Cooking with cassareep: Guyanese pepperpot

Every day’s a school day, especially when you’re cooking dishes from other countries. Ever heard of cassareep? We hadn’t either, until we learnt that an authentic pepperpot (the national dish of Guyana) can’t be made without it, and that it is a syrup made from cassava.

Thinking we had no chance of finding this niche Guyanese ingredient in England, we started investigating what we could use as a substitute, but then Miranda happened to walk past a Caribbean grocery store and ventured inside to see whether they had any. It took a little while to locate as she didn’t know what she was looking for, but then she found some, and once again we were thankful that we live in such a multicultural town. Continue reading

Beef and beans: Venezuelan pabellón criollo

The honest truth? We made this dish so long ago we can’t really remember how we went about it. We also think we did it wrong. Here’s the story… Continue reading

Quick and easy: Aruban pan bati

Two things we knew about Aruba before last week:
– It’s mentioned in ‘Kokomo’ by The Beach Boys (which, word of warning, really gets stuck in your head)
– It’s where Rachel and Barry were supposed to go on their honeymoon on Friends (‘talk about your… big lizards.’)

Neither of those things has anything to do with food, though, so we turned to Google, where we learnt that there’s not really a distinct Aruban national dish. Fish creole came up, but with no consensus on what that actually is, as did keshi yena, which we’ve already made for Netherlands Antilles… of which Aruba is a territory, so maybe we didn’t need to make an Aruban dish after all. Hmmm. Continue reading

Worth the wait: Colombian torta negra

We weren’t going to make a Christmas cake this year. We have enough to do at the moment, and we’re never at home on Christmas Day to eat it. Ash’s mum and sister (with whom we spend Christmas) always make amazing cakes so we get our fill! Miranda also made Ash three fruit cakes for our anniversary in August.

But then we needed a Colombian recipe. Colombia’s national dish, bandeja paisa, is essentially the same as the plato tipico we made for Honduras, so that was out. Our friend who has visited Colombia suggested fish stew, but that involved coconut (which Ash doesn’t like) and lots of good seafood (which is hard to come by). Since it’s December, we thought we’d see if there were any good Colombian Christmas dishes, and that when we found torta negra (black cake) – and along with it, an excuse to make a Christmas cake after all. And not just any Christmas cake – one drenched in port and rum. Hurrah! Continue reading

Kind of authentic: Panamanian sancocho

More than just a hat and a canal, Panama has a unique national dish to offer: sancocho. In a way, it’s ‘just’ a chicken stew, but it’s not like one we’ve made before. For one thing, we’d never heard of culantro until we read about this dish. Don’t misread, either: that didn’t say cilantro (American for coriander). Apparently culantro is altogether different whilst not being dissimilar – in fact, it’s known as ‘cilantro’s pungent cousin’. It’s also what gives sancocho its distinct flavour and green hue. Unfortunately, it’s not something we were able to get hold of, so we had to use cilantro/coriander anyway. If you do make this substitute, use more cilantro than you would culantro.

Despite it being the national dish of Panama, if you do a Google search for ‘sancocho recipe’ the first page of results is made up on recipes from Colombia, Dominica and Puerto Rico, so we moved on to page two and chose the first recipe that actually mentioned Panama, which was on 196 Flavors. Continue reading

Breakfast with a difference: Costa Rican gallo pinto

This isn’t the first time we’ve searched for a country’s national dish and found that it’s rice and beans. It seems to be a common staple with minor regional variations. We’ve made a version before so we normally try to find an alternative. However, we didn’t reject Costa Rica’s version, gallo pinto, mainly because we were intrigued by what is apparently an essential ingredient: salsa lizano. Likened (but not identical) to Worcestershire sauce, salsa lizano is the key to an authentic gallo pinto, and we thought it was worth trying. It’s not available to buy here, as far as we know, so we had to make our own! For that (and the gallo pinto), we chose a recipe from Hispanic Kitchen. Continue reading

How it’s done: Nicaraguan tres leches cake (part two)

Normally if a recipe doesn’t work, or we don’t like the finished product, we chalk it up to experience and move on. It didn’t sit right with us, though, that our first attempt at Nicaraguan tres leches (three milks) cake, with all its wonderful ingredients, didn’t result in something amazing. What we got wasn’t bad, just… not amazing.

The first recipe we found for tres leches cake was on 196 Flavors, but we rejected it under the assumption that the recipe on might be more authentic. It may well be, but somehow we doubt it, because now that we’ve tried the 196 Flavors version, we can attest to the fact that it is 196% more delicious. THIS is what we thought we were making. Continue reading