Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Philippine Mango Float

Philippine Mango Float is graham cracker crumbs with mango slices soaked in condensed milk and 

In this South Pacific archipelago, in a country that has the fourth longest coastline in the world, diving experiences and contact with exotic marine creatures and plants are plentiful...

On the beach, a salesperson calls out shrilly, "Same, same....but different!" The inexpensive purses she was selling were really Gucci, weren't they? Or do you think they might not have been the genuine article? She was offering such a good deal! In the Philippines, this phrase means that the person is selling knockoffs.
A perfect dessert for hot weather is the Philippine Mango Float. You can opt for the refrigerator version or the frozen version. The national fruit is the mango, and this particular treat is believed to be the country's favorite as well.
The most recent Philippine holiday took place this Monday, August 27th-National Heroes' Day, which marks the beginning of the Revolution against Spain, the country's ruler for over 300 years. It is celebrated with parades, on the fourth monday of every year.

200 grams graham cracker crumbs
10 1/2 ounces Nestle cream, or whipping cream
3 mangoes, peeled and sliced
10 ounces condensed milk
Mix mangoes, cream, and condensed milk. Make a graham cracker layer, then place a cream layer, then another graham cracker layer, and another cream layer. Lastly, put another layer of crumbs on top. Place it in the refrigerator or in the freezer, depending on whether you prefer the refrigerator or frozen version. Both are delicious! If the weather is hot, choose the frozen option...
Philippine mango float--graham crackers, condensed milk, mango slices!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Orange Blossom Almond Cookies from Morocco

A Moroccan tea set is featured in the background
The charmer made the snake move from side to side, as the crowd moved around him, in front of the medina wall. When I entered its bustling market, a collection of one-story stands that stretched for many blocks, 9000 streets to be exact, I wondered if I would get lost... I wasn't in an Arabian nights story. I was in Fez, Morocco.
"Where are you? Don't stray from the group," a friend said nervously. 
Add caption
Colorful leather tanneries in a medina in Fez, Morocco
And that was exactly what we did... but we put our survival strategies for not getting trapped in a medina from A.D. 859 to the test. We stuck to the main path as if we were kayaking in a wide river and avoiding the narrower, more secluded tributaries. In other words, we didn't wander into the side streets. Golden-toned Aladdin lanterns beckoned us to let their genies escape, next to blue lanterns that might have lit Scheherazade's abode. Nearby, muslims chanted prayers in unison at a Koran school.  A merchant offered leather jackets, in a stand that had them plastered like wallpaper all over the store, and pouring out like jungle plants in Jumanji. "900, 900, for a jacket." In broken Arabic, I ventured: "700?" and put it on to continue my journey. Outside a window, the leather tanneries resembled boxes of watercolors inside their brown, red, white, and black circular compartments. 
A motorcycle sped by me, and I clutched my purse tightly, wondering if the driver might be one of the motorized thieves I had heard about.

Ceramics in a tile factory outside Fez, Morocco
 Gazelle Horns
These pastries are served with Moroccan (green and mint) tea every day, and are specially chosen for weddings, because a Moroccan myth tells the tale that a princess made them to give to her beloved. She was offered in wedlock, against her wishes, to a cruel man. When her loved one travelled far to reach her, and was dying of exhaustion in the desert, she inmediately filled an antelope's horns with honey and nuts to send to him.
I tried this treat in a brick-color Portuguese fort from the 1500's, where tea was served in ornate silver-colored kettles, and the sweet, minty, boiling liquid bobbed up and down, spurting into the glasses. The varied, sweet, and rich almond pastries decorated the table, and the garden that surrounded us had a row of giant tagines (clay pots shaped like a hat) stewing chicken or lamb and potatoes over warm fires that burned underneath them.

Phyllo dough
500 grams flour
1 tablespoon butter
7 tablespoons orange water
4 tablespoons warm water
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

Nut Filling
1 kilogram almonds, blanched and ground
750 grams granulated or powdered sugar
100 grams of butter
2 tablespoons of orange water
1/4 teaspoon of gum arabic

Grind almonds in food processor two times. Add powdered sugar and grind again. Add melted butter, water, and gum arabic. Shape into a large ball.
Phyllo Dough
Mix phyllo dough ingredients. When the dough is pliable, elastic, and smooth, it is ready for you to roll into squares.
Shape the almond paste into thick, snakelike portions by rolling it with your hands. Place in the refrigerator for half an hour. Roll out the phyllo dough, and make 3-inch squares. Place the cigarette-like portion of almond paste on the dough, wet the edges of the square, and roll it to cover completely. Bend into the shape of a crescent. Cut the dough with a cutting wheel.  Pinch it shut. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes.
The gazelle horns are inside a decorative brown "tajine"


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bakewell Tart/Pudding from England

The Olympic Rings
"The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle..." reads part of the Olympic creed.
Its flag shows the colors of all the flags of all the countries that participated in the 1920 Olympics games. Each ring symbolizes a continent. Their colors are: blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white background.

Bakewell and its Pudding
Jane Austen stayed in the Rutland Arms Hotel in the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire Dales in 1811, and modeled her fictitious Lambton from Pride and Prejudice after this town; she also fashioned Pemberley after Chatsworth, three miles from Bakewell. A couple of decades later, in 1837, a recipe for Bakewell Tart was written down, so we know that it existed at least since that date. Today this town has 4000 inhabitants and is the only one located in Peak District National Park. Many people visit it because it has 17th and 18th century houses. It is located relatively near Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, and Nottingham:
The Bakewell show, an agricultural display, takes place on the first Wednesday and Thursday of August (this year it was August 1st and 2nd) and is known as one of the best shows in England.

Recipe from

After following the recipe indicated in the link above, instead of making a 9 inch tart, bake in 6 3-inch tart tins. Decorate the tops of five of them with different colored berries, lime/lemon zest, and/or jams to achieve the different olympic colors. If you want a white background, use whipping cream!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Indonesian Banana Rice Tamal, August 17

The first time I tried Indonesian cuisine was at an Indonesian breakfast, and I thought the peanut sauce the meat was cooked in was incredibly exquisite. Now I have the chance to try a smooth rice flour concoction, filled with fresh bananas. and which closely resembles Latin American tamales. The idea of wrapping them in banana leaves probably came from Asia, as the banana tree was brought to America from that continent in the 1500's...
Indonesian Independence, August 17th
Indonesians celebrate their independence from the Netherlands on this day in 1949. The declaration was made in 1945, and the Indonesians fought for four years to become independent. Today, this date is celebrated by decorating buildings in red and white, and holding special events, and even sales in stores. Banners with the words "Long live Indonesia" are hung in many places, and many play a game where adults and children try to climb a slippery tree trunk (covered with clay and oil) to reach prizes such as bikes and television sets that are hung at the top.

5 bananas
1 cup rice flour
2 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Banana leaves

Slice bananas in half. Mix flour, coconut milk, sugar, and salt in a pot.  Cook over low heat, constantly stirring until mixture is very thick and smooth. 

Spoon 1 to two tablespoons of the mixture onto the banana leaf.
Place a slice of banana on mixture, and cover the banana with another 1 to 2 tablespoons of mixture.
Wrap mixture with banana leaves neatly. It is better to use banana leaves; however, if it's hard for you to find them, you could use aluminum foil like I show below.
Press the dough firmly before continuing to roll.
When you are finished rolling, press the dough firmly on the left and right side of the tamal.
Steam over medium heat for 25 minutes, or until cooked.

Serve warm or cold.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mango Sticky Rice for Thailand's Mother's Day

Kids climb trees, in spite of the fact that it scares their mothers, who are afraid they might fall off it and break a limb, or get electrocuted. In many Latin American and Asian countries, and some African countries, mango trees can reach very tall heights, and are still the most popular ones among children, because the golden prize for disappearing behind the finger-like leaves lies among the branches: the mangoes themselves. Most of them emerge unscathed, fortunately, thus being more motivated to continue engaging in what could be called an after-school sport for some. For others, it is even necessary for survival, when food is scarce for economic reasons, and in remote places where school buildings are nonexistent, classes might take place under the mango tree. In the Dharhar town in India, planting mango trees that will later become a girl's dowry even saves newborn girls' lives.

I don't recall ever climbing a mango tree, but I was recently armed with a sack full of mangoes, as they are in season from April through July...and thus set out to find world desserts that use this luscious orangey, buttery, melt-in-your mouth fruit that contains most of the Vitamin C you need in the day.

The Queen's Birthday
In Thailand, the current regent queen Sikrit's birthday is celebrated today, August the 12th. It is automatically also considered Mother's Day in the country, and is a moveable national public holiday, so the day off is tomorrow, August 13th. Bangkok holds many festivals and events on this day, but the more traditional provinces in Thailand also revere this day. The exteriors of buildings are decorated with the national flags, lights, and more. People offer flowers and gifts to their mothers and other women they honor, and do charity this day, including giving food to monks.

Recipe for kao niow mamuang: 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eton Mess from London

Miniature replica of the queen mother's carriage, from the 1952 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Miniature of queen mother's carriage, Eton Mess, and a Wedgewood vase
You find yourself in a medieval building with a wooden interior, amongst many different types of suits of armor. The drafty room chills you as you climb the stone stairs. Many people were imprisoned in these quarters centuries before. You go through one of the many towers in the Tower of London complex quickly, before visiting the queen's jewels in the next building...
There, you stand on a treadmill to fleetingly view the jewels for a few seconds, before you return to take it one more time to catch another glimpse of some of the largest material treasures in the world.

The original Eton Mess contains whipped cream, strawberries, and broken pieces of meringues. It began as a mix of bananas or strawberries with ice cream or cream that was served at the Eton School in London, and has been traditionally eaten on June 4th. For this year's Diamond Jubilee, however, several new versions were created, and the simple dessert became more complicated but certainly more delicious than ever. 

Tower Bridge

Heston's Recipe (adapted)

50 grams sugar
65 grams ground almonds
50 grams flour
pinch of salt
50 grams butter

Strawberry and Rose Coulis
200 grams quartered strawberries
200 grams whole strawberries
120 grams sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto
1 teaspoon rosewater or to taste
juice of 1 lemon

Marbled Cream
160 ml whipping cream
400 grams yogurt
60 grams broken meringue pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the ingredients for the crumble and place them on a baking sheet in the oven for 30 minutes. Place sugar on strawberries in the blender and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and puree.  Finally, mix some whipping cream with yogurt. Take a parfait glass, and add a layer of cream, then some puree, another layer of cream, crumble some meringue pieces and add more puree. Finally top it with the almond crumble.

Coming up next:
Thai Sticky Rice with Mango
British Bakewell Tart
Indonesian Banana Rice Tamales
Philippine Mango Float
Moroccan Almond Paste Horns


Monday, August 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Candy from San Vicente, El Salvador

The San Vicente Tower, built in 1930, in the capital of San Vicente is climbed every day by tourists

A large weaving wheel spun in front of me, as the soda-can spools were slowly being filled with thread, by a productive spinner lady who might have been a character in a German folktale. Might it turn into gold the following morning? Had I been transported into the past, before the Industrial Revolution? Maybe it had magical powers, like it did in Sleeping Beauty or Norse mythology.
    In the next room, a weaving machine hypnotically moved from left to right and back, then upwards and downwards. Gradually, a long piece of material decorated with colorful patterns appeared. It would soon be a tablecloth. I didn't wait to eat lunch on it, as it would take quite a bit longer for it to be finished...
     Instead, I journeyed to a nearby town, and stepped into a sugarcane field. Green blades of grass protruded from fingerlike sticks, much like feathers sprout from a bird's crest or tail. Many of the stalks had already been cut and thrust into a mill. In large vats, the resulting syrup was heated and classified into different qualities of syrup. Raw sugar was produced, as well as a thick, dark brown version that would be placed in wooden molds. Small barrel-shaped, solid blocks of candy emerged and were wrapped in corn husks by women, to be sold as "panela", that could be melted with different fruits to make other types of candy.
     After my visit to San Sebastian in San Vicente (where weavers worked with the same machines or similar machines to those they used 100 years ago or more), and to a sugarcane mill in Verapaz, San Vicente, I was ready to make some sweet potato candies.... So I warmed up by climbing the five-story white tower in San Vicente, the department's capital.

August 6th
A national holiday in El Salvador takes place on August 6th each year. In San Vicente, they always have sweet potato candy available for any fair or special event. In fact, the candy shops sell it year-round, too.

Sweet potato candy on a woven tablecloth from San Sebastian
1 1/4 pounds of boiled, then mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 pound of granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup of milk

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cook until the mixture thickens and sticks together into a ball. Let it cool for ten minutes. Next, shape it into small cones with your hands. Stick them into syrup (see recipe below) to coat them. Yields: 30 medium-sized cones.

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of lime juice
2 strips of lime peel
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons of water
Place all ingredients in a 2-quart pot and heat until it reaches the soft ball stage. You can test it by placing a drop in a glass of water. If the drop turns into a soft ball, it is ready.
Traditional weaving machine used to make tablecloths and hammocks, located in San Sebastian, San Vicente

Large spools filled by hand to place in the weaving machine

A more "modern" version of the weaving machine


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Milk Pastries for San Salvador Festivities (August 3-6))

Dancers wearing colorful,  traditional costumes

The volcanic crater of Quezaltepeque

The sleepy crater resembled a giant, natural stadium, and we were the only fans in sight that day. "Look at the small store and the path into the crater", someone pointed at numerous trees that resembled moss or shrubs from far away, and even though I squinted, I failed to see anything. I could only tell that it must be a long trek downwards, into what could have been the center of the earth, as far as I was concerned. The zipline I had taken earlier that flew over these trees was much easier in comparison.
As we left, the path was sprinkled with small pieces of porous lava rocks, orchids, and red hibiscus flowers, and there were ladies selling warm corn beverages, flowers, or recently picked miniature wild raspberries. We had just visited the Volcano of San Salvador, or Quezaltepeque, near the capital city of El Salvador.
The previous statue, which was very similar, fell down during an earthquake in 1986, and a new one was built and set up in its place.

August Festivities
In San Salvador, the city's patron saint is Jesus, or the "Divine Saviour of the World" ("El Salvador del Mundo") The festivities last for four days, beginning on August the third, during which a national fair, rides, parades, and other activities take place. The entire country also has a day off on August the 6th, for the same occasion. 

Milk Pastries
Throughout most of El Salvador, soft round pastries are filled with a milk pastry cream, or apple or pineapple jelly. They are eaten year-round, and may be served for breakfast or dessert.

1 pound of sifted flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 pound of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup warm water
3 egg yolks
4 teaspoons of baking powder
Mix the butter, salt, and egg yolks. Add the flour and baking powder. Then add the warm water slowly, until the dough is easy to handle. Roll it out and cut out 2-inch circles. Barely wet the edges of two circles, then place a teaspoonful of the white cream filling between both of them. Pinch the edges of the circles together until the pastry is completely sealed shut. Brush milk on the tops of the pastries and sprinkle granulated sugar on top. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. 

White Cream Filling (Leche Poleada)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 piece of lime peel
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup of sugar
cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Stir two cups of milk with the lime peel, salt, and cinnamon stick; place it in a pot and heat it until it boils. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of milk, then add sugar and the warm milk liquid to it. Place it back in a pot, and stir on medium heat until it thickens. Remove it from heat; add vanilla.

The entire plaza was redesigned in 2011.