Cape Verdean breakfast

August 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Imagine unspoilt castaway islands. With bone-white beaches that you can bag all to yourself. And a unique blend of African, Portuguese and Brazilian cultures. No wonder summer holidays to Cape Verde are the hottest buzzword in travel right now. Marooned off the west coast of Africa, they sit serenely and modestly – almost as if they’re hoping to shirk the limelight.”

So says the blurb on the Thomson holidays website which is a pretty good introduction to the Cape Verde archipelago. This group of 10 main islands and 5 smaller islets, most of which are mountainous but with some fertile land, was uninhabited until its discovery by Portuguese explorers in 1456. Just for the record, the largest island is Santiago, the capital city is Praia and the islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

The strategic location of the islands lying in the Atlantic off the coast of West Africa meant that they became an important staging post in both the slave and whaling trades. Interestingly, there are more Cape Verdeans and their descendants living abroad than there are on the islands themselves having left the islands during various waves of emigration. Music and football are clearly important elements of the Cape Verdean culture. Famous musicians of Cape Verdean descent include Lena Horne and the Tavares Brothers – Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny – perhaps most famous for their rendition of “More Than A Woman” on the seminal Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from the seventies. Well known footballers of Cape Verdean descent include Nani, Henrik Larsson, Gelson Fernandes and Patrice Evra.

The food of the islands is very much a reflection of its history and geography – a fusion of Portuguese, South American and African ingredients. Nowhere is this more true than in Cachupa, the islands’ national dish, a hearty stew of hominy corn, red kidney beans, spicy linguiça sausage, salt pork, sweet potato, potato, tomatoes, onion and cabbage. Fortunately for me, Cachupa refogada, left over cachupa reheated and fried with plenty of softened onion is a typical breakfast dish so it had to go on the menu.

The recipe I used for Cachupa is adapted from this one

I decided to add another typical Cape Verdean dish, cuscus, to round off my breakfast menu. I found a video recipe here presented by the charming but oddly named Ideally Ilca on her Island Cuisine channel. White cornmeal is mixed with water to form little pellets. The resulting cuscus is steamed in a cake shape then served as a breakfast cereal flavoured with sugar and powdered cinnamon and eaten with cold milk. I followed Ms Ilca’s instructions to the letter and ended up with a successful plateful of Cape Verdean comfort food, agreeably soothing after the spicy Cachupa refogada:

Finding the recipes was the easy part: somewhat more of a challenge was tracking down authentic ingredients. Let’s start with hominy corn. I didn’t even know precisely what it was until I consulted Harold McGee. His encyclopaedic “On Food and Cooking” explains succinctly that “hominy consists of whole corn kernels…cooked for 20-40 minutes in a solution of lime or lye then washed of their hulls and excess alkaline solution.” The process is known as nixtamalization from an Aztec word and though it sounds a bit yucky and chemical-infused in fact produces a tasty, chewy and nutritious end result.

I tracked my hominy corn plus white cornmeal for my Cape Verdean cuscus down from ever-reliable Mexican food specialists The Cool Chile company. I sourced my linguiça sausage, plus a few extra Portuguese goodies, from the straightforwardly named

I packed up my specialist ingredients and headed for the coast to prepare and cook my Cape Verdean breakfast – nowhere exotic, just the good old British seaside. We were joined for a long weekend by friends Mike, Theo and Christopher who tucked in manfully (though I suspect they were hoping for a full English…)

Pass the piri piri sauce please. Did someone say it’s just like Nando’s?

Recipe for Cachupa Rica

Adapted from a recipe on “Mistress of Spices” blog.

Serves 8-12 depending on appetite.

500g dried hominy corn
250g dried red kidney beans
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 litre water
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250g linguiça (or chorizo) cut into 1cm dice
500g thick piece of unsmoked bacon into 1cm dice
1 tablespoon chilli powder
4 small waxy potatoes scrubbed and quartered
1 sweet potato, peeled and quartered
1/4 white cabbage, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

Rinse the corn and the beans. Drain and set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large lidded saucepan or stockpot. Add half of the chopped onion and one bay leaf. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the corn and the beans. Stir well and add the water. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add the stock and continue simmering until the corn and beans are soft and cooked through (this may take a further 2 hours ie 4 hours in total).

In a second large lidded pot, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining chopped onion, garlic and one bay leaf. Stir well and sauté until the onions are translucent.

Add the linguiça, bacon and chili powder. Stir gently over a low heat until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

Add the cooked corn and beans and their cooking liquid to the meat mixture. Then add the potatoes and cabbage, mix well, add tomatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid reduced, about 15-20 minutes.

Taste and correct seasoning. Cachupa tastes even better the next day sautéed with some chopped onion for breakfast, called Cachupa refogada.

Recipe for Cape Verdean Cuscus

From the Island Cuisine channel on Youtube.

3 cups finely ground white cornmeal
Sugar to taste
1 cup water

Add the water to the cornmeal very slowly. Mix with your hands to form a clumpy mix. Put in double boiler (I used a steamer set over a pan of boiling water). Sprinkle with plenty of powdered cinnamon.

Steam for 25 mins. It will form a sliceable cake. Serve with cold milk, honey, butter and coffee.

Supplier details Supplier of hominy corn and authentic Mexican ingredients Supplier of Portuguese sausages, hams, wine and other goodies.

Canadian breakfast

May 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

We cheated ever so slightly on this one, eating it out of synch with the rest of the series to coincide with visiting family and friends the morning after a certain Big Birthday late last year (my husband Tim’s not mine I hasten to add).

Here are various family members and friends tucking into classic breakfast pancakes, back bacon and, of course, lashings of maple syrup.



We can buy maple syrup pretty readily here in the UK – you can see in the picture below two different grades of syrup – No 1 and No 2 Amber (I’ve not yet found the elusive Grade 3 Dark syrup on supermarket shelves here). It was also time to bring out the prized bottle of rare Nova Scotia maple syrup, a gift from cousin Paul and family who live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


I delved briefly into the details of maple syrup production and it seems that the Canadian province of Québec is responsible for some 75% of the world’s output of maple syrup. Anything calling itself Canadian maple syrup must be made exclusively from the concentrated sap of predominantly three types of maple tree – the sugar, red and black maples. It can take up to 50 litres of raw sap to be boiled down and concentrated into 1 litre of syrup.

Also on the menu were muffins (English muffins though we call them just muffins in England much as Canadian bacon is known as such anywhere but Canada) and delicious wild Pacific smoked salmon. If I’d felt more perky that morning, I might have conjured this into a Vancouver-style take on Eggs Benedict but we had to make do with just cream cheese on our muffins to accompany the salmon.

There are lots of fascinating Canadian breakfast dishes I could have tried – fellow breakfast blogger Shawna has alerted me to cretons, a Québecquois take on French rillettes (small pieces of pork and onion gently cooked in the fat rendered from the meat to form a pâté-like mixture)served on toast as part of a traditional breakfast.

Browsing through my recipe book “Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens” by Marie Nightingale, I see we’ve missed out too on the “Old-Fashioned Lunenburg Breakfast or Supper Dish” of cooked apples and onions baked with onions and cream. Then there’s my Blomidon Inn bread recipe from Wolfville, Nova Scotia for a loaf flavoured with oats, cornmeal and molasses…I’ll have to return to Canadian breakfasts some time soon.

Recipe for breakfast pancakes

These are a perennial favourite at home and the recipe comes from my trusty and ancient Good Housekeeping Cookery Book where these pancakes are referred to as Scotch Pancakes or Drop Scones.

Makes 10-12 small pancakes.


100g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
30g golden caster sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
Milk to mix – about 150ml
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ground cinnamon (optional)

Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg and a little of the milk. Stir with a balloon whisk, bringing in the flour from the edges of the well and gradually adding more milk as you do so. When the batter reaches the consistency of thick custard. Beat with the whisk for 10-20 seconds until any remaining lumps have gone. Whisk in some more milk until you have a thickish smooth batter the consistency of extra-thick single cream that will drop from a spoon. Whisk in the vanilla extract or ground cinnamon if using.

Drop the mixture in large spoonfuls (I use a small ladle) onto a hot lightly greased non-stick frying pan. Keep the pan at a steady heat and when bubbles start to rise to the surface of the pancakes (after about 2 minutes, maybe earlier), flip them over using a small crank-handled palette knife and cook for a minute or so on the other side until golden brown and cooked through. Store in a folded clean linen teatowel as you make them to keep them warm and soft.

Serve with maple syrup and bacon or butter and jam. They’re pretty good cold with butter and jam if ever you find you have some left over.

Burundi breakfast

December 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

It’s not long since we breakfasted Burkina Faso style. That was an impoverished landlocked West African country whereas Burundi is an impoverished landlocked East African one. Over to the BBC weather website for some basic facts about the country:

“This small country in central Africa is about the size of Wales or Israel and is densely populated. It lies between 2° and 4°S and is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Lake Tanganyika to the southwest, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. It is a hilly and mountainous country, with its highest point rising to over 4,600 m/15,000 ft.”

I was taken aback by the existence of a 4,600m peak in central Africa that I’d never heard of before – sadly this seems to be a factual error – shame on you BBC!- as other more reliable sources show that the highest peak in Burundi is the whimsically named Mount Heha clocking in at just 2,670m.

Over to another BBC site – a world news one this time – for more facts. This was a depressing roll call of colonial oppression (first the Germans then the Belgians who are presumably responsible for Burundi’s official language being French), Hutu and Tutse civil war, genocide, mass refugee emigration and a shattered economy. Amidst the depressing fatcs I did find this striking image (courtesy of Getty Images) there of a Burundi man on a bicycyle transporting a LOT of green bananas:


Information on Burundian food is hard to come by but the meagre information sources available seem to agree that green bananas or plantains and beans are part of the staple diet. So over to the Celtnet website for a basic red kidney bean and plantain stew which is there described as a main course accompaniment.


I’ve adapted the Celtnet recipe to make it simpler to concoct in my Western kitchen and I give my recipe below. Served with toast and a poached egg plus a cafetière of aromatic East African coffee (coffee is one of Burundi’s principal exports) this made a pretty decent breakfast, the kind of breakfast to set you up for facing the legendary man-eating crocodile Gustave said to inhabit the waters of Lake Tanganyika just off Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura.


And we’ve reached the end of countries beginning with the letter B just in time to end the year!

Recipe for Burundian bean and plantain stew

Adapted from a recipe.

Serves 4


14oz can red kidney beans
2 plantains
1 small onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
pinch dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
300ml water

First prepare the vegetables. Drain and rinse the kidney beans in a colander. Peel and slice the plantain into chunks about 1cm thick. Peel and thinly slice the onion.

In a medium lidded saucepan heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and add the sliced onions. Fry for 5 or so minutes until soft and translucent. Add the plantain slices and fry for 10 minutes more, turning the chunks occasionally so that they don’t burn. Once the plantain has coloured a little, add the drained kidney beans, seasonings and 300ml water. Bring to the the boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, partially cover with the pan lid and cook for about 20 minutes. The stew is ready when the plantain is soft and the liquid has reduced by a half.

Burkina Faso breakfast

November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Before our Burkina Faso breakfast I knew just two rather trivial things about the country:

1) It has one of the most memorably named capital cities in Africa – Ouagadougou
2) Favourite French beauty company L’Occitane sources much of the shea butter (beurre de karité in French) it uses in its moisturising products from womens’ cooperatives in Burkina Faso.

I now know that it’s a landlocked country in West Africa, bordered by 6 different countries including sub-Saharan Mali to the North and West, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to the South and Niger to the East.

Burkina Faso, formerly known as Haute or Upper Volta was a French colony until 1960. The country gained its current name in 1984, thanks to campaigning by the then president, the so-called African Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara.

Sankara was assassinated in 1987 in a military coup organised by former colleage Blaise Compaoré who remains president of what the UN lists as the world’s third poorest country to the present day.

Finding out what comprises a typical Burkinabé (the colloquial name for the people of Burkina Faso) breakfast was tricky. I found this solitary sentence on the Burkina Faso section of website

“In the morning wooden kiosks offer customers a breakfast of coffee, fried egg, and fresh French-style baguette.”

This simple breakfast encapsulates the country’s recent history, the baguette being a legacy of French colonialism and the meagre eggs and coffee a reminder of the country’s relative poverty.

Here are the raw materials for our Burkina Faso breakfast, purchased inauthentically from our local supermarket:

Tim did the honours, frying eggs to order:

The end result though simple was really rather good, and I’m now reminded to buy more of those L’Occitane shea butter products in the future.

Nourishment for the traditionally built: breakfast from Botswana

August 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

I chose to learn about Botswana via the gentle medium of Alexander McCall-Smith’s bestseller “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” featuring the “traditionally built” heroine Mma Ramotswe. I was also helped by Stuart Brown’s “Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook”, almost a companion volume to the series and a browsable mix of cookbook, travel guide and introduction to Botswanan geography and culture.

Thanks to both books I finally got to grips with the various confusingly similar words Batswana, Motswana, Setswana and Tswana. Batswana is the name for the people of Botswana; Motswana the singular form of the same word; Setswana, also Tswana, the name both for the main language of Botswana and the population group speaking this language living in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.

Botswana, formerly Bechuanaland, gained independence from Britain in 1966. Its capital city is Gaborone, newly established when the country gained independence. Botswana has since grown to become an African success story, relatively prosperous and with a strong tradition of democracy.

It’s a large but sparsely populated country as much of its land area is taken up by the Kalahari desert. Despite being landlocked, Botswana can lay claim to the spectacular Okovango delta, formed where the Okovango river spreads out across a tectonic trough. The water in this inland delta never reaches the sea, being lost through transpiration and evaporation.

On to the breakfast. Deciding what to drink was easy – the first thing Mma Ramotswe and her able assistant Mma Makutsi do on their first morning at work in the Detective Agency is to drink a cup of bush tea, Mma Ramotswe’s favourite, with just a little condensed milk. And they go on to drink bush tea throughout the rest of the book. We followed suit:

The bush in question is of course the Rooibus or Redbush (Latin name Aspalathus linearis), a shrub from the Western Cape of southern Africa whose needle-like leaves turn red once dried in the sun and fermented. The resulting fragrant brew has a slightly medicinal quality, a beautiful red colour and is eminently drinkable with or without milk.

On to the food. Whilst there are plenty of food references in the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series books, I didn’t find a definitive Setswana breakfast. I read with some trepidation about mopane worms, chipolata-sized moth caterpillars preserved by drying in the sun. Fortunately these seem to be eaten as snacks or made into a main-meal stew rather than being eaten for breakfast.

One blogger writing about a trip earlier this year to a “Sons of the Soil” festival in Botswana describes one possible breakfast option:

“On the breakfast menu was chicken necks with fat cakes cooked the very traditional way.”

Fat cakes are Botswana’s answer to the doughnut, a deep-fried yeast-raised wheatflour dough. My fryer needed cleaning and an oil-change before it could be used and I wasn’t sure how to get hold of chicken necks so I decided to focus my efforts on getting hold of some sorghum meal to make the thin soft sorghum porridge, Motogo, another traditional breakfast staple.

Sorghum is relatively unknown here in the UK but is a staple grain crop in large parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent thanks to its nutritious qualities and ability to withstand drought. It’s known as Mabele in the Setswana language and as Jowar in Gujarati (useful to know if you’re shopping in one of the many ethnic Indian foodstores over here in the UK). I bought myself a distinctly unauthentic pack of American sorghum flour from an Amazon marketplace supplier:

I had to buy in bulk so am busy giving away my remaining packs of sorghum flour to gluten-free friends. Marian, one of my remaining packs has your name on it!

I was a little concerned that my sorghum flour rather than a coarser sorghum meal would not make an acceptable porridge. I needn’t have worried as mixed with water and a little milk and cooked gently over a low heat for 10 minutes or so, the sorghum produced a perfectly acceptable porridge, albeit lacking a little in terms of texture:

Bosnian breakfast

May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Looking at the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was taken aback by how familiar the names some of the larger towns were – Banja Luka once known for its tree-lined boulevards, Mostar similarly for its iconic bridge and the cultured and elegant capital city of Sarajevo. An unfortunate legacy of the Bosnian war of the 1990s is that all these cities are now best known for the war atrocities committed there.

April 2012 was the 20th anniversary of the start of the Siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 until almost 4 years later, 29 February 1996, the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. This added a certain resonance to our breakfast.

On the menu was the ultimate Bosnian street food, burek, written about most engagingly here

Burek, a savoury filling encased in paper thin pastry is known across Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean under various names – börek, bourek, böregi, bouréki, a legacy of the Ottoman empire. The Turks occupied Bosnia for more than 400 years (1463-1878) and their legacy remains many ways including their food.

Emigré Bosnians yearn for a dollop of kajmak a Balkan version of clotted cream cheese to serve alongside their burek. If you fancy having a go, the instructions here look admirably detailed. We cheated and ate our burek with a spoonful of thick plain yoghurt instead.

I give the full burek recipe below though I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry on this occasion.

Preparing the meat filling is a simple job if you use a food processor. It comprises minced beef, onion, a liberal quantity of paprika and beaten egg to hold it all together.

Making the burek is a little bit like creating an enormous sausage roll:

The next step is coiling up the roll ready to bake:

One baked the burek are best cooled on a rack to avoid a soggy bottom:

Finally the burek is sliced and ready to eat.

Recipe for Bosanski burek

Adapted from this recipe

I chose not to make my own filo/strudel pastry as the original recipe suggests. Instead I bought a pack of ready made filo. Jus-rol brand is readily available in UK shops and a pack of pastry contains 6 sheets and weighs 270g.

The recipe makes 3 medium sized burek rolls like the ones in my pictures above.


6 sheets filo pastry, 2 per burek, fully defrosted if using frozen pastry
approx. 50g melted butter

For the filling

600g lean minced beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
1 and 1/2 tablespoons paprika (mild)
salt and pepper

Begin by making the simple filling. Put all the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined and the mixture is very finely chopped but not reduced to a mulch with no texture. If you prefer not to use a food processor, make sure the onions are very finely chopped or even grated and mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or your hands. Set the prepared filling aside.

Next, get everything ready to shape and bake the bureks. Make sure your melted butter has cooled a little and that you have a pastry brush to hand. Lay out your pastry and workboard and have either a clean damp teatowel or some clingfilm to hand to cover the filo you’re not working with. Line three baking sheets with baking parchment, one for each burek. Finally, preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (fan). You need to be organised before you begin as the filos sheets are so thin that they dry out very quickly and crack and become difficult to roll up unless you keep them covered.

Spread one filo sheet onto your pastry board, long side facing you ie landscape rather than portrait orientation. Brush it liberally with melted butter. Lay a second sheet the same way partly overlapping first one by about one third. Brush this one with melted butter too.

Take one third of the filling and, leaving a 7cm border at the top and a 3cm border at each end, spread it out in a long rough sausage shape. Fold over the top border and continue rolling up into a long sausage roll shape. Pinch the ends to seal, brush the roll with melted butter and coil it into a rough spiral. Lift gently and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Complete the other two bureks in the same way.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

THE FULL MONTY: breakfast from Bolivia

March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Unusually this time our breakfast comes from a country that one of us (my husband Tim) has actually visited. This was a climbing trip to the Andes hooking up with various members of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club. Three of the team are pictured below, from L to R Simon Beaufoy, Mike,and Doré. Simon has gone on to become well known for his screenplays so I thought it might be fun to try and shoehorn into this post the titles of all Simon’s screenplay titles. I’ll stick them in capitals so you’ll know why this post might sound a little stilted. I hope the guys don’t BURN-UP taking in all that high altitude sunshine and it looks as if Doré at least found time for a BLOW DRY.

Husband Tim, not pictured AMONG GIANTS above, is in this photo, looking rather younger than he is now, a bit of a SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE with the designer sunglasses and “I’ve not shaved for 127 HOURS” designer stubble.

Here’s one of the team again (maybe Alex whom I’ve not yet mentioned?), not SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN but using his RUNNING TIME to stride purposefully towards a herd of a llamas in a high Andean glaciated valley. The objective was the ascent of Ancohuma, at 6,427m Bolivia’s third highest peak located in the Cordillera Real range of the Bolivian Andes.

Tim’s recollections of what they ate for breakfast during the expedition were hardly clear (more 10×10 than 20×20). He muttered vaguely about living dangerously by carrying fresh eggs in his backpack and the joys of homemade chapatis at base camp. So it was over to me to research a traditional Bolivian breakfast. Two dishes took my fancy, the first, Api Morada, something halfway between a drink and a porridge made with purple corn flour:

and the second, Bolivia’s answer to the Cornish pasty, the juicy beef-filled salteña, its YELLOW colour coming from an egg and paprika glaze. Truthfully, the one in the bottom right corner caught in the oven just a tad so its colour might best be described as THE DARKEST LIGHT.

The Api Morada turned out like a Spanish hot chocolate, thick, spiced and velvety with a curious grapey flavour no doubt attributable to the naturally occurring anthocyanins which give the corn its vivid purple colour.

It’s pretty straightforward to make, the only hard part being the sourcing of the purple corn flour. Fortunately, small supplier “Detox Your World” trading on Amazon came up trumps:

The salteñas are more often eaten as a mid-morning snack with coffee rather then being a true breakfast dish but were too good to miss out. The filling in the recipe I’ve chosen is minced beef livened up with peas, spices, raisins, olives and chopped hardboiled egg. The masterstroke is the thickening of the meat juices with a judicious amount of gelatine. This means you can spoon a generous heap of cold set filling into the pastry and end up with plenty of lovely gravy when the pasties are baked – one of the features setting a salteña apart from any other South American empanada is the juices running down your arm as you bite into it.

The other distinctive feature of the salteña is the braided seam (repulgue in Spanish) which looks very much like a Cornish pasty crimp. By rights, this should run across the top of the pasty, but as a beginner, I went for a slightly easier side seam. This was my first attempt at braiding the repulgue achieved following the instructions I found here. It’s trickier than it looks and I’ve a way to go before I can emulate the flying fingers of a Bolivian cook. The seams did the trick though and didn’t burst during baking.

The pastry for this recipe breaks all the rules (keep everything cool, don’t overwork etc) as after rubbing the butter into the flour, the pastry is mixed with practically boiling water straight from the kettle and is then given a thorough knead for 3 minutes or more. The end result is a structural pastry that contains the juicy filling but is nevertheless crisp and delicious. Much better than a true shortcrust would be and I’m going to be using it again for pasties.

A breakfast to ensure that EVERYONE’S HAPPY.

I managed to shoehorn in a whopping twelve of Simon Beaufoy’s screenplays but these three defeated me: “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”, “Yasmin” and “This is Not a Love Song”. Frankly these would challenge anybody and his two listed projects in development “Sharp Teeth” and “Catching Fire” would have been a doddle to incorporate. Must try harder… anyway, here are the all-important recipes:

Recipe for Salteñas

Adapted from a recipe contributed by “happymommyx4” which I found on

I’ve adjusted the quantity of filling as I found the original recipe gave too much filling for the pastry. I’ve converted all the US measurements into European ones, simplified a couple of steps and have tinkered with the seasoning to up the flavour as my first attempt was a little bland for my taste.

Makes 8 good-sized pasties


For the filling

2 sheets leaf gelatine (approx 3g)
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
250g good quality beef mince
2 medium waxy potatoes, boiled in their skins,cooled,peeled and coarsely grated
150g frozen peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
tabasco to taste (optional)
150ml cold water
3 large hardboiled eggs, shelled and chopped
50g stoned black olives, sliced
50g raisins plumped-up in hot water and left to soak for half an hour, drained

For the pastry

400g plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
110g butter, cubed
150ml hot water (a little more may be necessary to obtain a workable pastry)
beaten egg whisked with a teaspoon each of paprika and salt to seal and glaze

Begin by making the filling.

Set the sheets of gelatine in cold water.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent but not coloured, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the minced beef and cook for a further 10 minutes reducing the heat if necessary. Spoon off any excess fat.

Stir in the grated potatoes, peas, parsley, sugar, seasoning and water, stir together and simmer for a minute or so. Remove from the heat. Push the filling to one side of the pan leaving a pool of free liquid. Add the soaked gelatine sheets to this liquid and stir until dissolved. Stir everything together and set aside to cool completely. Once cool, mix in the olives, raisins and chopped hard-boiled egg.

Next make the pastry. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Rub in the cubed butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. So far, so normal. Now for the unconventional bit. Slowly add the hot water, mixing with a knife. You may need a little more water than the 150ml suggested. On a lightly floured surface knead the pastry for about 3 minutes until smooth. Divide the pastry into eight balls, either by eye or by weight if you want them all to be evenly sized. Cover the pastry balls with cling film and keep them warm while you work with the first pastry ball.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry ball into a circle approximately 1/8 inch thick. Don’t make the pastry too thin as it will allow the filling to break through while it bakes. Brush egg wash carefully around the rim of the pastry circle. Place approximately 2 tablespoons of the meat filling on one half of the pastry circle and carefully fold over the free half of the pastry and press gently to seal. Crimp the pressed border either by pressing the tines of a fork around the edge or, more authentically, by braiding the edge scallop-fashion to form The Repulgue as it’s known in Spanish.

Place the salteña on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Continue with the remaining pieces of pastry until you have 8 salteñas. Glaze with the egg wash and bake in an oven preheated to 220 degrees C for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Recipe for Api Morado – purple corn drink

Adapted from a recipe from

Serves 6


100g pack of purple corn flour
720 ml cold water for soaking
additional 1 litre water to complete the drink
6 tablespoons sugar or more to taste
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
2 strips peel from an orange removed using a vegetable peeler
a little chopped pineapple (fresh or canned) and additional orange zest to serve

Soak the purple corn flour in 720ml cold water for at least 2 hours, or oevrnight if you’re preparing it for breakfast.

While the corn flour soaks, bring the additional litre of water to the boil in a medium saucepan, throw in the cinnamon, cloves and orange peel, remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse.

When you are ready to complete the drink, add the soaked corn flour and its soaking liquid to the litre of flavoured water along with the sugar and bring to the boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Taste and add more sugar if you like.

To serve, ladle into drinking bowls and top with the chopped pineapple and a little orange zest.

Bhutanese breakfast

October 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

The appointed day for our Bhutanese breakfast fell on my birthday this year. It’s become a bit of a family joke that my lovely husband Tim always buys me items of technical outdoor wear for birthdays and Christmas rather than more frivolous items. He was true to form this year and I am now the proud owner of my own very warm down jacket. Perfect to model while eating a breakfast from the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan:

Landlocked Bhutan lies at the eastern end of the Himalayas between Tibetan China to the north and India to the south, west and east. The delightfully named young king Wangchuck ascended the throne in the capital Thimphu as recently as 2008. The official religion is Buddhism and the country’s policy of measuring Gross National Happiness (GNH) in addition to the more usual and mundane Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has raised its profile internationally.

Our menu was a slightly simplified version of this delicious sounding description of breakfast from Bhutan’s exclusive Uma Paro hotel. Lying in a verdant valley, Paro is a centre for tourism and the precipitously sited Tiger’s Nest monastery lies just to the north of the city. To quote the website blurb:

“For a fresh start to the day, try our rosewater lassi. And before a challenging mountain trek, consider a Bhutanese breakfast: pork and red rice porridge with egg crepe, hogay salad and ezay”

Rosewater lassi was straightforward enough to whip up and was a rather gorgeous birthday breakfast treat:

Based on what I’ve read elsewhere, red rice porridge, minus the pork, is clearly a Bhutanese staple. As Bhutan is a mountainous country, the main concern of the indigenous population seems to be the consumption of sufficient calories to survive in a cold climate. One way to achieve this is to add copious quantities of butter and cheese to pretty much every dish. Thus tea is drunk with salted butter rather than milk and rice porridge is enriched with both butter and cheese.

After an extended debate with the dozy local depot of courier firm DHL, I was thrilled to take delivery of a single precious pack of authentic red rice imported from Bhutan via a circuitous trade route involving a Californian wholefoods supplier:

Once I’d got hold of the rice, making the porridge was a straightforward, if lengthy affair. I give the recipe I used below.

I decided that an egg crepe sounded rather like an international omelette so that didn’t make the breakfast cut. Hogay and ezay are both in the salsa/relish/salad category and are pepped up with copious quantities of chilli, the favourite condiment of Bhutan. I tossed a coin and decided to make an ezay to accompany the porridge:

What did it taste like? Well, a bit like risotto with a dollop of cheesy salsa on top, a weird Italian/Mexican/Asian fusion.

Would I eat it again? Realistically, probably not as, let’s face it, it would be hard to improve on well made risotto milanese, and if I wanted salsa I’d rather roll it up in a burrito.

Recipe for Bhutanese red rice porridge

Adapted from a recipe I found on Mark T’s life in Bhutan blog. Here is the link and thank you to Mark for making the recipe available – it works!

Serves 4

250g Bhutanese red rice (having tried the Bhutanese rice I think Camargue red rice which is more readily available here in the UK would be just fine here)
Enough water to cover the rice by about 5 cm
3 tablespoons butter
200g block of feta cheese, roughly crumbled
a pinch of chilli powder, or more, to taste
1 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger root, grated (best achieved with a Microplane type grater)
Salt and pepper

In Bhutan, a pressure cooker would be used to boil the rice until soft (5 whistles!) – essential at high altitudes. I brought the rice to the boil then covered and simmered for 25 minutes until the rice was cooked.

Take the lid off and check for consistency. Add more water if needed, continuing to cook with the lid off, stirring frequently. My porridge took about 45 minutes from start to finish, so another 20 minutes after the rice had softened.

When the rice has cooked down to a thick porridge like consistency, add the butter, cheese, and seasoning ingredients. Stir, taste, check seasonings, then serve accompanied by ezay (see next recipe).

Recipe for ezay – Bhutanese salsa

Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment

My own version of this dish after reading several recipes. I’ve substantially reduced the chilli to take account of our low western chilli heat threshold and have substituted cherry tomatoes for the hard to obtain Himalayan tree tomatilloes and feta for yak’s milk cheese.


Small bunch of coriander, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
6 spring onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped
2 red chilli peppers, medium heat, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
about 10 cherry tomatoes
juice of a lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper (or toasted and ground szechuan pepper if you can get hold of it)
100g feta cheese, crumbled

Combine all the ingredients except the feta in a bowl. Stir to mix and set aside in the fridge for half an hour to let the flavours combine. Sprinkle over the crumbled feta cheese when you’re ready to serve.

Recipe for rosewater lassi

Again, my own recipe after experimenting a little with proportions. I think you need a liquidiser with a chunky motor rather than a food processor to cope with crushing the ice and getting a good froth on the lassi.

Serves 4


1 450g tub thick plain wholemilk yoghurt (I used a “Greek style” variety which worked well – a true Greek yoghurt might have been too thick here)
1 teaspoon pure rosewater (from Asian shops or larger supermarkets)
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 generous cup of ice cubes (approx same volume as the yoghurt pot)
approx 200 ml cold water
a few fragrant rose petals to garnish

Put all the ingredients except the rose petals into the goblet of your scrupulously clean liquidiser and, with a firm hand over the lid in case the ice cubes are a bit rough, whizz for about 20 seconds or until the ice cubes are broken down and the mixture is frothy. Taste and add a little more sugar or rosewater if you like, whizz again, then pour into tall chilled glasses. Scatter over the rose petals and serve.

Belizean breakfast

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.

Belize is a tiny little country just 180 miles long situated in Central America. Mexico lies to the North, Guatemala to the South and West and the Caribbean Sea to the East. The colony formerly known as British Honduras is now a hot tourist destination and a must-see place on the gap-year ecotourism trail according to my niece Lucy. It does sound rather idyllic – coral atolls, Mayan ruins, tropical rain forest… Maybe it’s not just for the low tax régime that Belize’s most famous resident Michael Ashcroft chooses to make his home here.

Because of the thriving tourism industry, descriptions of Belizean hospitality and specifically its breakfasts are not hard to come by on the web. I found this entry pretty helpful in setting out what constitutes breakfast in Belize: refried beans, scrambled eggs, salsa, fry-jacks, and above all Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.

Here’s my version cooked up at home last Sunday morning. There’s one further addition to the Travellious list which is some greens quickly stir-fried with garlic. They’d use amaranth greens in Belize, sometimes referred to as callaloo, but I had to be content with some less exotic baby spinach:

The Marie Sharp’s hot sauce was impressively easy to obtain – a couple of mouse clicks and it arrived by post the next day. It’s a fiery red Tabasco type sauce but made authentically in Belize, and yes there really is a person called Marie Sharp who runs the company, it’s not just a marketing man’s fantasy à la Betty Crocker.

OK so menu and sauce sorted, this breakfast was beginning to take shape. Scrambled eggs, stir-fried greens and fresh salsa would be easy enough to whip-up, but what about the refried beans and those intriguingly named fry jacks?

My starting point for authentic refried beans was a recipe from the website of the rather lovely looking Chaa Creek ecolodge. Their recipe was a little sketchy so I’ve added my own tips for preparing refried beans. Despite the name, the beans are fried just once. I think I read somewhere that it’s more mellifluous in Spanish to refer to frijoles refritos rather than the uncomfortably alliterative frijoles fritos.

The soaked black beans look a dramatic inky deep purple colour as they go into the pot with the flavouring ingredients:

This softens when you come to fry and mash the beans to more of a sludgy grey. They may not look that pretty, but they do taste good:

Now for the fryjacks. I found an authentic recipe from fascinating blog Rice and Beans A Belizean in the USA which I’ve adapted and given below. My fry jacks tasted good – a bit like a savoury doughnut but didn’t puff up quite as much as expected.

First step was to make the dough and divide it into little balls:

Next, the dough balls are flattened and cut into quarters:

Finally, when you’re ready to eat, the quarters are dropped into hot deep fat to fry:

In keeping with the tropical vibe, I set up the deep fat fryer in the garage with the intention of eating our breakfast on the terrace outside. Great for containing cooking smells and conjuring up the beach shack atmosphere but unfortunately a Mancunian tropical downpour sent us scurrying back inside to eat.

Recipe for refried beans

Adapted from a recipe on the award winning Belizean eco-lodge Chaa Creek’s website.

Serves 6.


To cook the beans
1 lb dried black or red beans
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but lightly crushed
2 bayleaves
1 sprig thyme
salt to taste

To fry the beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little powdered cumin (optional)
handful chopped coriander (optional)

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Next morning, drain the beans in a colander, rinse them and tip them into a deep lidded pot. Add enough fresh cold water to cover the beans adding an additional 1cm of water on top.

Add the flavouring ingredients except the salt and bring the beans to the boil leaving the lid off the pan as otherwise it will boil over. Skim off the scum, turn down to a very gentle simmer and cover the pan. Check the beans after 30 minutes – add salt as soon as the beans are nearly cooked through. Simmer until the beans are nice and soft but not too mushy. This might take anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour or longer depending on your batch of beans and how long they’ve soaked for. Don’t taste the beans until they gave boiled for at least 20 minutes as they are mildly toxic until cooked through. Remove the flavouring ingredients using a slotted spoon and leave the beans in their cooking liquid until you’re ready to fry. You can fry the beans straightaway or, once cooled, store them covered in their liquid in the fridge for a couple of days.

When you’re ready to fry, choose a heavy based deep wide sauté or frying pan and heat the vegetable oil until medium hot. Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and just turning golden. Throw in the garlic and cook for a minute or so more until just beginning to brown but not burn. Add a couple of ladlefuls of beans and their cooking liquid to the frying pan, turn down the heat to low and cook the beans and associated liquid mashing them into the base of a pan with your wooden spoon or a potato masher. Once each ladleful of beans is mashed and heated, add the next. Add more bean cooking liquid as required to form a thick paste. It won’t look too pretty – a thick, grey sludgy paste, but it will taste good. Taste and season with salt and pepper and, if using, ground cumin. Scatter over the optional chopped coriander and serve.

Recipe for Belizean fry jacks

Adapted from an authentic fry jacks recipe from the blog “Rice and Beans A Belizean in the USA”


1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups white flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
about 3/4 cup of water

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable oil and, using your hands, work the oil into the flour until you have little pebbles of oil saturated dough evenly distributed throughout the flour.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the water a little at a time, using your other hand to stir the flour into the water in the centre of your pile. Keep adding the water and mixing it in a little at a time until you have formed the entire pile of flour into a rough ball of slightly sticky dough. You may need a little less water than specified in the list of ingredients.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. Then roll it out into a snake shape and cut it into 8 equal sized pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a ball. Cover and leave the balls to rest on a lightly floured surface for at least 30 minutes.

Next, prepare to deep fry the fry jacks. I used an electric deep fat fryer and my chosen cooking oil was rapeseed (canola). Heat the oil until really hot. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a small scrap of dough. If it sizzles but doesn’t smoke, the oil is the right temperature.

Take one of the dough balls and roll or pat it out into a circle, about 6 inches across. Take a knife or pizza cutter and cut the circle into four pieces. Once your oil is hot, drop several fry jacks into the pan. I managed to cook four at once without overcrowding. The fry jacks first sink then quickly rise to the surface of the oil. After 20-30 seconds, check to see if the sides in the oil have browned. If so, flip the fry jacks over with a pair of tongs fork and let the other side cook. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat immediately.

Belgian breakfast

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The latest in our series of international breakfasts making up the Breakfasts of the World Project.

Unlike most of the far-flung destinations whose breakfasts we’ve tried to recreate at home, hopping over to Belgium is relatively straighforward for us in the UK so we were able to do some serious research on a recent family trip based in Bruges. This combined a little education (First World War graves, Ypres, Flemish painting and architecture) with gastronomic sight-seeing.

I know that Venice has the edge when it comes to a romantic weekend away à deux, but if you’re travelling en famille, as we were, a city which combines gorgeous architecture with chips, chocolate and waffles takes the biscuit (or should that be the speculoos…?).

We stayed in the charming canalside Ter Duinen hotel which these days would probably be called a boutique hotel as this sounds more desirable than “small hotel”. They laid on an impressive breakfast spread and if you were prepared to leap out of bed early, you could grab one of the coveted window seats with gorgeous reflected light from the canal:

This is how we attempted to recreate the experience at home. Not quite as beautiful as the Ter Duinen breakfast I know. I don’t run to white damask in our kitchen but I made an effort with some Flemish inspired tulips.

As you might expect from a country which has been fought over between the France and the Netherlands for aeons, its breakfast is a hybrid between the French influenced café au lait with croissants and the more Northern European influenced hearty brown bread with ham and sliced cheese. You get both at breakfast together with Belgium’s particular contribution to the breakfast universe, a host of tasty packaged treats, the legacy of its industrial and colonial past perhaps?

Belgium may not be known as a cheese producer, but here’s some prepacked slices of Bruges’ finest:

There were little squares of chocolate too – one of the reasons Belgium is world famous. Oddly, I can’t find a decent definition of what Belgian chocolate is – Côte d’Or with its familiar Elephant logo is the indigenous mass-market producer. Côte d’Or or Gold Coast is of course the old name for Ghana which is a former British rather than Belgian colony so how does that work? Maybe Belgian chocolates just refer to the delicious filled pralines sold by Neuhaus, Godiva and Leonidas and many more small artisan producers. A clear and comprehensive definition of Belgian chocolate remains elusive for the time being.

Popping into the Bruges branch of Delhaize (one of the big Belgian supermarket chains) to stock up on Belgian breakfast products I was thrilled to find family sized jars of two types of breakfast spread which we’d sampled only in indiviual portion packs at Ter Duinen.

On the right is an Ovomaltine spread based on the popular continental malted chocolate drink – imagine Nutella with the goodness of hazelnuts removed and replaced with nuggets of crunchy malty sugary stuff.

But wait for it, on the left is a jar of Speculoos spread based on the national biscuit of Belgium – a thin crisp ginger-spiced biscuit. Speculoos have a sort of mediaeval feel about them and were no doubt originally hand-made in elaborately decorated wooden moulds. They are most often found now individually wrapped in cellophane, branded Rombouts or most often Lotus, and served as a complimentary sweet nibble with a cup of coffee.

The idea of turning this small spicy biscuit into a spread is as preposterous an idea as a spread made from our own indigenous McVities’ ginger nuts.

Both jars were packed with unsuitable ingredients with a high E number count but nevertheless both have made it onto my not-so-secret list of guilty pleasures. All the family were secretly taking spoonfuls from the jar. I was amused to read recently the similar reaction to Speculoos spread of Paris-based food writer David Lebovitz (

Grab a jar if you dare!

Contact details

Ter Duinen Hotel
Langerei 52
8000 Brugge
Tel: 00 32 50 33 04 37
Fax: 00 32 50 34 42 16

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