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Friday, July 19, 2013

Venezuelan Cuisine in Canarias

Whenever I come to Canarias, first thing I pick up from the shelf in the supermarket is fresh white cheese. It resembles somewhat like our paneer in India but the flavor is soft with sour touch. It is firm, fresh and slightly salty. This type of white cheese is cured for only 7-35 days.

Canary Islands are proud to be best cheese award winner. 

Its’ success is mainly due to its climatic conditions as well as 3 different breeds of goat. All cheeses are homemade or based on antique cheese making traditions. They vary from very fresh and soft cheese to cured and strong flavored cheese.

I normally eat it in a sandwich with salad leaves and tomatoes, 

or stuff it in cachapas, (a Venezuelan corn pancake) with avocado and chili sauce. The cachapas have the sweetish taste and it marries the soft sour taste of cheese.

Cachapas is the favorite meal for Canarias who enjoy Venezuela cuisine. You get the corn flour in packets, there are many different brands, but I find this brand quite tasty. (This corn flour is not same like the one we use in chinese cooking for thickening the sauce). This flour is different, it contains precooked corn leaves, sugar, wheat flour, precooked corn flour, milk serum, salt and sweet corn aroma. When the pancakes are roasted on girdle, they emit the sweet aroma of corn.

The pancakes are made from this flour by adding ¾ cup of water to 1cup of this flour. Some people add egg too to add that extra flavor.

For vegetarians just white cheese is good enough. But for non-veg person, these cachapas can be stuffed with any number of savory toppings like shredded meat/fish/vegetables or any other fillings. Adding avocado dip makes it more interesting and of course, some chili sauce too.

Some even eat it with fresh mangoes right off from the tree.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beer Tales

I don’t like beer. 

Actually speaking, I don’t like any drinks, neither hard nor soft, but I do take it sometimes when I am in the company of friends and don’t wish to be fussed over.

I have never developed a taste for beer. 

Last year when I was advised to take a can of beer everyday to flush out the kidney stones, I took it as a medicine but could never relish it. I found it very bitter and I had lost my appetite. After having 5 cans for 5 days, I gave up and have never sipped it again

Until today

I was in the supermarket and the girl stood in front of me, offering me a new brand of beer that contains lime.

I was impressed with the Tee shirt that she wore, with the message in Spanish “TRY.. A different combination” it also had a graphic of ‘beer + lime’ over the message. A company that wants to promote their product goes to the extend of personalizing the teeshirt of a sales girl. Impressive!

She was a sweet girl who went around the supermarket, offering a tiny glass for taste. What was even more surprising was that many people politely refused to taste. It was free yet only those, who were curious about its taste, accepted her offer. I have always been offended with people who grab every product for tasting even when they don't like it.

I accepted little for tasting. It tasted very good with lime overpowering the bitter taste of beer. Sweet and sour, it made good combination. I was tempted to buy a bottle…but no.. like I said earlier….I don’t like beer.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Coffee Culture In Spain

Journey from Mumbai to Canary Islands can be very tedious, because there is no direct flight (have to change 3 flights, via Paris and Madrid to reach Tenerife) and there is no food offered in local European flights. My mouth was parched from exhaustion and I needed to buy a drink. I asked for water, but had to wait till airhostess was ready to bring her cart of drinks. I was too thirsty to drink anything else but water, that was on sale for 2 euros.

On arriving at Tenerife airport, I entered the cafeteria and ordered coffee for me, not specifying the kind of coffee I needed. I was served Café Cortado (expresso with little milk) in a tiny cup. I regretted cause I should have specified that I needed Cappuccino(the milky brand with lots of foam floating on the top making beautiful designs)

In Mumbai, everybody drinks too much tea, some to freshen up and some to kill hunger. In Spain, everybody drinks too much coffee and for the same reason. 

Spanish coffee is roasted and blended in a unique way, with its undeniably quality and unrivaled variety, it represents more than a drink, it is actually a way to relax and celebrate life.

There is great variety to choose from, as the country is filled up with cafes, terraces, restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs, and everywhere you see people sipping coffee.

Mothers leave their children at school then head towards coffee house for some gupshup before going home to their daily routine. Men need coffee with their every puff (it helps them think better, maybe). In Spain, “tomar un café” is one of the most common phrase and an essential part of their everyday life.

But little gyan is important or else you will be stuck with most weird taste in your mouth for ordering the wrong type of coffee.

Café solo, (which means single espresso,) is the most common type of coffee with no milk and is normally served in small cups. Cafe solo represents the basis of all Spanish coffee, It’s the strongest coffee and Spanish normally have this around 11am.

If you are travelling in Spain and like strong coffee with no milk, then Café Solo is for you. If you think it is too small then you can order Café Doble (double espresso), If you find it too strong, then ask for ‘Americano’ (this has more water added and is served in bigger cups) and if you think that none of these is your type and you still prefer without milk, then can ask for Café Suizo (espresso topped with whipped crème) or Carajillo (which is spiked with brandy or whisky)

Most of the time, Spanish prefer their coffee with milk, which is much weaker than Café Solo. They start and end their day with ‘Café con Leche’ (this is half milk, half coffee) and they even have it after every meal.

It is important to understand the difference between ‘Café con Leche’ and Café Cortado. ‘Cortado’ means short or ‘cut’ but it has nothing to do with language. Don’t even think that waitress will give you short espresso. Nah! Café Cortado is café solo with just a bit of milk.

But what if you want less coffee and more milk? You must say “El Café: un Manchado por favor

If you cannot tolerate caffeine, there’s always the option for ordering ‘Descafeinado’ but again, be careful, you must ask for ‘descafeinado de maquina’ unless you want to get an instant coffee poured into a cup of hot milk.

Then there is another interesting type called ‘Café con Heilo’ (coffee with ice) this is not cold coffee that you might have had sometimes in your own house where in you make coffee and just add ice. There is a ritual to prepare this, which is pretty much like this: 
You ask for a cup of coffee (it could be black or light brown, it doesn’t matter) and a glass filled with ice cubes. Add the sugar in your hot coffee, let it melt and then pour the cup over the glass containing ice. Drink it fast.

Confused already? Okay here is the list if that helps:

Café Solo (Espresso)
Café Doble (double espresso)
Café con Leche (espresso with milk, usually half and half proportionally)
Café Cortado (espresso with a bit of milk)
Café Manchado (little espresso with more milk)
Café Suizo (espresso topped with whipped cream)
Café Americano (large Café solo with more water)
Café Bombon (Café solo with condensed sweet milk)
Carajillo (espresso with a drop of brandy, whiskey or rum)
Café Caramel  (Café solo with condensed milk)
Café con Heilo (Espresso with ice)

There are so many variations and they are so entangled that they only blur your mind and confuse you. With many coffee houses in India, many people have developed a taste for different variety of coffee.

When in Spain, I may order Manchado or Cortado but back home in Mumbai, its always 'just cutting chai……'

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