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

Not suitable for babies: Nicaraguan tres leches cake

The national dish of Nicaragua is rice and beans – been there, done that. Thank goodness we thought we could do better and kept looking, because we found the tres leches (three milks) cake! Much like the Australia/New Zealand pavlova debate, there’s some disagreement over whether the tres leches cake originated in Nicaragua or Mexico, but it looked so delicious we were more than happy to side with the Nicaraguans.

This cake is seriously naughty: there are actually four milks (regular, evaporated, condensed and a LOT of double cream), sugar, butter and 9 eggs! This means that after we said we were going to try to make our dishes baby-friendly from now on, we managed to make that last for a grand total of one country… but we have a baby who doesn’t sleep, so we think we deserve a treat. And oh, this is a treat.

There are a lot of recipes for tres leches cake out there, with minor variations. We decided to go with the one on based solely on the name of the website. Continue reading

Family feast: Honduran plato tipico

When we first looked up the national dish of Honduras, we found the plato tipico: a massive plate of food, including three different types of barbecued meat. Regular readers of this blog will recognise that this was right up Ash’s alley (ok, and Miranda’s too), so we had to make it. However, unlike our multi-stage dish from El Salvador, which we put together over three days, this plato tipico had multiple elements that all had to be ready at the same time, with some being cooked in the kitchen and some outside on the barbecue. How could we possibly pull this together with a baby hanging around?

Luckily for us, this dish coincided with a visit from Baby Mash’s grandma and auntie, who were more than happy to take him off our hands for a couple of hours while we cooked.

In the end, we could only really find one recipe for Honduran plato tipico, so goodness knows if it’s even a real thing. We’ve since learned that it’s ubiquitous in Colombia, so maybe we haven’t made something Honduran after all. But we were too far gone by the time we realised that… so here it is. Continue reading

Three day relay: El Salvadoran pupusas

Ok, we know we said we were going to choose simple recipes now that having a baby has made our lives a whole lot more complicated. We meant it at the time, we really did. Then El Salvador and its national dish of pupusas, and a desire to ‘do it right’, hit us simultaneously.

A pupusa is a stuffed cornmeal flatbread, usually served with curtido (a sort of pickled cabbage slaw). We chose a recipe that offered us the chance to cook pupusas the way Curly and his abuelita (granny) would have done. We don’t know who Curly and his grandmother are, but we do know that the stuffing combo of cheese, chicharrón (pork) and refried beans sounded good to us. So, in an epic three-day, tag-teaming relay, we made curtido, chicharrón and pupusa dough from scratch. Oh, and we figured we might as well make our own El Salvador-style refried beans, too. How? Read on… Continue reading

More chicken and rice – this time with seeds: Guatemalan pepián

Firstly, for those following the turmeric woes that accompanied our Christmas Islander dish, we’re happy to report that Vanish is capable of miracles and both items of potentially ruined clothing were saved. Hurrah! #notanad

But now for our latest meal: Guatemalan pepián. Yet another incarnation of chicken and rice, this dish is a typical street food from Guatemala. Having made it, our opinion is that we wouldn’t want to be in a street stall faffing around with all the necessary components, so all power to the Guatemalans.

This dish was also a blast from the past for Miranda, due to the inclusion of a vegetable known as guisquil, chayote, chow chow, mirliton squash or (as is the case in Australia) choko. Of course the Australian name ends with an o! It’s native to Central America and rarely seen in the UK, but widely grown in Australia and NZ. Miranda remembers a childhood of eating them after they’d been boiled to oblivion and sprinkled with black pepper. Fortunately, our multicultural locale enabled us to get hold of one for the pepián – the recipe for which we found thanks to a feature in the Guardian by Guatemalan Rudy Girón. We weren’t, unfortunately, able to source one of the chillies, so we’ll put the traditional requirements below and discuss our substitutes afterwards. Continue reading

Turmeric and breastfeeding don’t mix: Christmas Islander ayam panggang

If you read our last post, you might recall that we hadn’t yet chosen between Guatemala or Christmas Island for our next culinary journey. Each country’s national dish is a version of chicken, chilli and rice, but Ash decided we should start with Christmas Island’s coconut-heavy ayam panggang, in the spirit of getting it over with. As such, we’ve now made it through our list of ‘catch up’ countries, so the order of our future posts will be more geographically logical.

Christmas Island is a tiny Australian territory in the Indian Ocean with a population of less than 1500. It’s not far from Indonesia and its cuisine is therefore strongly influenced by South East Asian flavours. Once again, we are grateful to Travel by Stove for doing the (considerable) legwork for this recipe so that we, in our perpetual state of sleep deprivation, didn’t have to. Continue reading