According to the Wiki,
The Tonka Bean is the seed of Dipteryx odorata, a legume tree in the neotropics, of the Fabaceae family. The plant has its origin in Northern South America (Guyana, Orinoco region). Today, main producers of the seeds are Venezuela and also Nigeria. The seed is black and wrinkled in appearance, with a smooth brown interior. Its fragrance is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds.This week on Culinary Tour 2010, hosted by Joan of Foodalogue, we’re in Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. Yipee, I now know where that is too!!!!!!
The name ‘Nicaragua’ apparently has some reference to water (agua), but this is uncertain. What is obvious is its being bound on its east and west coasts by oceans, as well as having 2 large freshwater lakes within it. “La comida Nica,” as Nicaraguans call their cuisine, is a Latin-creole mix of indigenous and Spanish dishes and ingredients influenced by the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Pacific coast cuisine is centred around local fruits and corn while that of the Caribbean includes seafood and coconut. Of great interest is the fact that Nicaraguans eat guinea pigs and tapirs, iguanas and turtle eggs…but worry not, I bring you no such recipes from my tame ‘Dutch’ kitchen!Anyhow, when I dug ‘deep’ into what I wanted to cook up for this stop, I discovered Horchata de Arroz (made by blending soaked rice grains with water and other flavourings) and I knew I may have found a piece of home, for Horchata is not new to me.
In Nigeria, you find a version of this drink made from tiger nuts – Kunnu Aya, and rice (this version, called Kunnu Gyada) which are popularly ‘hawked’: sold on the street by sellers. You will also encounter young men, pushing wheelbarrows full of small, tan to light orange-coloured nuts with black speckles….hence the name – Tigernut. These nuts are somewhat hard on the outside with a whitish interior which reminds me of coconut. While they are super nutritious, I find that snacking on a few is fine but too many, and you end up with an itch in your throat.Once I discovered them, I would buy a kilo or more every week, soak and blend them to make a rich, milky but dairy-free drink, which I always had chilled! But then I left Nigeria and all attempts to find them here failed. I even begged a friend to bring me some from Nigeria last summer but she didn’t…..*sniff, sniff* and so my dream died till I saw ‘Taste Hong Kong’s Rice soup’ and slowly it came to life, again. So Horcata de Arroz it would be. I decided there and then to flavour mine with my Tonka beans, sure that the end results would see me perfectly happy, and they did! See why ‘Taste Hong Kong’s’ recipe filled me with hope? New Year’s resolution of progressing from semi- to well-organised, I had moved the brown rice, without informing myself…. Anyhow, I had finished the first batch anyways and so made round #2, after discovering the brown rice in my full-to-the-brim-and falling-over store! There is a natural sweetness in milk made of soaked rice (for I also noticed it in the white rice version too) that is almost unbelievable…in addition to its creamy nature – somehow, you expect there to be some milk in it, but there isn’t. into this pie….and even recently when it formed a perfect bed for some poached pears.This weekend however, I think I have found where greatness lies….and it was all just waiting for this Nicaraguan journey to be unearthed. This was the softest, silkiest rice pudding my lips had ever tasted. Read on. On offer today, you have
- #1: Horchata de Arroz – Rice milk, flavoured with Tonka beans and vanilla and sweetened with sugar;
- #2: Breakfast porridge of Arroz Con Leche with Tamarillo and Pecans;
- #3: Arroz con Dulce con Leche brulee – Homemade dulce de leche, topped with rice pudding, sprinkled with brown sugar and placed under a hot grill till the sugar caramelises and forms a thin crust, brulee-style; and
- #4: Petit fours of Arroz con Leche in ginger cookie crusts, also with the tops bruleed.
- Traditional – recreate the country’s national dish or any other traditional dish.
- Contemporary – use a traditional recipe and make it Nuevo Latino (contemporize it).
- Algo Nuevo (something new) – create something totally ‘your own’ by using the flavors and techniques of the destination.
- Published Chef – follow the recipe of a published chef/author specializing in that cuisine.
The recipes#1 Horchata de Arroz (Kunnu Gyada, Nigerian), inspired by ‘Taste Hong Kong’s Rice soup’ Ingredients 1 cup brown (or white) rice1/2 a cup flaked almonds1 whole vanilla bean or 2 teaspoon of vanilla extract1 Tonka bean, grated (easiest to do with a Microplane grater)3 cups water (+ up to 1 cup of water for blending rice on day 2)Sugar or other sweetener, to tasteHow to In a bowl/large jar, combine all the ingredients, stir well and cover. Leave overnight for rice grains to soften. Ingredients Leftover rice (from above) – I had 2 cups of broken up rice1 cup water1 1/2 – 2 cups milk (I used semi-skimmed milk)3 tablespoons sugar (I used light brown sugar)How to In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the sugar and place on low heat to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring ever so often so it doesn’t form a crust at the base and burn. Ingredients Arroz con LecheDulce de LecheLight brown sugarHow to Put a tablespoon or two of dulce de leche at the base of a ramekin, coffee! Ingredients 4 ginger snap/digestive cookies, crushed1 teaspoon and a bit of butter, unmelted6 teaspoons of Arroz con LecheGround cinnamonLight brown sugarHow to Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees centigrade (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit). Combine the crushed cookies and butter to form the crust.
- January 11, Mexico: I missed it!
- January 18, El Salvador: Platanos fritos tortillas – Breakfast/Main
- January 25, Nicaragua: Horchata, a type of…. – Drink: This post!
- February 1, Argentina – Pizza or empanadas or….I’m not sure yet!
- February 8, Brazil: Acaraje – Snack/Main
- February 15, Colombia: not yet decided
- February 22, Jamaica: Jerk Fish with creole sauce – Main
- March 1, Haiti: not yet decided
- March 8, Cuba: not yet decided
- March 15, Puerto Rico: not yet decided