Stuffed with chicken thighs, onions, cilantro and bell peppers, this Venezuelan holiday dish gets the whole family involved for assembly. Topped with raisins, green olives and sweet potatoes for an extra blast of flavour!
4 lb bone in chicken thighs
1 cup olive oil
1 onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic
2 finely diced bell peppers
8 oz tomato paste
2 litres chicken stock (water or veg stock will be fine)
1 bunch finely sliced green onions
1 bunch of cilantro roughly chopped
Salt to season
125 grams achiote seeds (also known as annatto, you can substitute for paprika)
250 ml grapeseed oil
4 cups pre-cooked cornmeal
1 and 1/2 cup of remaining sauce from the braise chicken
1/2 cup achiote oil
120 grams raisins
200 grams sliced green olives
150 grams diced and precooked sweet potatoes (just tender to the bite)
100 grams assorted diced pickled vegetables
Rest a large frying pan or wide pot on the stove at medium high heat.
Season the chicken with salt.
Add oil in the pan and sear them for two minutes per side.
Reduce the heat to low.
Remove the chicken into a bowl or a plate.
Add onions, garlic and peppers and cook for two minutes.
Add tomato paste and cook in a lower heat for an additional two minutes or until the paste starts to build a crust at the bottom of pan (or pot).
Add fresh tomatoes and stock.
Put a lid on.
Allow it to come to a rapid boil, season with more salt.
Put a lid on and reduce to medium low and cook for 40 minutes.
Take the chicken out (rest in a bowl or plate) allow it to cool to the touch, take bone out and cut small dice piece
Strain the sauce in a bowl through a colander.
Add all the vegetables with the chicken, add cilantro, mix well.
Add two cups of the remaining liquid in the mix, should be moist...not soupy. Taste for seasonings.
In a small pot add everything and cook for 10 to 15 minutes in the lowest setting. Take away from the heat and allow it to rest it for an additional 15 minutes.
Strain and transfer to a vessel.
In a food processor (or large bowl) add cornmeal, add remaining sauce (from the braised chicken) and oil, salt and mix well for a couple minutes.
Shape into equal size balls and keep them covered with a moist towel.
All hands on deck (this is something that really brings people together).
Rest a few leaves on a working surface.
Brush achiote oil on the leaves.
Put the dough on the leaves and with a wet hand, spread the dough into a thin circular space (keep it smaller than the size of the banana leaves).
Add equal amount of stuffing among the dough (8×4 oz balls...give or take).
Gently rest the garnishes on it.
Fold the leaves in way that the dough will overlap over the dough.
Make sure the stuffing is nicely enclosed between the dough.
Wrap it with one more leaf this time on the opposite direction.
Fold the leaves neatly and tied them with a butcher twine.
Meantime bring a large pot (ideally a couple pots) of water to a boil and cook them for one hour in a medium heat.