#25 Date selected: 2/4/16 Date completed: 4/4/16
Country selected: El Salvador
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu:
- Pastina-stuffed avocado
- Leche Poleada
Saturday 2nd April 2016, 3.27pm
So for this challenge we’re off to a country that is known as the “Murder Capital of the World” – this should be interesting!
El Salvador is in Central America, nestled between Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It also happens to be the only one of the four countries that I can spell without help from spell check! It’s the most densely populated country in Central America and has the unenviable reputation as having the highest murder rates in the world.
According to The Washington Post, El Salvador had more than 6,600 homicides in 2014. That’s out of a population of 6 million and equates to around 18 homicides a day. Gang violence is rife and, despite a drop in crime rate in recent years, it’s had a spike in murder rate with the 2015 stats showing an increase of about 70 percent from the year before.
Human Rights in the country is poor with Amnesty International drawing attention over the past 10 years including missing children, several arrests of police officers for unlawful police killings, rendering organised labour illegal and failure of law enforcement to properly investigate and prosecute crimes against women. The gender gap seems quite significant and I was shocked to read that if a woman miscarries in El Salvador, it is frequently assumed she deliberately induced an abortion or could have saved the baby. Long prison terms face women who did not know they were pregnant or who could not have prevented a miscarriage.
Salvadorian cuisine relies strongly on indigenous foods like beans, corn, squash and tomatoes with strong influences from Mayan culture.
Monday 4th April 2016, 12.38pm
I like to try and mix things up a bit in these challenges so when I saw the recipe for Pastina-stuffed avocados, I decided to try them for my El Salvador challenge. Whilst rice or couscous is usually utilized with avocado, the author decided to substitute pastina. I did look for something a bit more traditional but had no luck so decided to go with this one regardless. I also decided to do a traditional dessert – leche poleada, which sounded interesting to me.
Both recipes were quite easy to make and I was able to whip them up in a reasonable amount of time.
Finding pastina was a little difficult, but I was able to locate some in my “go-to” specialty grocers. It is cooked over a stovetop in chicken stock and saffron. If you were after a vegetarian option, I’m sure you could substitute the chicken stock for vegetable easily enough though the chicken stock did give it a lovely rounded flavour that complemented the other ingredients very well. The recipe uses a surprisingly large amount of saffron and finding a cheaper powdered type substitute might be in order if you’re cooking a lot or are on a budget.
The avocado I used was probably a little firmer than I would have liked and I missed the creaminess that a riper fruit would have given me, but it did go very well with the pastina mixture. There was way too much pastina mixture for the amount of avocado but it’s actually quite nice by itself and gives you the option of really piling it onto the plate if you wish. It’s a deliciously fresh dish and the suggestion of serving it for a main course at lunch or as an entrée is right on the money. It may be a little fiddly if you’re making lunch for yourself but would definitely work if you were hosting a lunch or dinner party for friends.
Leache Poleada was my choice for dessert and is reminiscent of a thick vanilla custard. Again it’s a very easy dish to make and could easily be made in advance. The thing to remember is to ensure you keep stirring the mixture as it heats as when the custard thickens, it does it very quickly and it would be extremely easy to burn the mixture accidentally if you weren’t paying attention.
I was a little worried that the amount of vanilla extract that the recipe called for was a little excessive, but I was pleasantly surprised at how balanced the taste was and it almost had a slight caramel taste to it. The cinnamon on top is a must as that really complements the vanilla. I’m sure that there are a myriad of different options that you could serve with this dish. I could see strawberries or similar sweet fruits going very well with it, or even a hint of chocolate. I really enjoyed it as is however and found it a beautiful finish to this challenge.
Onto our next challenge however….