Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CUBA III.

More German happiness.
In our days in Cuba we were able to enjoy few times some German items thanks to Horst and Osly.
They shared with us some can German pork prepared with spices (Sülze), we accompanied this with German bread made by Osly.
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They also had us for dinner: a good piece of pork steak, German sausage, fried potato patties, tomato salad, German beer and German chocolate cake…
Thanks Guys!!!
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Car Show meal- Thanks Julio!!!
Julio, our good buddy in La Habana took us to the Car Show celebrated the first weekend of each month. In the show food is offered and we were Julio’s guests for chicharrones and pork ribs. The total for this meal was 90 Cuban Pesos which is equivalent to 3.75 CUC (10 Cuban pesos for the chicharrones and 40 Cuban Pesos for each meal Brian and I had).
Good deal, a bit greasy but enjoyable. Julio said his meal was better, it consisted of a mixed of different pork cuts in a skewer for almost double of the price, but worth it.

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Banana bread, thanks Brian.
Brian should have been a scientist or something similar; he is always testing and creating. I like that. In Cuba it is hard to get stuff, think of anything and imagine it hard to be found. It is the case of anything, ingredients for baking are not the exception and if you find them they are of poor quality and/or really expensive.
However, we were able to find somewhat good flour and made it into banana bread; of course in order to get the eggs we had to spend days looking until they were available. Brian made nice looking banana bread, tasty and enjoyable for about 0.70 CUC being the butter the most expensive cost (0.40 CUC), which could have been 1/3 of that price if we had bought the real Cuban butter but then you get this mushy watery butter good for nothing.
Thanks Brian for the happiness you bring into my life!!!

We shared this banana bread with few people to the point that Brian was wondering why we were visiting the neighbourhood and he was getting nothing… I think people who got a piece enjoyed it, they even asked us to open a business to sell this bread that for sure you cannot get anywhere in Cuba.
We used Nutella from Germany (compliments of Osly and Horst) on the bread and discovered that by using butter under the Nutella you get a tasty Ferrero Rocher Banana Bread.
The recipe? It was not really develop by us so you can look for a simple banana bread recipe in the Internet and you will find lots, our addition to the recipe is the Ferrero Rocher discovery.
Enjoy!!!
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Los chicharos de Victoria.
Chicharos = peas.
Victoria is the lady who we stayed with in our first arrival to La Habana, very nice lady. I have been meeting her once per week to learn a different Cuban recipe each time.
I am trying to use very little meat or no meat mainly because I am not a meat lover, although I enjoy it when it is available but also because pretty soon I will be meeting a friend who is vegetarian and I would like to be able to make couple of good meals for her and her husband.
This recipe is very tasty and contains no meat, it can be done with any kind of bean but we chose peas.
The total cost was 45 Cuban Pesos, about 1.9 CUC and the pot lasted for 4 meals for two people.

Ingredients:
2 Cups of peas
2 or more Cups of water
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Onion
Garlic
“Acelgas”
Bell pepper
Carrots
Culantro
Salt
Spices
Sugar
Oil
Wine vinegar

Preparation:
Important to mention that pressure cooker is fantastic and necessary to cook beans.
1) Cook the peas in the pressure cooker for about 50-70 minutes depending on the type of peas acquired.
2) Cut all veggies in medium size squared pieces and cook them with oil adding a bit of wine vinegar and water. Add the spices you may like e.g. cumin, pepper. Remember to start by cooking the hardest vegetables first i.e. potatoes and ending with acelgas.
3) Once the peas are cooked add the seasoned vegetables, salt, culantro, a bit of sugar and oil; cook without pressure for another 30 minutes.
4) Serve on top of rice or on its own…
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Huevos con vegetales.
Vicky, Victoria’s daughter does not like to cook but she creates once in a while something that seems to be practical.
Here it is one of those recipes that I enjoy very much.

Ingredients:
Boiled eggs (as many as you desire)
Onion
Garlic
Carrots
Green peas
Potatoes
Vinegar
Seasoning salt
Salt
Tomato sauce
Oil

Preparation:
1) Cut the boiled eggs in wedges.
2) Sauté all available veggies, preferably the ones I mentioned above with oil and seasoning salt.
3) Place the eggs wedges in a frying pan (after adding a bit of oil to the pan) and add the veggies on top.
4) Add a little bit of oil on top, wine vinegar, tomato sauce and salt.
5) Cook for about 10 minutes and serve on top of rice or on its own.
6) Enjoy!!!
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Berenjenas.
In other words eggplants. Eggplant is not an easy veggie to cook but Victoria’s recipe is able to bring together flavour with presentation very well.
The total cost was not calculated but take in consideration that I spent about 5.875 CUC for veggies and fruits for an entire week…

Ingredients:
1 Eggplant (more if you desire, for us we can share one)
“Acelgas”
Celery
Onion
Green onions
Broccoli
Bell pepper
Green peas
Carrots
Potatoes
Oil
Wine vinegar
Seasoning salt
Butter
Cheese if available

Preparation:
1) Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the insides.
2) Cook all veggies along with the insides of the eggplant with a little bit of oil, once cook add a little bit of butter for flavour along with seasoning salt and wine vinegar.
3) Add this mix inside of each half of the eggplant. If cheese is available add it on top.
4) Place in oven until the skin of the eggplant is tender.
5) Once cooked served with some pasta (use any recipe that you may wish but it can simply be pasta with garlic and onions).
Note: I would recommend soaking the shelf of the eggplant in hot water to make it more tender before placing in the oven otherwise it comes out of the oven a bit hard even after cooking for a while which makes it impossible to eat the shelf.
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Brian’s Pan Bakery.
This may remind you of Tom’s Pan Bakery in Costa Rica but nope, this is just Brian and Deya. Brian, like I said, never stops testing and he made some bread with Cuban flour!!!
He followed a recipe from the Internet for Simple Whole Wheat Bread which really calls for more white flour than whole wheat flour. In our modified version we used 2 cups of white flour and 3 cups of whole wheat flour which had been in the freezer for years but it worked.
Total cost of 1.175 for three loaves of bread. Good job Brian!!!

We ate this bread with some Leberwurst (liver paté) also compliments from Osly and Horst. Delicious.
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Friday, February 10, 2012

CUBA II.

Cuba continues to be an interesting experience, like any other country except for in this country the black market of ingredients for cooking is huge; did you ever imagine that buying potatoes could be illegal? I did not…


Notes for cooking beans.
I continue in my search for recipes to cook beans and although the recipes are alike some of the suggestions or recommendations may make the difference in the original recipe written in VIVA LA REVOLUCION...

Olguita for example, a lady who we met at a rental room in Artemisa, told me that:
-By adding “vino seco/dry wine” the flavour of the beans is enhanced. This addition occurs after the “sofrito” is added to the beans. I tried it and it works well.
-By pressing on the beans with a strong spoon after adding the “sofrito” you can get a better consistency, better flavour since it is extracted from the beans as well as they become softer.
-By adding a bit of sugar the bitterness of the beans (if any) will go away. I think Cubans simply like sugar but oh well, I tried and it adds some flavour.
-By frying the garlic and onions to a brown colour more flavour is added. It works!!!

Another lady, Mayda Rodriguez Lafita who works at the Campismo Dos Hermanas in Vinales, added bell peppers in the sofrito. She recommended adding anything you may want, also any spices you may like e.g. oregano or pepper.


Papaya candy-Vinales.
This is a fantastic way of cooking papaya if you do not like the flavour of it, like Brian. At a Casa Particular called Villa Noel in Vinales, the best so far in our stay in Cuba, Mercedes cooked this dish.
It is basically papaya previously peeled and without the seeds, cut in squared pieces and cooked for 15 minutes in a pressure pot with the addition of sugar; how much sugar? It depends on the amount of sugar you like to have in this mix and the amount of syrup you want to end up with. Mercedes recommended equal portions of papaya and sugar which means a cup of papaya for a cup of sugar.
Later on when I had the opportunity I tried reproducing this recipe but I used half papaya, some fresh grated coconut and about ¼ cup of sugar, almost nothing and of course it was not as tasty but healthier. We then ate this mix in our morning hot cereal breakfast.
She cooked many other things that were delicious but for this recipe thanks Mercedes!!!
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Green tomatoes.
I never imagined that green tomatoes could be eaten until someone on the road approached us and gave us three tomatoes for a salad to which I said: -Thanks, I will use them when they are ready; the gentleman told me that I did not have to wait at the same time that he took a bite.
I made a wonderful salad with the three tomatoes and from now on I am able to eat green tomatoes. It is easier to find green tomatoes in Cuba than red tomatoes… Problem solved!!!
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Guava candy, Peanut bar and Coconut…
Three sweet wonderful things. The first one, guava candy, is a bit too sweet but good if you have a little piece as a dessert on its own or in a piece of bread with melted cheese (common in Cuba, this is called Timba de guayaba or Bocadito de guayaba or simply Pan con guayaba y queso, price = 5 Cuban Pesos or 0.20 CUC). The price of a bar of guava ranges from 12-18 Cuban Pesos = 0.83 CUC. I could not tell by the package how much in one bar but I would say about 250 grams.
A peanut bar is 3 Cuban Pesos = 0.15 CUC. Delicious snack although it has a lot of sugar.
Fresh grated coconut is great with hot cereal, it adds natural sweet flavour. For 0.42 CUC you can get a pound.
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Cacique Beer.
Tasty and refreshing in the middle of the day. For 0.83 CUC you can get one and enjoy it at a bench in La Habana Vieja.
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Coccinia Indica or Goccinia Grande or Papasan.
This strange fruit that we found in Cuba, originally from India, grows wild and apparently it reduces the glucose levels by 50%.
I do not have more information about it since I have limited access to Internet but you can find out more about it and let me know…
What I can tell you is that it tastes good, not very flavourful but good.
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Thank Goodness for the Germans.
Germans are a positive addition to this world in many ways. When we are talking about food I am thankful to meet Germans because they know how to eat, they appreciate food and they share with us this appreciation.
In Cuba we met Horst and Osly, a nice German-Cuban couple, who shared with us real German beer (from Germany), a nice meal including potato salad and real German mustard.
It was a fantastic evening, our first real meal in Cuba. Thanks to both of you…
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Products of crime.
I am not very proud of this discovery but also not ashamed since I did not put the dishes on the table and it is good to find out about these topics to be aware and make future choices. We went out with some people who took us for a “nice meal”. We had turtle soup (caguama) which I believe is illegal to capture and kill, I would not try it again for sure; it is tasty but not something worth a crime.
We also had crocodile which is legal and it was a good experience, it is soft and really tasty, almost like a mix of flavours between chicken and pork.
To finish this list of crimes, we had Cuban deer which is not a specie that exists in Cuba naturally but it was brought to feed the crocodiles in this island. I am not sure if I ate legal or illegal deer but I ate it and it was not as good as the Canadian deer I have had.
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