#32 Date selected: 6/5/16 Date completed: 13/5/16
Country selected: Cuba
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/recipe address:
- Authentic Cuban Sandwich
- Cuban Garlic Soup recipe (Sopa de Ajo)
I have to admit that I know very little about Cuba other than the fact that they were not winning any popularity contests with the USA during the 1950s & 60s.
Doing a quick internet search I learn that it is actually the largest island in the Caribbean and is situated south of Florida and the Bahamas and north of Jamaica. The country is considered part of Latin America culturally but has a multiethnic population with roots in Spanish colonialism and the close relationship the country had with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Politically Cuba has had a bit of a turbulent history with the peak of this occurring during the 1950s when an armed revolt was conducted against the US-backed authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. This revolt was known as the Cuban Revolution and led by Fidel Castro with his brother Raul and other such revolutionaries as Che Guevara.
In 1962 a major confrontation between the USA and Cuba took place that almost escalated into a full-scale nuclear war. Cuban government had requested that the Soviets place nuclear missiles in Cuba in order to deter future harassment of the country and construction began on a number of missile launch facilities began. A US Air Force U-2 spy plane managed to photograph evidence of these facilities which caused a great deal of concern in the States. They demanded that all missiles be dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union. After a tense standoff between factions, the Soviets relented and removed the missiles as instructed.
The relationship between Cuba and the USA has slowly improved throughout the years that have followed and reached a deal to reopen embassies in their respective capitals in 2015 and re-establish diplomatic relations.
The cuisine of Cuba is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean influences. For the last four decades, food rationing has been the norm in Cuba so the common availability of many dishes is restricted. Garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaves are the dominant spices with many meat dishes cooked slowly with light sauces. Traditionally, meals are not split into different courses with all food items served at the same time.
Friday 13th May 2016, 11.13pm
With a busy few weeks ahead of me, I decided to go simplistic for this challenge. I had originally decided to do two different dishes that would compliment each other that I could eat together as a meal. In the end however, I wound up doing them separately over the course of a few days partly due to time constraints and partly because my local supermarket temporarily ran out of garlic.
My first recipe was a Cuban Sandwich – mostly just because it sounded delicious! I can confirm that it was too!
Traditionally you would use Cuban bread for the sandwich but the recipe did say that you could substitute French bread instead. I ended up using a French baguette which, whilst difficult to toast due to thickness of the bread, was lovely and chewy.
Onto the bread you spread yellow mustard then top with ham and roasted pork slices, Swiss cheese and pickles. The bread is then toasted and sliced diagonally before serving.
The combination of flavours in this sandwich is so yummy though perhaps not the healthiest filling choices. There are several variations in the recipe description and they describe people commonly eating a type of this sandwich as a midnight snack. I could completely see how this would work and will be definitely keeping this in mind the next time I need a bite to eat after a night on the town or during one of my bouts of insomnia!
The second recipe was a garlic soup called Sopa de Ajo. It’s very simple to make and is beautifully rich and tasty. I was a little worried that the garlic would be overpowering but was pleasantly surprised. Whilst strong in flavour, it was balanced nicely and not nearly as potent as I had imagined.
To make the soup, mashed garlic and sliced onion are sautéed in a decent amount of butter. Once translucent, they are processed along with the butter and a little chicken broth in a food processor or blender. More chicken broth (you can also use beef broth apparently) is added and the mix is heated on the stove.
To serve, you put a piece of toast (cubed or whole) into each bowl and break an egg over it. The soup is ladled over the egg. The egg is partially cooked by the hot soup and adds to the richness of the broth. It does give the soup a strange texture though so you might want to omit the egg if you’re sensitive to these kinds of things! The recipe does say that you can substitute part of the broth for cream which might be a better alternative if you choose to go egg-less.
I really enjoyed the soup however. I’m not sure I’d want to do the egg every time I made it but it really was a lovely warming soup which I could completely see myself making for lunch during the cold winter months. Definitely one to keep on record for future cook ups I think!
But for now, onto the next challenge….