Even though posting came to halt, cooking for my world food challenge continued. None of the three countries’ cuisines have stellar reputations, although English food is probably famous for being the worst. Cuban and Honduran food were more closely related both geographically and culinarily, and both contain rice and beans as staples. Although Cuban sandwiches at least have the Earl of Sandwich to thank for their name, other than their reputations, neither Honduran nor Cuban cuisine had much in common with English food.
Cuba is famous for rum, cigars and Castro(s). Cuba is not famous for food, and this reputation is probably deserved. Until recently most workers ate at least lunch for free in government canteens. I made three dishes, one of which was called “Old Rope”. This dish took hours to cook, and although it did look a lot like old rope, mercifully tasted nothing like I would imagine old rope tastes. The beans and rice, or Moors and Christians, was ok—the flavours even improved after being frozen and reheated. I liked the rice pudding made with cinnamon and condensed milk, but my husband thought it was too sweet. One of Cuba’s most famous dishes, the “Cubano” sandwich, seems to be most common in Florida. Having neither the bread nor the ham, I didn’t try to make it. If one day we are in Tampa Bay, we will definitely try one.
Honduran food contained quite a lot of coconut milk. After watching a video that made making your own coconut milk look very easy, we (stupidly) decided to try. I should never have forgotten the old saying that things which look easy rarely are. The coconut dishes, a fish soup called Hudutu with mashed plantain and a rice dish called Resanbinsi, were also not very successful. The only unexpected part was how much more tastier the mashed plantain (Foo Foo) was than we remembered. Our favourite dish, Ariran Guisou chicken stew, looked the most complicated, but turned out to be both the easiest and the tastiest. I marinated the chicken, onions, and red pepper in lime juice, mustard, turmeric, Worcester Sauce, cumin, and garlic. After, I browned the chicken in pan, added water and chicken stock, then gently simmered until we were ready to eat. Another surprise was the refried beans for the Baleadas, which are only cooked once, and not fried at all.
English food was perhaps one of the most pleasurable weeks since it was cooking food I have eaten all my life. Despite the terrible reputation of English food abroad, it was our favourite, even though we are biased. I decided against fish and chips—one of the most widely known dishes, and instead cooked Steak and Ale Pie with mash, peas, and cauliflower cheese. For the cauliflower cheese, I par boiled the cauliflower, then added mustard and Red Leicester to the white sauce. For the pie, I used the Guardian’s perfect steak and ale pie recipe, which if not quite perfect was certainly tasty. I did opt for mushrooms and carrots, although in future I would definitely avoid the mushrooms. I fried the onions until they were golden brown, as with Afghanistan cooking. It takes double the time, but the flavours are much better. I didn’t fry the carrots and added them at the last minute, which avoided the mushiness. For dessert there was gooseberry fool. Being British to core I did not realise that cream does not set in hot Korean temperatures, so the consistency was more runny than hoped for, and this was definitely the least tasty. On a rainy summer’s day in England, it may have been the best, just as the food with the worst reputation turned out to be the most enjoyable.