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  • Writer's pictureErin Boukall

Empanadas & Hummingbirds

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

"[This recipe] will forever make me think of the cloud forest up in the mountains and the bejewelled hummingbirds whizzing past my ears."

You might be asking yourself what on earth empanadas and hummingbirds have to do with each other, but they always make me think of each other. It all has to do with the place where I was inspired to make one of my favourite empanada fillings. Many years ago, I visited Costa Rica where I enjoyed the diverse and exotic nature Costa Rica’s varied ecosystems had to offer. I visited Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a dense, humid jungle that is literally set amongst the clouds and echoes with the sounds of howler monkeys from the canopy. The reserve boasts an incredible array of rare flora and fauna. One of the gems of Monteverde (Spanish for “Green Mountain”) is the Hummingbird Garden.

The birds are free to come and go as they please, but they are drawn to the particular food they put out for them, gathering crowds of the tiny birds that whizz by your head with alarming proximity. I spent a lot of time there trying to capture these winged jewels with my camera. It was quite a challenge as they darted around at unbelievable speed.

There is a little café in the garden, and as I was feeling a bit hungry after my adventuring I grabbed a potato empanada for lunch. It was seriously the best empanada I had ever had, filled with a spicy and tangy potato mixture. I asked the girl who worked there what was in the empanada in an attempt to get at least a list of ingredients so I could try to recreate the recipe at home.

She told me the woman responsible for making them was sitting over by the window, and I turned to see an older Hispanic lady drinking coffee and looking out at the hummingbirds. The caveat was she only spoke Spanish. I had taken Spanish in high school for three years, as well as taking some evening classes with my dad for fun at our local university. But, as with any language, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Luckily, the empanada maker was open to conversing in my forgotten Spanish and I managed to translate a list of ingredients so that I could attempt to recreate something similar at home. She would say “ajo” and I would write down garlic, “cebolla” to onion, so and so forth. The potato filling below will forever make me think of the cloud forest up in the mountains and the bejewelled hummingbirds whizzing past my ears.

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