In one of my trips to Cadiz, my friend Pilar took me to the market to by "altramuces". Those were already cooked and were kept in a glass pot with salted water and ready to eat like olives.
We ate them that day as a "tapa", and while enjoying a glass of wine for me and a beer for her, we cooked dinner. She mentioned how nutritious they were and at that moment I felt pleased to have discovered a new "fun" ingredient. But the story did not end there, because a few months later I visited Ecuador and found out that they were extremely popular in their traditional cuisine. That was when it started that itching for the unknown and threw myself into research.
"El chocho" as known in Ecuador, "altramuz" in Spain and "lupin" or "lupino" in other countries, is a very particular legume. Originally from Ecuador since pre-hispanic era, the residents of the Old World considered poor people's food and stopped cultivating it in favor of other products brought from Europe... they did not know what they were missing at the time!
"El chocho" is 50% protein and is already considered as much or more nutritious as quinoa and soy. It has plenty of Omega 3 and 6 and even compare with virgin olive oil. There are studies claiming that it decreases the concentration of glucose and insulin in the blood of humans and animals. Due to these properties and for its richness and versatility, "el chocho" is on its way to become the next "super food" according to the greatest Ecuadorian agricultural experts.
"El chocho" is very bitter and that is why it has to be cooked in salty water to make it more palatable. In Quito, people buy them toasted as an appetizer for mid morning or at lunch time. At Santa Clara's market, for less than a dollar, I tasted the "cebichocho", a typical dish made with "chochos", roasted corn, tomato, lime, chifles (mariquitas) and cilantro, which literally left me speechless for the incredible flavor combination with such common and economic ingredients. They also prepare the "chochos con tostado" which consists of "chochos" with roasted corn and a slice of lime. There is even "ají de chochos", a sort of "salsa criolla" for adding to any empanada, "bolon de verde" (similar to the mofongo) or any meat, since it is good with anything. To make it, boil "ají" Amarillo and "tomate de árbol"; once cooked, let it cool and blend it with a little bit of water, oil, paiteña (red) onion and cilantro. During Lent time, the typical soup is called "Fanesca", whose main ingredient is the "chocho".
This "soja de los Andes", as the "chochos" are also known, will enchant you. If you haven't try them yet, do it as you find them... I think they will become trendy soon.
The kitchen doesn't bite!