promised some recipes after camp which seems like a long time ago.  Autumn is coming and it is getting cold.  School has started and holidays are over so seems a good reason to revisit good times in the Summer.

The first recipe I promised was pupusas from El Salvador. Pupusas are like maize tortillas with a filling. The main ingredient is harina masa, a maize flour used across several Latin American countries.  Just for information, you can get a hold of the flour in Latin America stores or order on line.  Traditional fillings would include cheese, refried beans, a mix of the two which are the fillings we tried. They can also be filled with ground meat and a special edible flower from South America.  Experiment.

I had a recipe but I needed to get the hang of making the dough if I was going to prepare them for lots of people in a camp kitchen.  So I took my recipe to my lovely Venezuelan friend (thank you Andreina) along with a couple of bags of harina masa. In Venezuela this flour is used to make Arepas, a sort of maize flour bun that looks a bit like an English muffin. So I thought, this is a lady who can work with this flour even if she has never made pupusas before.

It was a fun morning. Prepared me well for making them at camp. And you know what we did with the recipe……threw it away.  This is something you need to do au pif as they say in France. You just need to feel it.  So how do you write that up on a blog?  Well, here goes.

The ingredients for the dough are simply Harina Masa, water and some salt.  The trick is to get a consistency of mashed potato and the other key thing is that when you stick your fingers in they come out clean – nothing sticking to them at all.

We started with about 500g of Harina masa and put water into cover the flour and left it to stand for a few minutes – go grate some cheese for the filling or open a can of refried beans while you wait.  Once the water has been absorbed add another bit of water, maybe half a mug.  Then get your hands in.

Mix the flour and water with your hands until it looks like mashed potato, you can stick your fingers in they come out smooth and starts to feel smooth.  You can then knead the dough well so that you have no gritty bits of flour lurking in the dough.  If when you roll it into a ball and the dough cracks at the edges then you need a splash of water more otherwise you will find it hard to work with.

The dough is a smooth dough and does get a bit sticky as you make the pupusas.  The secret is to oil your hands a little before making the pupusas.  To make the pupusas, break off a ball of dough and use your thumb to make a big dent in the ball, big enough to put some stuffing in.  Then curve up the dough ball to close the up the hole, pinching the dough together making a ball again.  Now flatten the ball until it is thin and flat – not so thin that the filling starts to escape, there is a bit of an art but comes quickly as you make them.

making pupusas
Andreina making the pupusas

Put them on a hot griddle pan or thick based frying pan that has been wiped with oil and cook them until they are golden and crispy on both sides.  If they are still a bit doughy in the middle you could pop them in the oven for a little to finish cooking (that is what Adreina does with arepas) but they should be thin enough to cook through nicely.

Eat them straight from the pan if you can, all crispy and hot with some salsa and sour cream.  The scouts that came along and made their own at the Jamboree loved making them.  It turned out to be a success.  Thanks Adreina!!

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