Ajiaco-waterzooi with guascas

(Dutch version here)

Quickweed, Galant soldier, or Galinsoga is one of the most terrible weeds that make work in your garden a lot harder here in Belgium, and in big parts of the world.A very fast-growing annual that  disappears as soon as the first frost comes, but it does spread a lot of seeds and will be back as soon as the temperatures climb back at the end of spring.

Less known is that this same plant, under the name of ‘guasca’, is a very important kitchen ingredient in south-America for certain dishes, like the Columbian ‘ajiaco‘,a very heavy soup with chicken, 3 types of potatoes, and whole combs of sugar-maize that are cooked as a whole, for hours and hours until the small potatoes have dissolved. If you go looking on the internet for recipes you’ll find it described as very mysterious native stuff from Anti-Americanism Mountains, but in both Europe and N-America you have a big chance it’s growing in your garden, and that you’ve even been cursing it!

There are 2 species of Galinsoga in Flanders and in this part of Europe, (G. parviflora and G. quadriradiata), and identifying them is more for specialists. Both can be used in the kitchen, but be sure to use young plants, and don’t use too much stems. When they start to form seeds the edibility of the plants goes backwards..
My first try to make something like ajiaco (but with influence of our Flemish chicken waterzooi) did not have 3 species of Andes potatoes, but 2 varieties of waxy potatoes, one with a yellowish peel, one with a red peel. Also I didn’t use combs of maize but just a simple little can of sweetcorn-grains. Recipes say that it should be served with slices of avodaco, capers and sour cream, but I didn’t have sour cream so I made some guacamole.

The result was surprisingly good, and a very strong soup good for a whole meal. The guascas contribute a very interestingtaste that is (to me at last) quite new, and that reminds me of sunflower petals (am I the only one to ever nibble on those?) New combinations with it are waiting to be invented! But for those interested, here’s the first aijaco-recipe:

ajiaco-waterzooi with guascas (for 2 persons)

ingrediënts:
1 onion
1 shallot
1/2 chicken breast
2 red potatoes
2 yellowish potatoes
2 big handfulls of fresh guascas
2 cubes of chicken broth
1 tomato
a hanfull of fresh peas
1 small can of sweetcorn
pepper, salt, chilli pepper, oregano…
1 avocado
1 spoon of yoghurt
capers

preparation:
chop the onion and shallot in small strips, and sauté them in a little oil. Cut the chicken breast into small pieces and fry it with some of the chopped Galinsoga. Then add the potatoes, diced or sliced. (I vary the shape of the pieces per variety.)

Add a can of sweetcorn grains, peas and a diced tomato, and cook everything for at least an hour simmer (don’t forget to stir occasionally)  until the potatoes begin to dissolve and a thick sauce is formed. Add new water when it all is boiled away. Add the rest of the chopped quickweed 10 minutes before you serve it.
Meanwhile, make some guacamole with a soft and ripe avocado and a spoon of yoghurt, some lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pepper. Before serving add guacamole ass well as capers like you prefer it.

Serve with red wine.

A vegetarian / vegan version should also work very great here btw!

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