Cuajada—a perfect dessert for someone like me who is gluten and dairy (cow’s milk) intolerant. It is a great low-sugar, low-carb dessert. Cuajada is EASY once you find the coagulant! It only requires two ingredients: cooked sheep’s milk (you can use cow’s if you don’t have sheep’s milk available), and a coagulant like rennet or vegetarian substitute.
Heat the milk until boiling (you’ll need to continually stir it so it doesn’t burn—and from experience, you can taste burnt milk in the cuajada).
Put a few drops of rennet into the cups.
Add the boiled milk.
Wait for 30 minutes and place the cups in the fridge.
Voila. Eat it plain, as I like it, or serve with honey, walnuts or sugar. Some people add sugar to the milk before it boils for a sweeter taste. I have added dark cocoa powder to give it a chocolate flavor.
The main course is typically a protein—pork, lamb, fish or beef are the most common types here. I’ve not been much of a meat eater, but roasting and grilling lamb is growing on me more and more!
I share with you an age-old secret that these Riojans seem to keep from the rest of the world… using the vine trimmings for grilling meats! Here it is called grilling with sarmientos. At the end of harvest and in the dead winter months, all vines are pruned back to the stems. The branches are cut back so we have a pile of fairly straight, similarly sized twigs with no leaves or shriveled grapes hanging on. These twigs are bundled with string and left in a dry place for 6-8 months. Then the fun begins!
To start, place a 0.5” -1” thick piece of meat on a grill rack (here the grill is a parilla that can be flipped) and put salt flakes on the top side of the meat.
To effectively “grill” meat with these twigs, light one bundle on fire. This can be on the ground or in a fire pit or on a cement barbeque area. When this fire settles to ashes, light another on top. When those flames settle a bit, put the grill on the fire. Let it sit until browned - or done to your liking. Flip the grill (or the meat) and sprinkle salt on the other side of the meat. The ashes should be an ember color so stoke them as needed. Once cooked, remove from the heat and eat right away. The vines branches give it a unique flavor, and a naturally browned exterior!