Country #41 – Cabo Verde

041-cabo-verdeChallenge Log:
#41                    Date selected: 22/8/16                 Date completed: 11/9/16
Country selected: Cabo Verde
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/recipe address:

Wow I can’t believe how behind I am with my blogging! So much has happened in the past few months that I’ve become a bit slack and haven’t posted nearly as much as what I should have. I have finally moved house and am now living north of Melbourne in a very pretty townhouse with a fabulous kitchen so I have no excuse! I have been cooking I’ll have to try and belt through a few entries and get myself up to date.

The next country on my list is Cabo Verde which is also known as Cape Verde. It’s an island country in the Atlantic Ocean, 570km (350mi) off the coast of West Africa. It’s comprised of 10 volcanic islands clustered in a horseshoe shape and spanning a combined area of slightly over 4000 square kilometres (1,500 square miles).

The country was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century and, being perfectly located, prospered greatly throughout the 16th & 17th centuries from the Atlantic slave trade. It slipped into decline after the end of the slave trade before recovering and becoming an important commercial centre and stopover for shipping routes.

As the country is quite isolated from the rest of the world, it has resulted in the islands having a number of endemic species. In particular birds such as Alexander’s swift, the Cape Verde warbler and the Raso lark reside here amongst others, along with reptiles including the Cape Verde giant gecko. Many of these are now endangered due to human development.

Fish and staple foods such as corn and rice are staples of the local diet and these make up much of Cabo Verde’s cuisine. These are often supplemented with vegetables such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, manioc and dried beans which are available most of the year or seasonal fruits such as mangoes and avocados or papayas and bananas.

I flipped between a few different recipe options when deciding on what to make for this challenge. There was quite a lot that looked very appetizing but in the end I went with a couple of dishes that didn’t require me to purchase too much extra in the way of ingredients and that I thought could be simple, tasty meal options that I could utilize again.

The first was a dish called Canja or thick chicken rice soup. It’s incredibly simple and hearty with a minimum of ingredients. You simply saute some onions, add a whole chicken that’s been cut up into pieces, boullion and water. Boil these up, add some rice and simmer until the desired consistency. So simple!

041-canja-thick-chicken-rice-soup
CANJA (thick chicken rice soup)

The soup itself is very tasty and I could imagine would be great for a winter’s cold. You do need to be wary of the bones from the chicken when eating it but, given how soft the meat is, I would think it would be fairly simple to pick the bones out prior to serving if you were squeamish about such things. Alternatively using chicken breasts or thighs would produce a similar result.
Next on my list was a dessert – Pudim de Queijo or Cheese Pudding. What attracted me to this one was the idea of using goats cheese in a dessert and also that burnt sugar is sprinkled on the bottom. I’ve never attempted to make burnt sugar and its really quite delicious – a mixture of cane or brown sugar and vegetable oil that’s cooked until just beginning to brown. As it cools the mixture takes on a deep brown colour as if it’s burnt.

The pudding is made making a thick syrup from sugar and water then adding the graded cheese. Once removed from the heat you combine this mixture with a LOT of egg yolks and a few egg whites. You sprinkle the bottom of the pan with burnt sugar, pour the mix on top and bake in a double boiler (or by adding the pan that the mixture is in to a pan filled with hot water before putting it into the oven).

The finished product of this dish didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped and I think there were a few key indicative things I may have done wrong. First, I’m not sure I used the correct cheese. The recipe asks for a soft goat’s cheese. I went for a fetta which was more crumbly than soft and ended up giving the mixture a bit of a curdled texture to it. Something smoother probably would have resulted in a better result. Secondly, the dish I used was long and shallow. I think I would have achieved a better result using a deeper dish. The pudding wasn’t bad but I don’t think my attempt quite lived up to its full potential.

041-pudim-de-queijo-chesse-pudding
PUDIM DE QUEIJO (chesse pudding)

The dish itself if ridiculously sweet – too sweet even for a sweet tooth like me. It made my mouth pucker once the sugar hit the tongue. I would be likely to try and cut back on the sugar if making this again and try it make it less like a punch in the face. That said, the pungent flavour of the goat’s cheese does mean that you need to keep it on the sweet side and I think finding that balance and the consistency of the dish are the two key elements to doing this one successfully. One perhaps to attempt again at a later time!

But for now, onto the next challenge….

042-lithuania

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