Food, glorious food!!!
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
One of the reasons we came here was to be able to feed our children well and know exactly what they are eating and where it came from...
Note on food and recipes:
We live in the back of beyond! When we first arrived the road was not ‘paved’ and there were a few Chinese supermarkets in PG ( Punta Gorda our local ‘large’ town - large being relative).
So I have learnt to make stuff up!!! I can’t get lots of amazing and delicious ingredients that you may be able to...no artisanal cheese, ham, bread...only ‘plastic’ ham and cheese and corned beef is still big here. Vienna sausage and Spam are commonplace and white bread the only option.
I am half Spanish - I love Mediterranean food - olive oil, tomatoes and WINE!!! I have learnt to make my own wine - well yes that is first on my list! I grow cherry tomatoes as larger varieties just get eaten...salad here is called “ veg-e-tables” and not normal! Think 1950s food and English 1950s at that!!! We are blessed with an amazing diversity of people and their food: Maya, Garífuna, East Indian, Chinese to name a few...but I don’t live near any hubs of people!!!! When I go into the north of the country it is like a different World!
Toledo (our district) is catching up on Chinese supermarkets but we simply do not have the population to ensure a huge diversity of produce.
I have also learnt a lot about local food and food production: For example do not try and grow carrots or ‘normal’ potatoes, it’s just too wet!
So one of the reasons I started this is I now know how to make stuff...from scratch! It’s all a bit haphazard and mad but then in the current world it may be useful!
I can’t buy good ham, I learnt to make my version! Same goes for breads, cakes, pâtés....all sorts!
Three out of five of my family are also lactose intolerant so I also swap all butter for coconut oil or milk for coconut milk. We are EXTREMELY lucky that we have so many super foods that grow here: sweet potatoes, cacao, coconuts are obvious but also there are many smaller and lesser known ones like Chaya (Full of iron), which is like spinach and I have everywhere and grows during the dry season when everything else is wilting, and a staple here is calaloo known as amaranth, whose seeds are now prized in Europe and grows here like a weed...and its greens are delicious!
Bread and baking:
I used to make bricks! Sad as here all the bread is so white it almost smells of washing powder and it melts in your mouth in not a good way...you can eat a lot and not realize 3 mins later! So I had to learn.....
Practice does make it easier and there are so many bread recipes and different flours and yeasts that it really is pretty easy now. I get so many ideas for internet recipes that I am just going to share my general baking tips, nothing specific!
Top Tip: just have fun: You are going to eat this so enjoy making it! If you love rosemary then bung in rosemary...I put in all the bits and pieces that are good for us so I know we are eating healthy stuff and not just white flour, like chia seeds, linseed etc. If I want a richer bread I add coconut milk and coconut oil, I have added turmeric, cacao nibs and made bread with yesterdays rice!
Generally...do what the yeast says on its packet.
It is also very easy to make your own sour dough starter, well it is here because its so hot and humid. I did make with friends this summer in Europe and it worked! So for a sour dough starter you need: flour and water. That’s it!.... and a container. So put a few tablespoons of flour in the jar, add just about the same amount of water, stir it up and then cover with a paper towel, kitchen cloth...something it can breathe through. Whenever you remember stir with a clean spoon or fork at least twice a day and every day put a little more flour in, unless it gets really solid in which case add a bit more water. In about 3 days you should see it starting to bubble...that is your starter, made with wild yeast that is in the air around you! Pretty cool!!! When you want to make bread with it, I add more flour so it is a load thicker and let it get going / bubbling then add it to the flour that I will be using for bread. You can restart another batch by just adding flour and water and what was around the edges of your jar will start the process much quicker the second time around.
Let’s start with bread....
Things to know: bread does NOT need sugar! Many people I have come across think you have to add sugar to get the yeast going, you don’t. You only need sugar if you want sweet bread.
Don’t play around with the dough when it is trying to rise - let it! This takes time. But dough that has been allowed to rise more than once is usually fluffier.
Bagels are fun and quick to make.
Kneading - kids love kneading...so make them do it?!!! I was told it is the same as when you are getting clay ready...you form a bull’s head: So hands on either side of the ball and keep turning it back towards you and pushing it down and away. It starts getting the shape of a bulls head. You do not need strength, if you do it too fast and forcefully you will just tear it.
Favorite baking joke: Why did the baker have brown arms?
Because he kneaded a poo.....! So thats’ quite enough from me!
Maybe just granola ....
I can’t believe it has taken me 19 years of motherhood to try and make my own granola! Not only is it far cheaper than buying store bought but it is also SO much better (for you AND tastewise...just win win all round!!): I always don’t particularly like one type of nut or dried fruit in it or wish there was something else in it!
It really is incredibly easy too and I feel healthy and like I am being ‘good’ just by starting my day with it, especially as we have so much fruit here. So the basics: I like the full or ‘old fashioned’ oats ( remember we can’t get all sorts of fancy stuff here...you might be able to find something Uber sexy...for us it’s bog standard oats for porridge or whatever!), I find the crushed “quick” oats are too small and almost turn to crispy dust rather than something you can chew on! So the basics are: you add the nuts you like to the oats, you add oil and something sweet( see below), cook and cool. So I use the whole oats and then add my favourite mixed nuts, I also like adding the salty ones as you end up with more flavor....Tati prefers no salt, it’s up to you. I add sesame seeds and sunflower seeds...basically anything you fancy that can be roasted. Then you want to add oil, we always use coconut oil and I would recommend it as the flavor goes really well with this and also it’s good for you! My ‘sugar’ is honey, you could use maple syrup but we can’t get here. Note on maple syrup and honey...go for the good stuff that is unprocessed, you are saving money just by making this so you might as well make it super good for you and let’s face it who knows what’s in fake syrup nowadays? You want to mix the oil and honey into the oat mix so that you can see the oats are covered / changing colour, very roughly 4 cups of oats use half a cup oil, half a cup honey. At this stage you can also add vanilla or any other flavoring you fancy such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Then you want to flatten it out on a big baking tray, I do use some baking sheet too...it’s just so mush easier to clean up and sticks less to the tray, and then bung in a pretty hot oven. The original recipe I found had a warm over for quite a long time but I found that my lasts didn’t crisp and it took ages! DO remember to check this as you cook, I find they don’t brown but once they start they go fast and turn as often as you want, just so you get even cooking. Depending on how fast your oven heats up can take 15 to 20 minutes.
I have to go feed my animals...to be added too (And maybe spell checked..?!)