Spain

Me Encanta Horchata

I'm back on the grid! Living in a little Mexican town, on a tropical lake, with a lovely fresh produce market, in a sweet little casa with wifi and a gear-laden kitchen. Soy muy afortunada. The jungle was awesome, but I was ready to move on. The rainy season is just starting, which means even more bugs, and I was getting eaten alive out there. Serves me right. ;)

There's so much that I've learned, and so much I want to share...

One amazing drink I discovered is an elixir of the gods called horchata. Every now and then, I'd see vendors at the side of the street selling it, and wonder what it was. Really, I wasn't that curious because the name didn't sound that appetizing. I even noticed it in the grocery stores, as a thick white substance sold in bottles. I ignored it, since to me it looked like mayonnaise or something creamy, yuk. One day, I noticed a bottle in an otherwise empty fridge of a kitchen palapa where we were staying. I picked it up and read the ingredients, which were: rice, sugar, water, almond, cinnamon, vanilla. What?! That sounds awesome... The directions said to mix some of this syrup with water, and enjoy over ice. I tried it. ¬°Fantastico!

I learned that Mexican horchata is basically a sweet aromatic rice milk, usually made with raw rice and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, served on ice. Originally from Spain, it's traditionally made with tigernuts (chufas), so Spanish horchata probably tastes quite different than Mexican horchata. It's also made with ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley. I'd love to try all the differnet kinds.

Mexican horchata makes a great drink on it's own, or spiked with rum. I like adding horchata syrup to coffee or black tea as a dairy-free creamer/sweetener - or mixed with hot fresh ginger tea. Adding a teaspoon or two of concentrate to an agua de fruta (fruit blended with water), or smoothie is awesome too. Here is one of my favourite combos:

Recipe: Papaya Horchata Smoothie

Generally, the commercial horchata concentrates you can find here are mega-sweet, so I recommend using a lot less than the directions call for. You can find the concentrate in most grocery stores down here, the quality varies and different brands have different ingredient ratios, and some are less sweet. Of course, it's best to make your own! This rice and almond Yucatecan horchata recipe sounds awesome.

I'd eventually like to concoct my own horchatas, like: almond honey horchata, sugar-free brown rice horchata, sesame ginger horchata, chocolate spice horhchata, maple walnut horchata, agave jicama horchata... and of course, a traditional Spanish horchata de chufa.

The little bit of reasearch I did revealed some fascinating history, and that people are very passionate about this drink. I'd love to learn more - please share your horchata info, recipes and links - gracias!

Thanks for the pic Crispin!

The Noble Pineapple


photo by Ian Britton

As a child, I have fond memories of eating fresh sweet juicy pineapple on the beaches of Southern Spain. Young gypsies were selling it, walking on the hot sands yelling "brrrrrrrrr pina!". I still love scoring a beautiful fragrant pineapple :-)

While visiting Mexico last winter, we would buy it from women selling it at the side of the highways, who would offer it to you as you crept over the massive speed-bumps designed to slow-down vehicles near towns. The women included a little pouch of chili spice to sprinkle on the fruit: I highly recommend eating fresh pineapple with chili spice!

Recently, I've rediscovered pineapple and have been enjoying it almost every day. First, it's a gorgeous thing, and I love spotting a particularly nice one at the fruit stand, bringing it home, and then staring at it for a day or two. Next, cutting it up is quite satisfying and easy to do - my partner usually gets to do this. Finally the booty: sweet fragrant juicy fruit! Besides being awesome tasting, pineapple is very healthy, full of vitamin C, manganese, and the enzyme bromelain that helps you digest protein - this is why it's particularly good with fish and meat.

Bonus: the noble pineapple happens to be the food of the week on the world's healthiest foods.

I will post some super pineapple recipes next...

Almonds :-)

almond tree in Spain
A beautiful blooming almond tree in Spain. (image from the wikipedia)
The food of the week on one of my favorite sites (the world's healthiest foods) is the amazingly tasty, versatile, nutritious almond! High in protein, healthy fat, vitamin E, manganese - also containing a good amount of magnesium, copper, B2 and antioxidants (read the full low-down here) - almonds are truly a super-food :-) I love enjoying them dry-roasted, sprouted, in baked goods...
Recipes:

Flourless Sesame Almond Cookies

Blueberry Fig Sprouted Almond Clafouti

Awesome Almond Buckwheat Pancakes

Orange Mexican Wedding Cakes

Chocolate Almond Bran Biscotti

Super Pancakes (for one or more)

Gluten Free / Sugar Free Cheesecake

Sprouted Almond Smoothie