Book Reviews

Traveller’s Cookbook: South America

‘Traveller’s Cookbook: South America’, written by Ben Box, has my vote on three counts: a) it is a travel book, b) it is about food and ingredients, and includes recipes, and c) it is about South America – a continent that won my heart several years ago.

But where do I start reading?

If I have a problem with the book, it is where do I start? Normally I do the obvious and start at the beginning and read steadily through – but not this time as I find myself dipping in and out wherever my interests take me, and regardless of what else I should be doing.

First off there is an excellent food-inspired South American introduction followed by the 11 countries featured; each of which has its own brief history, then highlights of its cuisine, and finally some recipes.

So, do I read about a country that I have visited and love, or do I read about a destination yet to be visited? Or do I turn to the recipes?

Tantalising recipes

I adore empanadas – those yummy little pasty-like turnovers; and I would also go a long way for a good caipirinha and cachaça (yes, even my favourite cocktails are mentioned); as are wonderful stews like a Brazilian Locro (meat, corn and vegetables); or a Locro from Ecuador (a potato and cheese soup); and whilst I don’t have a sweet tooth I am not going to say ‘no’ to a slice of Pasta Frola (Quince Tart) from Uruguay.

A soup from Paraguay

A trip to Paraguay was thwarted by Covid restrictions so I shall have to wait a little longer before tackling a bowl of Pira Caldo – basically a fish soup with cheese and plenty of veg including tomato – but the recipe looks delicious and not difficult, so I shall attempt to make it for myself. I may not be able to get the proper cheese but the recipe assures me that feta will work.

Cheese and potato patties from Ecuador

Much to my delight I have found another recipe for green plantains and also for the delicious potato and cheese patties I discovered in a restaurant in Quito (Ecuador).

Unfortunately, they require a spice that I don’t know – achiote/annato powder. But Google tells me not only that it can be obtained online, and that it has a sort of saffron-like flavour, but also that equal parts of sweet paprika and turmeric will serve as an alternative.

The recipes and the methods are thoughtfully and clearly set out; text is broken up with occasional full colour illustrations; and the book concludes with good glossary, along with a list of suggested suppliers.

A noted authority on South America

Ben Box is a noted authority on South America having spent some four decades of travel and research there. He is also a self-confessed food enthusiast.

The book also includes anecdotal contributions from some friends and colleagues who not only share his passions for South America and its food, but who also helped with recipe testing.

All in all, Ben Box’s ‘Traveller’s Cookbook: South America’, is truly inspirational. I can’t wait to get back – but first to the kitchen to attempt some of those recipes.

More information

‘Traveller’s Cookbook: South America’. Ben Box. ISBN: 9781784778996. £14.99. Bradt Guides.