Friday, 11 June 2010

Cooking lesson 1: Nica food in Granada

This afternoon we had a cooking lesson at the Nicaragua Mia Language school in Granada.  Before the lesson we tried to memorise as many cooking implements and ingredients as we could by playing ‘pairs’ with cards!  This went fairly well until we realised we were using the same word for knife and spoon! 
The recipe was a typical dish and was delicious and easy to make so I recommend anyone trying to replicate.

Platanos maduros y queso, gallo pinto y ensalate con fresco de pina y naranja 

Ingredients: (amounts are approximate!)  This served 5 easily.

  • 5 - 6 Plantain (Platanos)
  • 5 small Onion (Cebolla)
  • 4 – 5 v large Tomatos (Tomate)
  • 6 – 7 small or 1 – 2 large Green sweet Peppers (Chiltoma)
  • 6 segments Garlic (Oja)
  • 3 – 4 stalks Celery (Apio)
  • 2 – 3 handfuls Coriander (Cilantro)
  • Rice – already cooked (measure per number of people) (Arroz)
  • Kidney beans – already soaked (2 -3 tins) (pinto frijoles)
  • Slightly smoked cheese grated (Queso)
  • 1 large Pinapple (Pina)
  • 6 – 8 Oranges (Naranja)
  • 2 Limes (Lima)

Cut (cuccha) the ends off the plantain and peel, then cut in half and put in a pan of water.  Put the pan on a medium heat on the hob (cochina) and allow to come to the boil.  Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.  They will expand and look slightly soft.  Take off the heat, drain and set to one side.

Whilst the plantain are simmering dice the onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, celery and coriander.  Heat a frying pan with some oil and add half of the onion, peppers, garlic and coriander and all of the celery.  Soften the veg for 5 – 10 mins and then add kidney beans and keep stirring for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Now sprinkle in the rice and continually stir for about 10 – 15 minutes.  Take off the heat and keep warm in a bowl ready to serve.

Place all the plantain onto a plate and take a spoon back and use it to mash the plantain as seen below.  Make the mash as smooth as possible.  Place to one side.

For the salad pour the remaining onion, peppers, garlic, and coriander into a bowl.  Also add the tomatoes and stir well.  Juice the limes and pour the juice into the salad along with a pinch of rock salt.  Set to one side.

Take a piece of cling film about twice the length of a plate and place it centred onto a plate.  Then spoon some of the mash onto the cling film and shape into a round tortilla.  Smooth it out and add cheese on top.  Then lift the cling film end nearest to you and fold it over the top so that the tortilla folds in half and looks like a Cornish pasty with the cheese inside.  Smooth the edges to ensure the cheese is sealed.

Heat a deep frying pan with a fair amount of oil and then add your plantain parcel to the oil gently!  Leave to gently fry (do not deep fry and cover in oil).  Once it looks like the bottom side is browned turn it over.  This will take about 10 minutes – the key is to have the heat low – medium and fry gently.

Whilst these cook you can juice the oranges and slice the pineapple.  Add to a blender and blend until you get a smooth juice.

Your meal is now ready to pull together!  Serve some of the gallo pinto (rice mix!) along with the salad and one of the ´plantanos maduros y queso´.  Pour a refreshing glass of the juice and you have your Nicaraguan meal!  

Plantain is very popular in Nicaragua – it has appeared in nearly every meal we have eaten so far in various forms.  Rice and beans are also very important in the diet.  What I’ve enjoyed so far about the food in Nicaragua is the simplicity, yet variety of ways of using relatively few ingredients.  The use of lime in salads and meat gives a subtle kick and the sweet flavour of the plantain balances with the rice and beans to make a delicious meal! 

Do try to make this yummy Nicaraguan dish and please let me know your thoughts below!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Review: Bills in Brighton – the ‘last lunch’

Welcome to my first entry on the new born ‘globe troffer’ blog!  I have set this up as I thought using my passion for food would be an interesting way of remembering and sharing my travels with others.  I love how through food you can learn about other cultures, not only through the different styles and ingredients but also through the social element to cooking and eating with others.  I hope you enjoy this blog and that I can bring to life some of the experiences and flavours from around the globe!

Today I visited ‘Bills’ in Brighton for lunch in between last minute shopping for my upcoming trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  I will be working for Raleigh International until September 2010 on an expedition so the food will either be cooked by local host families or by ourselves over a camp stove!  So James and I decided to have a good lunch before we head off on Saturday morning!

Bills is quite a trendy ‘market’ style cafĂ© which currently has two sites – one in Lewes and the other in Brighton centre not far from the popular Brighton Lanes.  I first visited earlier this year with my friend Rebecca who said I would love it and she was right!  This place is always pretty busy and often boasts queues out of the door, which is usually a good sign.  A fun, food-loving atmosphere is created by combining friendly and enthusiastic staff, fresh and unique food products for sale and a great little menu including fresh juices, and interesting combinations for breakfast and lunch.

After much deliberation I decided to go for the smoked haddock, prawn and leek pie with cheddar mash crust and the house salad along with a carrot, orange and ginger juice and James opted for the classic all day breakfast and a cool elderflower juice.  The food came promptly and presentation was so beautiful!  I think it’s the best presented all day breakfast I’ve ever seen! 

As you can see by the pictures below I’m not yet in the habit of remembering to take pictures of the food before I start to eat!  So you can see our meals as progress was being made!  First for the pie and salad, both were scrummy yummy!  The salad was a really great combination and had really interesting flavours with a good kick coming from the parsley and the harissa and cous cous.  The pie, hmmmmm! - Perfect mash with beautiful chunky bits of fish inside.  The meal was so tasty and just the right amount to fill you and also felt fairly healthy and light.  The juice I chose definitely tasted healthy!  Maybe a little too much on the carrot but the amount of ginger was good as left a bit of a kick afterwards.

Reports from James on the breakfast were just as scrumptious, although his only complaint was that the bacon was overcooked!  Highlight of the meal was the spicy sausage and the amazing presentation.  The elderflower drink was served with a gooseberry and some grapes in the glass which definitely added something to the flavour.

Despite us both feeling quite full we couldn’t resist sharing a fruit pavlova, and I’m sure you can understand why when you see the picture below!  The cream was heavenly and the fruit so fresh and full of flavour.  The meringue base was slightly stodgy and thick for our liking but the lighter, crisp end made up for it.

So in summary Bills definitely gets the thumbs up and recommendation from us!  It has an upbeat, vibrant feel, great music, food and drinks and really lovely staff.  

I took some time to ask our waitress what she loved about Bills and she smiled and said ‘so many things, I love the atmosphere, the market place feel and all the fresh ingredients that are used to make the food.’