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New-wave Colombian cuisine takes centre-stage at Paladar

It’s been tipped as the next ‘foodie superpower’ and now Colombia is taking centre-stage at Latin-American restaurant Paladar in London's Elephant & Castle, where head chef Jose Rubio-Guevara has added a number of innovative new dishes inspired by his home country to the menu.

Writing in The Telegraph, travel journalist Paul Richardson noted that, “the Colombian cooks of the 21st century are flinging open doors on to a whole new world of flavour.” Rubio-Guevara is at the forefront of this new culinary movement in the UK and has emerged as a trusted voice on the cuisine of Colombia and wider Latin-America, recently contributing his expertise to BBC Good Food magazine and Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet.

Classic Colombian soup ajiaco, which Rubio-Guevara’s recipe for was featured in BBC Good Food, is cleverly reinterpreted as a starter of Santaferen~o ajiaco croquettes, capers & cream. The soft-textured croquettes with a crunchy outer ‘shell’ are garnished with capers and cream – the traditional accompaniments to the soup which is particularly popular in and around Bogotá.

New to The Sea section of Paladar’s menu is Pan-fried tilapia fillet, coconut milk & chontaduro pure´e, shredded green mango, from Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Known in English as peach-palm, chontaduro is a nutritious fruit native to South and Central America and particularly to Colombia; slow-cooked and puréed, its starchy texture can be compared to sweet potato.

Also from the Caribbean coast comes Braised black beef, tamarind & panela reduction, sweet plantain, Colombian-style sour cream, an addition to The Farm, Paladar’s meat dishes. The deep, black-brown sheen of the beef is often achieved in Colombia using Coca-Cola; Rubio-Guevara however uses panela, unrefined cane sugar, which is the traditional method. The sweetness of the plantain comes from its being infused with hibiscus, which gives it a striking purple colour.

Lastly, Rubio-Guevara has created for The Land, his vegetarian and vegan courses, ‘Cassanoa’ - Cassava and white quinoa gratin, chilli-truffle oil. Cassava, white quinoa and cheese are creamed together, topped with farofa – toasted cassava flour – for texture, and baked in the oven to create a comforting, warming vegetarian dish.

As with everything on the menu, Rubio-Guevara’s new Colombian-inspired dishes are gluten-free, partly a ‘happy accident’ resulting from the relative scarcity of gluten-containing ingredients in Latin-American cuisine and partly thanks to Jose’s efforts to avoid adding any to his recipes and making substitutions where necessary.

Rubio-Guevara said, “My food at Paladar draws inspiration from all over Latin-America. We don’t focus on any one country, and individual dishes sometimes borrow ingredients and ideas from several countries, but I’m proud to be bringing a taste of my native Colombia to the menu.

'Some of the dishes, like the ajiaco croquettes, completely reimagine the original; others like the carne en posta – braised black beef – are more faithful to tradition. The best thing to do of course is to come and try them!”