Hacienda el Porvenir, Cotapaxi National Park
Adventures in the Andes
Ecuador sits astride the equator. Its relatively tiny size belies its staggering geographical diversity, from the luscious Amazonian rainforests to a battalion of snow-smothered Andean volcanic peaks. One such peak is the Cotopaxi Volcano, which sits in the centre of the Andean region. The Andes are wide open to those visitors looking to take part in outdoor activities, visit local communities and relax in lovely country farms or haciendas in exquisite scenery.
One of these stunning haciendas is the Hacienda el Porvenir. This friendly, folksy place is a few kilometres outside Cotopaxi National Park, on the treeless high altitude steppe covering the lower slopes of Rumiñahui volcano. It is very much a working ranch – specialising in wild Andean bulls and dairy cattle – and some of the staff are genuine Andean cowboys. There are all sorts of opportunities for visitors to take part in farm activities which makes this the perfect place to bring the family; children are invited to join in with feeding the animals or even with making chocolate.
The three cosy living rooms, each with the inviting addition of a fireplace, are very welcome on chilly highland evenings. Guest accommodation consists of rustic, traditional rooms, family suites and five newer suites, which we particularly recommend. The latter have good contemporary heating and fantastic views over Cotopaxi volcano.
There’s a lot to do here when the sun comes up: guests with a penchant for the outdoors can go horse riding, mountain biking and zip lining, or venture out on self-guided hikes along well marked trails.
An Empanada Tutorial
When you come home hungry at the end of the day, the dining room at Porvenir serves meals prepared with fresh local produce. We were treated to a cooking lesson where we were taught a quintessential Ecuadorian Empanada Recipe.
- Have the dough ready in advance:
To make the dough:
Mix together 1300g Plain White flour is best and 500g Butter by hand (just like pasta making) with a Pinch of salt and sugar to fine bread crumbs.
Add 500ml of full fat milk and continue to mix.
It gets very glutinous and sticky. Let it rest in a plastic bag for one hour to increase elasticity and prevent from drying out.
- Use grated mozzarella cheese for the filling.
- Pinch out a small amount and press out with your fingers as thin as you possibly can until there’s enough space to add a small teaspoon of the cheese. Seal and crimp the edge with your thumb. This takes some practising to look pretty.
- Fry in a hot oil, not olive oil but something that reaches a high boiling point (sunflower or rapeseed are both good)
- You could use minced meat, chicken or even grated vegetables as options for a filling
- Chop four big chillies and remove seeds (you can put them in water to reduce potency).
- Put chillies and Himalayan salt in a pestle and mortar to grind into a paste. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to make a salsa consistency. You could add cooked carrot or tomato to make a chutney texture. We added roughly two heaped tablespoons of leek (very finely chopped). Add a bit more water to make the perfect base for a number of dishes.
- You could add pumpkin seeds or if you have them, some lupin beans, which have been stored in water.
- Serve with the warm empanadas.
It was a treat to bring the taste of Ecuador home to our kitchen with these delicious recipes and relive our Andean adventures.