Caring for Your Colombian La Chamba Blackware Clay Pot

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Care and cooking in Colombian La Chamba Black Claypots

I wrote this article a while back and wanted to share this overly detailed and overly cautious description on how to care for your La Chamba Clay Pot. While this is all sound advice I find just clean well, avoid too much soap and don’t use a scratchy scouring pads and start cooking in your La Chamba clay pot is the best method. I use them daily. La Chamba cookware holds up and cooks very well. I will add to this article in the near future (so please register for updates) and I will also write about caring for many other different types of Clay cookware. I highly recommend Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot cookbook which  has a wonderful primer on claypots that is very informative.

Care Instructions for La Chamba Cookware

 

The pottery from La Chamba, Colombia requires very limited initial preparation before normal usage. The first time you will want to clean your pot in water with a light non abrasive sponge to remove any dirt or residue left from the firing process.  At this point you could choose to start using your pot immediately on your stove, oven or microwave. If you want to take some extra step preparing your vessel or dinnerware here are some methods that have been used for centuries to treat clay cookware.

Some porous clay pottery requires or can benefit from being filled with water approx 3/4 full and placed in a 400 degree Fahrenheit over for 30 min. La Chamba usually does not need this step, particularly if you purchase a finer quality vessel like this one, but if you have a pot from a village market and you were not aware of the step and care taken in the preparation you might feel more comfortable doing the water heated process first before regular daily use. Some international clay manufactures recommend milk in place of water to seal your clay pot. This again is an extra step that does not seem to be necessary for top quality La Chamba.

Regular use of your pot will naturally develop a well seasoned cooking surface. Using wooden utensils verses un-coated metal utensils will also help protect your cookware.

With proper handling you can use your Chamba pot or dinnerware directly on the stove, in a microwave, on a grill and in the oven.

Chamba clay cookware on coals

Like any cooking surface, these clay pots should not be exposed to excessive temperature changes. If your pot is very cold from the refrigerator you should not pour in boiling liquids. If your pot is very hot you should not put in ice cold liquids. The idea is to avoid extreme thermal stress.

Clay pots are very practical for daily cooking. They can be filled with cold liquids and be heated over a strong heat without a problem. The clay will also hold heat well. If your food is boiling, your dish may continue to boil for a while after you remove it from the heat, so use caution when moving your vessel. The advantage of your lidded clay pot retain a nice level of heat is that your food can stay nicely warm at the table for upward of an hour.

Cleaning:

Ancestral Chamba Cookware is very easy to clean. Just scrub a little, rinse and dry. Since the clay is porous we do not recommend using detergents, particularly at first, before the pot is cured. If you have stubborn food on your pot just soak an half an hour. The food should be easy to remove with a non abrasive sponge. Repeat if necessary. Boil some water in really hard to clean vessels. There are very good non abrasive, bacteria resistant scrubbers on the market. Metal scouring pads will scratch and are too abrasive for the hand burnished surface of your vessel.

A Recommended purple scrubber

You can clean you La Chamba in the dishwasher even though it is not recommended. The dish washing soap can remain in the porous clay and it can reduce the luster and natural seasonings of your piece.

Clay is a natural surface, not a non stick surface. With time your vessel, with care, will develop a very lovely cooking surface where only limited use of oils or cooking sprays will seem necessary.

Storage:

You should always dry your La Chamba ware well in a well vented space before storing. In very humid climates you will want to take special care to make sure your clay gets properly dried so mold spores will not develop. Proper washing and drying and prevent this from happening. You can air dry your pieces or to quickly dry place your La Chamba pieces directly on low heat to remove the excess moisture and allow to cool. Many cooks like to place their pieces in a warm oven for 10 min.

Happy Cooking and enjoying your heirloom clay cooking pot!!

Ajiaco Colombian Chicken and Potato Soup

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Chamba Clay Cookware.com

 

Ajiaco soup made in a Chamba clay pot

Columbians love soups, every region with its various natural resources has a unique comfort food type of soup. Ajiaco is a delicious classic you would find in the country’s capital city Bogota. It is very simple to make, wonderfully addictive but requires at least one special ingredient to separate it out from most chicken and potato soups, it the herb Guascas. A delightful kind of citrus herb, that grows like a weed, and is sometime called the Valient Soldier!  You can buy it online* or if you are in a Columbian neighborhood any where in the world ask for it in the local stores and delis. They will usually have it.  I also recommend using all the garnishes when serving your soup. The capers, cilantro and cream really offer a fabulous taste treat.

In this picture the Ajiaco is served with the garnishes, rice and some Farmers Cheese Fritters. A very filling meal.

Ajiaco Chicken, Potato, Corn traditional Colombian Soup

2 chicken breasts and 3 large legs – skin removed

3 large cloves of garlic chopped

1 large onion chopped

3 -4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

12 sm yellow potatoes – I like the finger potoatos

3 medium yukon gold cut up in one inch cubes

8 small red potatoes cut in half

Chopped bunch of cilantro plus 1/4 cup of leaves for garnish

8 T of dried Guascas

2 T of salt

1 T of Pepper

3 Ears of Corn cut in wheels

10 Cups of a Chicken Broth.

1 Cup of Sour Cream or Mexican Crema if available.

1 Avocado Sliced

1 cut up lime

1/8 cup of capers

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. A classic La Chamba, Colombian clay pot would be idea but any dutch oven or large soup pot will work. Saute the chopped onion and garlic until golden. Remove the onions and save to the side. Next saute and cook the in the same oil/liquid as the onions.  When cooked through re add the cooked onion mixture, chicken broth, spices and herbs. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 mins. Add the cut up potatoes simmer for about 40 min. Add in the wheels of corn. Colombian corn would be added earlier since the traditional corn from this are for this dish would have larger slightly tougher kennels than the tender yellow typically found in the US. Cook the corn in the broth for about 12 – 15 min.

Serve the soup with bowls of the condiments, capers, sour cream, cilantro leaves and the sliced avocado.

Bowl of Ajiaco Columbian Soup in a clay bowl from Colombia

Yummy!!!

* Online Source for Guascas

http://www.amigofoods.com/kigu10gr.html   cool website for all kinds of special ingredients.

Here is a classic bowl of Ajiaco I was served in Bogota, Colombia. It looks way different than the way I make Ajiaco, more potato and less brothy. Another highly recommended way to make ajiaco. Ajiaco is often served in a clay Chamba bowl. This bowl design originated over 2000 years ago and still being produced in the same region.

Classic Ajiaco served in Bogota, Colombia

Moules marinières

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Steamed Mussels in White Wine with Shallots in a Clay Pot

Sailors and Mariners Mussels in White Wine Sauce made in a Clay Pot from La Chamba

This recipe is super simple and inspired by my childhood visits to my Grandparents, Mame and Pape, in Le Harve, France. We would go to the once rough waterfront which was previously full of sailors and soldiers filled bars when the port was at it peak. Post war the shores have been transformed into many cafes and family run old style bars.  My favorites were the ones with large vats of Mussels. ”Moule” is mussels in French.  Unlimited, huge bowls of steaming moule with baskets of crusty bread could be bought very cheaply. It became my favorite meal next to the bouillabaisse I later discovered. Moule is a very hands on dish. A kids dream as you grab a shell and just start eating. It felt like one could eat a hundred mussels in a sitting with it’s intoxicate aroma of wine and onions and fresh shellfish. The sauce from the mussels was impossible to resist sopping up with the flavorful bread and using the mussel shells as soup spoon scoops to get every last drop of the seafood gravy.  To this day its hard for me to resist not buying a bag of mussels in the seafood section every-time I see one.

Its a great value to serve  mussels. A very inexpensive super quick and easy to prepare appetizer or meal.  All you need is a large pot, ideally a heavy dutch oven type, since it makes the nicest mussel sauce.  Clay pots are perfect for the way they hold the moisture of your ingredients.  I like making my mussels in my fish clay pot… the theme is fun and I can take it decoratively directly to the table.  You can make many different kinds of sauces. tomato, Thai influenced, spicy… be creative… Here is the one that reminds me of my childhood, easy to build upon and tickles my taste buds when I see mussels for sale.

Classic white wine and shallots Mussels

1 bag of mussels

4 big shallots chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 stick of butter (you don’t have to use this much… but it tastes so good)

2 Cups of Wine or keep adding as much as you like.

1/2 Cup of Water… or more to fill the bottom of your pot with the wine about 1.5 inches.

1 t of salt

1 t of pepper

1 Cup of parsley

Fresh Sprigs of lemon thyme or lemon verbena (optional)

Juice of one lemon… extra for serving if you like.

A loaf of crusty bread.

Clean your mussels. Most mussels I buy at the seafood counter seem very clean,  just make sure the straw like beards are removed. Put the clean mussels aside for a later step.

On the stove saute the shallots and garlic in with the butter, until wilted in the pot you are going to cook your mussels.  You can substitute some olive oil or use less butter or even a pan spray depending on your dietary preferences. Each choice will offer you a different flavor but will be good.

Add the water and wine, half the parsley (and hearbs), salt, pepper, lemon, to the big pot and bring to a very hot steamy boil.

Pre heat your oven for the bread. And right before you put the mussels in start heating your bread. While the mussels cook remove and slice or leave the loaf whole for tearing crispy chunks of bread.

Put the mussels in and quickly and tightly cover the pot. Steam for 8-10 min. Do not over cook. The mussel shells should open and your sauce will have reduced a little. Discard any shells that are unopened. Throw the rest of the parsley on top and take to the table in your cooking pot if appropriate or one big serving bowl.

If you would like a thicker sauce. After 8 min remove the opened cooked mussels, keeping covered to not dry out too much, turn up the heat on the broth, reduce to the your desired consistence, add a couple tablespoons of cream and pour over the mussels and serve.

Serve immediately and ladle the mussels into soup size bowls so the sauce can gather in the bottom and easily be absorbed up by the accompanying bread.

Enjoy and be creative.

Can you grilling a Steak in a clay pan?

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You may wonder if you can grill a steak on the stove top in a clay pan? We heard it could be done. So Michael Barker of La Vida Verde and myself,  Nathalie Herling of Creative Clay Cooking, put La Chamba to the test!

We bought a nice simple cut of Beef Tenderloin.

Now I have to stop and tell you about the fabulous seasoning… At the New York Gift show I had the  opportunity to meet the owner of the  The Giraffe Global Gallery, Priscilla http://www.giraffevashon.com.  This woman exudes fun and adventure.  So it was no surprise that in her purse she held a special concoction of her store’s own blend of Hawaiian Red, Himalayan Pink, French Sea Salt, an Alder Smoked Salt from Oregon, and a little Molokai Black Salt.   Wow… salt will never be the same for me. I tasted it on the spot – what a wonderful smokey blend. Priscilla told me she travels everywhere with it.  I am a spare salt user… yet my taste buds were so awakened and impressed by the complexity of flavors her salt offered.  She filled a little piece of plastic I scronged up with the treasured salt… made me feel like an ancient trader getting the precious preserving salt of life… a cultural time warp having this West Coast valued salt offered in friendship…  Next I MUST try the coffee this woman also never travels without, got to be incredible.  Priscilla sales her salt blend on her website http://www.giraffevashon.com/product/salt.html. Also watch for her clever one pot stove to table Spinach Salad… to follow on this blog shortly.

Michael wisely suggested we save this unique salt for the Steak. Now for our experiment. Grilling Steak in La Chamba. I selected my favorite, what is commonly called a baking dish but I use as a skillet.

La Chamba Baking Dishes, skillets

Michael chopped up some shallots and garlic for sauting in the pan with a light touch of olive oil.

He seasoned the meat with the special “Giraffe Salt”,  some coarse ground pepper and places it in the sizzling La Chamba clay pan. It worked perfectly. He cooked each side until nicely medium rare.  Drizzled the pan drippings over the meat and cut into small slices that we proceeded to quickly, divinely enjoyed.

Browned fillet minon steak in a La Chamba baking pan.

I can say with good authority that La Chamba is GREAT for sauting/grilling whatever you want to call it… for creating a lovely steak.

Where to buy La Chamba Blackware Cookware

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These are location I have found La Chamba Cookware for sale.

The stores are listed into a few categories: web stores, stores by state and wholesalers. I will be adding to this posting so please send in your suggestions.

Sometimes my choices will be bias but cooking is a personal thing and some places just do it better than others. In the future look for reviews, experiences of some of these companies and stores too.

ONLINE RETAILERS

Sustainable Cultures Online Chamba Cookware Catalog http://www.chambaclaycookware.com

One of the largest vendors of La Chamba Cookware in the US.  Also one the only official members of the Fair Trade Federation specializing in working for the rights of artisans representing La Chamba. You can contact Steve Gloss, the director of this non profit, to find one of the largest selection and variety of pieces available or find Sustainable Cultures La Chamba cookware at artisan and farmers  markets in the New Mexico and Colorado area.

575-737-9496 | 575-613-3490
info@sustainingcultures.org

La Chamba Cookware Group of Bean Pots

Whisk, Brooklyn and  NYC, NY

BROOKLYN 231 BEDFORD AVENUE (718) 218-7230

MANHATTAN 933 BROADWAY (212) 477-8680

 

 

Orgin Crafts la chamba cookware

3 La Chamba Clay Blackware Cookware

Toque Blanche California

Wholesale and retail.

http://www.mytoque.com

 

Trumps

http://www.trumps.co.nz/category.pasp?categoryid=108

New Zealand!!

Peachtree

http://www.peach-tree.com

210 S. Adams Fredericksburg, TX 78624 Toll Free: (800) 977-9527

info@peach-tree.com

No shopping cart.

 

WHOLESALERS

La Vida Verdehttp://www.lavidaverde.com

I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. They have worked very closely with the artisians of La Chamba to help them have better pottery yields. They have an excellent selection. The pack shipments well and never over charge with shipping… an important cost consideration when ordering.

Very good ethics. I can not recommend La Vida Verde more highly.

Please share your favorite recipes and experience cooking with clay cookware from around the world.