Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CUBA IV.

Food is something that makes us really happy like we have said many times; it is also a way to realize the culture of a country, the supply chain of that country and simply to know if we could happily live in that country. Of course, Brian can talk with authority more about the supply chain in Cuba but what I can tell you is that I can’t live in Cuba simply because the food I enjoy is not available here, perhaps I would be able to grow some things starting with hot peppers. We do not need much but we do need some things, especially when life has been so good to us that we have been able to grow with these things e.g. avocados, the good cholesterol in life.

However, our journey has taught us more and more that we do not have to accept but we do have to learn and learning in Cuba has given me a lot of headaches but good headaches. We have been able to find happiness in food, find items we enjoy (although normally in the black market), people have been very good to us and have shared what they have and generally speaking we have eaten well, although I am soooo looking forward to TACOS PASTOR IN MEXICO.


Los Dos Chinitos.
This is a “Chinese Restaurant” owned by two people with Chinese background (families that arrived to Cuba in the 1900’s); their names are Felipe and Magali. They opened this place on April 2011, taking the opportunity that the Cuban government gave to Cubans to open private businesses.
They offer a variety of dishes including Asian style fusion with Cuban dishes like Arroz Congri.
Prices are in Cuban Pesos and they are reasonable, portions are well served. One dish is good for two people but if you want to eat well then you can order your own dish, I have to say that I have never been able to eat an entire dish, I always end up with leftovers. My favourite dish is Cerdo Picante (Spicy Pork) for 40 Cuban Pesos (which equals to 1.67 CUC).

The address? Calle 52 #1709 entre 17 y 19 Playa, La Habana. Telephone? 202-5132.
They have delivery service for 24 Cuban Pesos within Playa and 48-72 Cuban Pesos if the delivery is further away.
I enjoy this place very much, the service is great and it is the spiciest food we have had in Cuba.
Good Job guys!!! Our best wishes!

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Memories of a friend.
Experimenting and creativity go together. We have used raw sweet potatoes grated or in chunks to make a salad. Basically you can put anything in the salad although I suggest tomatoes and cucumber with the addition of a simple salad dressing: olive oil + lemon + salt.
Eating raw veggies brought me memories of a good friend. Thinking of you Annette…
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Shall we move to Germany?
Oh my goodness!!! Germans have everything for everything. Here we are in an Island where finding eggs takes about a week but with some German friends who seem to magically make life better.
One more thing that Osly and Horst shared with us was Chili con Carne. I just found out this is a German dish although it is also a typical dish in Canada. However, in order to make it some spices are required. Osly opened a package with all these spices inside and poured it into the fresh ingredients: sauté onions with ground beef and kidney beans.
That evening was again fantastic!!! Thanks again.
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What time left behind.
Being able to have a real glass of milk is just the matter of time or luck. When milk is extremely expensive that does not make it into the grocery list there is something wrong and we must leave.
While in Cuba we have not had milk not just because it is expensive but if we are able to get it, the source is questionable, it is in the newspapers!!!
We were fortunate to know some good caring people who shared with us some real milk and not just that they also shared with us brownies which we have not had for about 22 months and Malbec Wine which we have not had for about 6 months.
Thanks Kevin and Mel. We much appreciate it. You cannot imagine the psychological impact this had on us.
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Soroa Wine.
We bought a bottle of Cuban wine for 2.85 CUC but still have not tasted it. We brought it to a reunion but there was better wine on the table so it did not get opened. We will get another bottle and report later.
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Life is beautiful.
Have you looked around and wonder if life is beautiful? I have and it is.
Again, here we are, having a hard time finding our way to get what we need to cook and be happy but life smiles to us, we are invited for dinner and our good friend shares with us good food and great company.
This gentleman is not just a smart individual when at a desk or in front of people but also a creative person gifted with a particular skill that allows him to deliver happiness. That evening we had great lasagne, plated very nicely and fantastic Greek salad paired with a fine Spanish wine. To finish we had delicious cake brought to the table by other guests from the Melia Habana Hotel on 3rd Avenue, my first delicious piece of Cuban cake.
Oh yes, Life is Beautiful!!!
Thanks Patrick, we hope to see you again and have the opportunity to cook for you… outside of Cuba.
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Mexico Lindo y Querido.
I never imagined being so happy to see other Mexicans. Normally I am just happy to meet good people and I do not ask “Where are you from?” just to find out if I will like you or not but I experienced in Cuba some things I never experienced before.
We met some Mexicans who will be rescuing us from Cuba on a boat, I know it sounds funny but it is not. They will help us to get to Mexico.
They are in the same situation than us; they want to get to Mexico as soon as possible for other reasons than ours but one common reason: food. They were very kind to share with us some of the Mexican food items they have with them.
Thank you very much Ingenieros and Capitan!!!
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El Palenque.
This is a place where you can eat but I have not eaten there, although whenever I go there it smells good. Anyway, this is a reference point to find a French Frozen Bakery. What I mean by this is that in the “Panaderia” you can find good real French bread from baguettes to great pastries but they all come frozen to Cuba and then they are put in the oven and this is how we are able to access good French baked items. But you may wonder why don’t they just import the flour and make the bread themselves, well I wonder that too. If you ask the Cubans working there for the last 20 years they’ll say, “I’ve wondered the same thing my whole life?” It does not matter, for 1.8 CUC you are able to buy a good whole wheat baguette, pricy but tasty.

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Chocolate milk or rum in a box?
Walking on the streets I always see people drinking out of this white box and I thought it was chocolate milk but it is rum!!! A little box is 0.90 CUC, simply white rum. Since I am not a rum lover I cannot appreciate the convenience of it, I would actually like to see this kind of packaging on something like Baileys.
However, I do appreciate the nice liquor we enjoy almost every evening: Licor de Café or Licor de Cacao for 3.1 CUC per bottle. Very tasty and it makes for a good after dinner drink.
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I am glad we are different.
I am glad Brian and I are different. He says he likes everything but really he would not eat something that smells a little funny or has a strange colour. I can eat rotten cheese for example but Brian will be more cautious.
This recipe is about slightly strange cauliflower, without much colour and a bit smelly according to Brian, but I am glad we are different because I got to enjoy the entire dish myself, I could not make Brian eat a bit of it.
Brian made this dish for me while I was typing, he simply boiled the cauliflower after thorough examination of it, then he put cheese on it and placed the dish in the oven for about 25 minutes at about 300oF.
We spent on this dish about 1 CUC and it would be good for about 4 people.
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Banana Bread.
Yes, I remember I wrote in an earlier blog that you can find this recipe in the Internet but I changed my mind and I will share it with you. This is such a simple recipe that has given us a lot of happiness.

Ingredients:
3-4 Ripe bananas, smashed (when in Cuba you have to use double amount of bananas because they are pretty small)
⅓ Cup melted butter (you can also use oil; when in Cuba butter is somewhat expensive so oil is a better option).
1 Cup sugar (can easily reduce to ¾ cup, we prefer brown sugar)
1 Teaspoon vanilla (bread is tastier with vanilla but it is not necessary)
1 Teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 ½ Cups of all-purpose flour

Preparation:
1) Preheat oven to 350oF (150oC).
2) With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
3) Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla.
4) Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
5) Add the flour last, mix.
6) Pour mixture into a buttered 4 x 8 inch loaf pan.
7) Bake for 1 hour.
8) Cool on a rack.
9) Remove from pan and slice to serve.
This recipe makes one loaf and it goes well with coffee or on its own.
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Basic Cornbread.
This recipe is fantastic, especially since we made it with ingredients that were given to us by the sharing Mexicans we know in Cuba. Thanks guys, you helped us to have a fantastic meal.
We tried wonderful cornbread in Virginia USA and this is not even close to what we tried but it is our own bread and that, that is what matters.
The total cost is around 1 CUC for a good loaf for four people.

Ingredients:
1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup all-purpose flour
¼ Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup milk
⅓ Cup vegetable oil
1 Egg

Preparation:
1) Preheat oven at 400 oF.
2) Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, wet ingredients in another.
3) Combine the two and mix until just blended.
4) Pour into greased pan.
5) Use an 8 x 8 inch pan if you like it fairly thick or 13 x 9 inch pan if you like it thin.
6) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7) Remove and serve while still warm.
8) Enjoy.
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