Sunday, 5 August 2012

OFC - A Central and South American Feast

I might have grumbled about not having any Asian or European countries on our list, but one of the good things is we had three countries from Central and South America which led to quite a good Saturday night feast!  Perhaps its just me being lazy, but it does seem that a lot of these countries are overlooked for their more well publicised neighbours such as Mexico, Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.  If you look in the right places, the food is healthy, fresh and really delicious.  Of course, it helps if you're a fan of rice, beans, limes and coriander, as there are some recurring themes in the food!

Our three were Nicaragua, Guatemala and Chile.  Guatemala and Nicaragua are republics in Central America, previously colonised by Spain and with rocky histories.  Guatemala is relatively poor, whilst Nicaragua has the lowest GDP in the whole of Central America.  Nevertheless they are fascinating countries and tourism (and therefore cash) is on the up in Nicaragua.  Chile, on the other hand, is one of South America's most stable and prosperous countries.  It is the longest country in the world so has a fairly varied eco climate with both deserts and a glacier.  Much of the food for all three countries is Spanish based and they benefit from great sea resources.
 Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Nicaragua.  It means "spotted rooster" in Spanish, although there's nothing to do with chickens here.
half an onion, finely chopped
half a pepper, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
half a tin of kidney beans, drained, with some of the liquid reserved
cooked rice - roughly 3:2 with the beans
salt and pepper to taste

1.  fry the onions, pepper and garlic for 2-3 minutes
2.  stir in the beans with some of their reserved liquid, salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and then reduce to cook through.
3.  add the rice, and more of the reserved liquid if necessary.  Adjust the seasoning and heat through thoroughly.

Guatemalan Mango and Avocado Salsa

half a mango, chopped
half a red pepper, diced
half a tomato, diced
one guacamole, chopped
1/8 red onion, diced
lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl about 30 minutes before serving. Leave covered in the fridge for the flavours to combine.  Check the seasoning and serve.

Chilean Seabass Ceviche

This recipe needs really fresh seabass (well, to be honest, what recipe doesn't?).  It's dead easy: chop the ingredients into smallish pieces, combine, and leave in the fridge for a few hours.  Drain off the excess liquid before serving.

4 small seabass fillets, skinned
one spring onion
quarter of a red pepper
juice of half a grapefruit
segments of quarter of a grapefruit (I was able to use the ones out of the squeezed half)
juice of half a lime
chopped coriander
salt to taste

OFC - Rasta Pasta!

Imagine my delight when I found that one of the dishes from the British Virgin Islands was called Rasta Pasta!  Quite simply there was no other choice when I came across this.  Ok, it might have been adopted by teenagers with the munchies, but still...

The other plus was I needed a pasta dish for Joe's pre-running meal on Friday evening, and not many of the countries we have lend themselves to good running prep (way too many beans and chillies in our countries...I'll say nothing else!).  For those of you who haven't read the round up, Joe is running his second marathon in October, exactly one week after we return from our honeymoon.  This means he is front-loading the training, as I will not be sacrificing our honeymoon for a week of pasta and early nights!  I'm very proud of him and he is running it in Liverpool so his mum can see him cross the finish line - in 4 hours, fingers crossed!
Rasta Pasta
1 garlic clove, minced
half an onion, sliced
1 pepper, finely sliced
enough pasta for two (depends on your appetite!)
7-8 broccoli florettes, blanched
half a can of black beans
half a teaspoon dried oregano (or a teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped)
parmesan cheese

1.  cook the pasta to al dente
2.  saute the garlic, onions and pepper until soft.
3.  combine the drained pasta, onion and pepper mix, cooked broccoli, oregano and beans and toss with a generous glug of olive oil.  Season to taste and serve with a generous helping of parmesan.

OFC - New Zealand and Maldives

New Zealand and the Maldives.  They're near each other, right?  Australia and half of Southern Asia is between them?  Oh, ok, well they're both islands and that makes them similar enough for me to stuff them in the same post. 

New Zealand

So what did I know about New Zealand before starting this little project?  It's kind of like Scotland, got a lot of sheep and gap year students.  It's also where Peter Jackson filmed most of the Lord of the Rings.  And they make good wine.  Pretty impressive knowledge, no?  What do I know now? It does definitely have a lot of sheep, the population is smaller than Scotland's, I do love the wine and the food really is rather varied.

When I first started searching for recipes it seemed everyone was trying to make me do a pavlova.  I'm afraid it's just not for me, I'm not into desserts at the best of times and something about a pavlova just seems a bit...boring.  I thought, given the very varied influences serving New Zealand food, I would use this one to my own ends.  I have been told the country selections were all random, but somehow we ended up without any Asian or European countries!!  New Zealand benefits from both immigration and proximity to South and East Asia, so a number of the recipes have that kind of influence.  After a bit of searching, I landed on pork stuffed cabbage rolls with tangy tomato sauce which was damn tasty.

Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Tangy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients (makes 4-5 rolls)
4-5  white cabbage leaves
200g mince pork
1.5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup cooked rice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 spring onion, finely chopped
half a carrot, grated
1 ts fresh ginger, finely hopped
pinch chinese five spice
1 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 a lemon, juiced
large splash cider
salt and sugar to taste

1.  blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds so they are slightly malleable. 
2.  stir fry half the garlic, the ginger, and after 1 minute add the pork mince and carrot.  Stir fry until the pork is cooked and then mix in the soy and oyster sauce.  Continue cooking until the liquid is reduced, and then stir in the spring onion and cooked rice.
3.  Place 2 tbsp of the pork mixture into each cabbage leaf and then roll up into a parcel.  Steam for 10 minutes.
4.  While steaming, put the tomato puree, lemon juice, cider, sugar and salt into a pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer until the cabbage rolls are steamed.

The Maldives

I'm not sure I have actually heard the Maldives being mentioned throughout the Olympic coverage, so I was actually a little sceptical they were competing!  Apologies to the Maldives, but it turns out they only have five athletes participating, in athletics, swimming and badminton, and they are currently sans medals.  No worries though, it's the taking part that counts (from us, sitting third in the medal table...).

But they can rest in the knowledge that they are a beautiful archipelago with sun and sea that draw in honeymooners the world over.  That doesn't seem too shabby to me.  It is also the country that introduced me to Aluvi Hiki Riha, aka potato fry, which is going to become a staple hangover cure from now on!

Aluvi Hiki Riha
250 g potatoes, diced and boiled until al dente
1 onion, sliced
4-5 curry leaves
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
half tsp mustard seeds
1 hot chilli, finely chopped (I used a bird's eye)
2 cardamon seeds
pinch chilli powder
teaspoon curry powder

1.  Roast the potatoes until golden
2.  Saute the onions, ginger, garlic, chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves.  When soft, add the roasted potatoes, cardamon, chilli and curry powders, seasoning and toss. 
3.  Cook down for a few minutes, adding a splash of water if looking too dry.

I served ours with a poached egg and watercress, which was great for a fiery brunch.  Be warned, if you use a whole bird's eye chilli this is quite eye-watering!