27 . 11 . 17
A puff of smoke – Barbecuing in Guatemala

From the top: Churrasco being cooked by a Guatemalan senora, my own bbq churrasco with guacamole, chimichurri, leeks, onions and blackened potatoes and several food vans in Lake Atitlan called Super Pollo (Super Chicken) and Humo en sus ojos (Smoke in your eyes). Writing, recipe and images by Julia Georgallis.

Homesickness. It is an illness of the heart, but can also manifest physically, as I found out when I arrived in Guatemala. Not being at home can leave a backpacker vulnerable to all kinds of things and by this time I was utterly destroyed, ill from partying too hard, moving around too much and travelling too long, rendered bed bound for days. It’s not a particularly romantic travel account but despite this, my memories of Guatemala are still warm, if fuzzy. I remember the colours of the fabrics at the markets, the bumpiness of the Chicken busses, the haze on the lake (Atitlan). However, due to my incapacity to eat, I don’t really remember much about the food. My only two stand out meals were cooked under plumes of smoke by short, stocky Guatemaltecas, barbecuing meat by the side of the road while their children peddled us beers and bitter chocolate coins that they had made themselves. Here is a recipe for my most memorable meal – flash fried beef (churrasco) with barbecued spring onions, potatoes and leeks, served up with guacamole and a tortilla and a good helping of chimichurri. The ingredient combo, to me, was surprising – combining fresh and zingy flavours with something also quite hearty. If you’re not in the mood to barbecue (or it’s too cold outside), you can always use your trusty frying pan to suitably blacken your veg.


Makes a lot of chimichurri that can be refrigerated and kept for up to a week.

Juice of 1 lemon
Bunch of coriander (roughly 65 g)
Bunch of parsley (roughly 65 g)
1 small carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves
Half a cup of good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Chop all your ingredients (apart from salt and pepper) in a blender or food processor and blend for a few seconds until they are only just chopped – you want quite a rough consistency, not a puree.
2. Season to taste.

Red Pepper Guacamole:

Serves 2 hungry people or 4 not so hungry ones.

4 avocados
Juice of 2 lemons and 2 limes
1 tsp of smoked paprika
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 small scotch bonnet, finely chopped (or the chilli pepper of your choice)
1 bell pepper
Sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Cut the bell pepper in half, cover with a pinch of sugar and glug of olive oil then roast at 200 degrees for 30 minutes.
3. While the pepper is cooking, mash the avocado in a bowl – to stop the avocados from turning brown, add the avocado seed into the mash. Finely chop the onion, garlic cloves, and scotch bonnet and add to the avocado.
4. Once the bell pepper is roasted and cooled, chop it up into cubes and add to the mixture
5. Add the oil that the bell pepper was roasted in, paprika, salt, pepper as well as the lemon and lime juice and mix together.

Recipe: Barbecued beef, leeks and potatoes

Serves 2

4 thinly sliced beef strips or thinly sliced braising beef strips
2 large jacket/baking potatoes
2 leeks
2 spring onions
2 cups of water
Seasoning (A glug of olive oil, salt and pepper)

1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
2. Cut the potatoes into quarters and the leeks and spring onions in half.
3. Place them in a deep oven dish, cover with 2 cups of water, a glug of olive oil and salt and pepper then roast at 220 degrees for 45 minutes.
4 a) If you are using a BBQ, place your roasted vegetables on top of the barbecue to blacken.
4 b) If you are cooking in your kitchen, heat a pan with some butter until sizzling, then fry the roasted potatoes, leeks and spring onions until they are blackened (but not cremated).
5. If you are barbecue-ing, flash fry your braising beef on top of the grill for about 30 seconds each side. If you are using a frying pan, add some more butter to the pan you used for the vegetables, then fry your braising beef for 30 seconds on each side.
6. Cover the meat with a good helping of chimichurri and serve with the blackened vegetables and a side of guacamole, tortilla wraps or some corn bread.