Sunday, 14 December 2014

P for Panama

Dee:  “The cuisine of Panama is a long established combination of indigenous ingredients and cooking methods with added elements from Spain and Africa, to produce a wide variety of fresh and tasty dishes.  We were only able to sample three of them for this blog entry but enjoyed all of them and are keen to try more.”

Dee:  “Ceviche is a light, fresh tasting dish of fish, onion and peppers which have been slowly and gently in lime juice over several hours.  It originated in Peru but is enjoyed throughout South and Central America, including Panama, so we decided to give it a go.  I wanted to put together a ceviche of fish and prawns but Jay wasn’t keen on using seafood so we stuck to cod fillets.  We added a little ‘Fuego del verde’ sauce from Pip’s Hot Sauce, a local business, into the mix, along with red onion and red pepper and the essential lime juice and that was pretty much it.  We prepared it the day before we intended to serve it and chilled it in the fridge for a couple of hours before starting the meal.  After the initial hit of lime, we found that it was best enjoyed with a combination of pepper, onion and fish on the fork all at the same time.  We didn’t serve it with the crackers specified by the recipe but still enjoyed it as a great starter.

Ropa Vieja y Arroz con Guandu
Dee:  “Ropa Vieja is a stew containing shredded beef and chopped vegetables mixed with a sofrito of onions, peas, peppers, herbs and olives.  It was a bit of a labour of love for us, requiring assembly in various stages over several hours, so definitely not one to attempt for anyone wanting to knock up a quick tea.  However, the investment of time certainly paid off for us as the finished dish was one of our favourite discoveries so far. 
I was expecting a dark, rich, heavy stew with an intense taste but what I got was something different: The shredded meat was tender and soft and didn’t overpower the vegetables, which kept their colour and texture.
The Arroz con Guandu was specified as an accompaniment to the Ropa Vieja, and used similar ingredients to the West Indian rice and peas, but was cooked as a risotto, first in bacon fat, then white wine and finally coconut milk.  This turned out to be the heavier element of the meal and certainly if the stew had been more intense, it would have run the risk of over-facing us, and with a dessert of the quality that we were about to sample, that would have been a very bad thing.
We were also delighted to have been able to source the wine which was recommended in the recipe.  Although the Carménère red wine was Chilean, and made by a winemaker of Swiss origin, we welcomed the recommendation.”

Dee:  “Jay made the mixture for these sweet coconut cookies while I was on washing up duty.  They were simple to prepare, if a little messy, and didn’t take long to bake in the oven.  They were more at home in the category of sweet snack than dessert, and would, I imagine provide a delicious accompaniment to a cup of coffee.
We weren’t able to follow the published recipe to the letter and had to tweak it in a couple of ways; firstly we couldn’t find any shredded coconut, and frankly weren’t feeling up to grating a fresh one (sorry) so used dessicated coconut instead, we also used coconut flour instead of cornstarch and didn’t dust the final bakes with confectioners’ sugar.  However, none of those compromises affected the finished bakes, which still tasted fabulous.  There was a crunch on the baked outside, which gave way to a soft inside.  In fact they were rather addictive, but we managed to stay strong and resisted the urge to eat the whole batch. ”

Soundtrack:  Various Artists – Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75
Dee:  “Right up my street, this, and an ideal accompaniment to tonight’s meal.  Red hot rhythm driven dance sounds with sax and trumpet solos galore.  There were strong jazz and latin soul sounds at work here.  The vocals were for the most part in support of the instrumentation.  There was much to recommend but particular standout tracks for me were the piano-led ‘soy solo para ti’ by Victor Boa y Su Musica, the superb trumpet and guitar on the Exciters’ six minute soul workout ‘New Bag’, even though it cut out before the end, and the groove of the English vocal ‘Let me do my thing’ by Los Dinamicos Exciters and Ralph Weeks.  Great stuff.”

Next Week is decided for us as there is only one choice:  Q for Qatar

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