Upon graduating from college, I spent a year in the coastal town of Manta, Ecuador teaching English as a Second Language. Quito was an overnight bus trip away and I made the trip often during my time in Ecuador. The temperature change from my warm coastal home to the chilly Andean highlands was always tough to take. My favorite thing to do upon arriving in Quito was to get a bowl of this cheese and potato soup (Locro de Papa). It warmed me from the belly out.
The avocado and shredded iceberg lettuce might seem like strange garnishes, but they work and I wouldn’t omit them. This soup is best on a cold night although I’m not picky about when I eat it as it brings back such good memories.
For a demonstration on how to make the soup and info on where to buy annatto seeds and queso fresco, click here or on the above image. The recipe follows. Happy cooking!
Locro de Papa – Printer Friendly Recipe
A hearty Ecuadorian chowder garnished with avocado and lettuce served high in the Andes.
2 teaspoons annatto (achiote) seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 lbs Russet baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes (keep cubed potatoes in water to prevent browning)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
1 cup whole milk
5 ounces queso fresco, grated
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2” cubes
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
In a small skillet, combine the annatto seeds and vegetable oil over medium heat. Heat the oil until it starts to simmer, stirring often. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the seeds and oil sit for at least ten minutes. Strain the oil into a large 8-quart pot and discard the seeds. The oil will be bright orange.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat and toss in half of the baking potatoes as well as the white onion. Sauté until the onions are soft, about three minutes. Add in the ground cumin, salt, and pepper and stir briefly.
Add in the water and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for twenty minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Use a potato masher to carefully mash the potatoes into the broth.
Add the remaining potatoes to the soup and bring the soup back to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for an additional twenty minutes or until the added potatoes have softened. Stir in the whole milk and queso fresco and bring the soup back to a simmer. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve the soup hot and garnish with the avocado and iceberg lettuce.