Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chile - Chirimoya Alegre, Jam & Manjar Blanco on Toast

Breakfast in Chile is very low key and continental. Every description we read online said it was bread, jam, and coffee. Kitty found that a usual spread is manjar blanco. It is very like dulce de leche, a type of milk caramel very popular in Latin America. I also found a recipe in The South American Table for cherimoya marinated in orange juice and rum, which the author notes is served every day when the fruit is in season.
Cherimoya is native to the Chilean highlands and can grow in colder temperatures. It belongs to the family Annonceae which includes flowering plant shrubs and trees with a mostly tropical distribution. It was domesticated around 1000 BC and has seven varieties under cultivation.

Chirimoya Alegre
  • 2 ripe but firm cherimoyas
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • Sugar to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp rum (optional)
  1. Slice the cherimoyas in half, and scrape the flesh from the inside of the skin.
  2. Pick the out the large black seeds and cut the flesh into tiny pieces. (The act of picking out the seeds takes care of a lot of the shredding process.)
  3. Mix in the lemon juice, then add the orange juice, and sugar and rum to taste.
  4. Marinate until chilled and serve.

Results and Discussion
There did not seem to be much consensus on the type of jam, so we chose guava since they are also grown in Chile. But the jam was greatly overshadowed by the manjar. Though we had only dulce de leche available; from varying descriptions it is either a good substitute or exactly the same (our jar in fact had "manjar" amongst the various descriptions on the label). Either way the stuff is pure caramel goodness and delicious on toast. Our can of La Lechera brand dulce de leche also had a great recipe on the back for a flan-like desert.
The cherimoya was nice. Before we marinated it had a pulpy texture and it was slightly sweet. It also had a slight lemon flavor and a bit of a coconut aroma. But the marinade's flavor over powered the cherimoya. We had prepared it the night before and left it in the fridge until morning, which seems to be much too long. Some research into other recipes suggest a marinade time of around 2 hours. I will definitely try playing with this fruit in the future or just eat it plain. (Not so much, I don't think, they're about $5 apiece at Market Basket! –Kitty)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Netherlands - Gouda and Salami on Rye

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is best known for having 25% of its land area below sea level. This technically makes the Netherlands one of the rare man-made structures visible from space!
The country's position on the North Sea and its rich pastureland make fish and dairy major parts of its cuisine. Major French influence on the cuisine started in the 16th century when it was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Their geographical location also led to the development of sea trading routes and a dominant role in the spice trade. An Edible History of Humanity describes some of the measures taken to protect this extremely valuable commerce, such as the use of ronin mercenaries from Japan in order to suppress the natives of the Spice Islands. The spice trade also sparked territorial disputes with Britain, which eventually ended with a famous exchange of territory: the Dutch got the Spice Islands and the British got some island in the middle of nowhere called Manhattan.

Dutch breakfast is continental. It consists of bread, butter, cheese, jam, cold cuts, spice cake, and tea or coffee. The book Dutch Cooking has great background information and lots of recipes.
The spice cake ontbijtkoek, literally breakfast cake, is a legacy of the spice trade as it uses cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamon. None of these are native to Europe and all of them are used in large quantities. While we were grinding the spices for the cake, the plastic main shaft of our grinder broke. Attempts to grind the spices using a mortar and pestle proved ineffective. We decided to give the cake a pass and go with the bread, cheese, cured meat, and coffee.
Outside of the spice cake, the breakfast is no work at all. I went to The Wine and Cheese Cask to get a delicious gouda, some rye bread with caraway seeds, and a nice piece of salami sliced very thin. (Salami, more international than you might think!) Other cheeses from the Netherlands that you might be able to find are edam and leyden.
Buying good bread, cheese, and meat make the meal. The salami and double-creamy gouda went really well together. We got great bread with a wonderfully hard crust and a really airy and soft interior.

Fun Bonus Fact
The Dutch province of Zeeland is the namesake for New Zealand, in case you ever wondered.