A 12-hour slow-cooked pork with its crunchy skin, soft, tender and juicy belly cooked Colombian style with arepa purée arrived at the table warm with aromas of butter and pepper.
This is a traditional dish in Colombia. Chef Diego Panesso explains that the arepa has corn flour, butter, pepper and salt, which is like Colombian ugali.
“The difference with the arepa is that it is placed on the charcoal grill and is more of a purée compared to ugali,” said the chef.
Born in a family of chef, Diego is a third generation chef in his family.
He was in Kenya during the Colombia Culture Week and he prepared Colombian food and drinks at Cafe Kigwa at Safari Park Hotel.
He has been cooking professionally for 20 years and he owns four restaurants in Colombia.
His career started when he was 19 years in their family business.
He specialises in the vacuum cooking method, a skill he learnt after training at Barcelona University six years ago.
“Vacuum cooking is a technique that I use in my restaurants. I use it to cook various dishes including meats, vegetables and fruits. All ingredients are put in a vacuum bag and all the air is released from the bag. The bag is put in either a hot bath or a combi-oven and cooked in low temperatures for a long time. For instance, the pork was cooked at 75 degrees for 12 hours,” he explains.
The best thing about this cooking method, he said, is that it enables you to cook dishes that are required at a later day.
While cooking using the vacuum technique, you can also add other ingredients into it such as butter, herbs, wine, sauces and soups whose flavours are infused when cooking.
This cooking method is common in fine dining restaurants in Europe, US and Asia.
“What’s more exciting about this cooking method is that if you are using it for your hotel or catering business, you can prepare the food days before your event. When the food is done cooking in the bag, place the bag in the freezer for pasteurisation. This avoids bacteria from forming in the food and helps to conserve the food days and even months,” he explains.
“All the ingredients I used here, except the arepa (corn flour) are sourced locally. In Colombia, we use coconut for rice, cocktails, sauces which is a result of the African influence,” he said.
Octopus cooked Colombian style was grilled and served with coconut mayonnaise, cracker paper, onion, coriander and cappers rice. The octopus was very crunchy on the outside due to being cooked on high heat on the saucepan after precooking it.