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Category Archives: Cooking in Belize

Belizean Gastronomy – Flour Tortillas


Hello Friends,

It’s been a while since my last blog post but I wanted to get back into the swing of it and reach out sharing my Belizean experiences including recipes I prepared.  I learned how to make tortillas, black beans and rice, rice and beans, salsa and more. These sound pretty standard, especially the salsa but I learned to love it in a new way.

The food I could find in Belize was pretty varied and in many cases different than I was used to. Callilou? What is that? Dragon fruit – that’s interesting. Cilantro – not on my menu list previously. So definitely I ran into some challenges.  And it is some of these challenges I will share with you.

The first recipe I want to share with you is flour tortillas.  I found some recipes online and tried them and while they weren’t too bad, they weren’t great.  They were tough after they cooled down. But I think I figured out what my problem was – not rolling them out thin enough and not cooking them in a hot enough pan.  I don’t have a comal (smooth, flat griddle typically used in Mexico and Central America to cook tortillas, toast spices, sear meat, and generally prepare food.), just a non-stick frying pan, which I certainly don’t get hot enough to properly cook tortillas.   So that’s advice #1.

220px-Comal2

Here’s the recipe I followed, and I found it on http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Homemade-Tortillas.

After I found this recipe I use it all the time.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10-12 times, adding a little flour or water if needed to achieve a smooth dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into eight portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 7-in. circle.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook tortillas over medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. Keep warm. Yield: 8 tortillas.

I love using these tortillas to have peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or to use stuffed with chicken and salsa.    I’ve also cut them into wedges, coated with olive oil and then seasoned them with a chili powder, paprika, cumin, pepper, salt, garlic powder mixture that I put together.  I’ve then baked them in the oven at 325 degree F for about 10-12 minutes or so (I think..)  Watch them and you will see when to take them out of the oven.  Put these tortilla chips together with home made salsa and you have a tasty healthy treat.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Cooking in Belize

 

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The Royal Rat


I taste tested something new this week – The Royal Rat.   It was done in a hot peppery gravy and was tender enough that it could be cut with a fork.  The first bite, taken kind of absent-mindedly, reminded me of beef.  It wasn’t until I cut the next piece off, when I was looking at the texture, that I realized I had forgotten I ordered Gibnut and that I was not eating beef.  The meat looks like well-done organ meat, with a tight, fine-looking grain and I was surprised at how much it reminded me of the taste of beef.  Now here is something that doesn’t taste like chicken, lol.

I have seen pictures where they batter and deep fry the feet and I don’t think I could eat that.  I have also seen pictures where they serve the animal whole on your plate and I don’t think I could eat that either.  With the animal cut up into smaller pieces I can honestly say I enjoyed eating this new meat.  I may even buy some and work with it myself.  Maybe make a stew or something…

Now, I am sure you must be asking – What is Gibnut?  And why is it called The Royal Rat?

Gibnut, as it is known in Belize, is officially called Paca, and is considered to be a rodent.  They grow to between 13 – 26 lbs and live in burrows underground.  They are good swimmers, they like to live in forested areas, and they prefer to be close to rivers.  Gibnut likes to eat cassava, yam, sugar cane, corn and other foods which are staples for the local villagers.  They have 2 litters a year and in some areas their populations are growing.  The Mountain Paca apparently has declining numbers but the Lowland Paca is not suffering the same fate.  Due to this it is possible that the Gibnut could be raised commercially, although it is said that the farmed Gibnut doesn’t taste as good as the wild Gibnut.

The name Royal Rat was given to the Gibnut, not as a slur against the Queen, but because she was served Gibnut during one of her visits to Belize.

Lowland Paca

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowland_Paca

http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Anthony_Benjamin

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Cooking in Belize

 

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It’ Market Day!


Here in Punta Gorda, Belize we have the open air market at least 5 days a week.  The vendors are usually at their stalls from early in the morning, (and I can’t tell you how early because I am never up that early.)  I just know that the market usually finishes by noon.  One or two stragglers stay to catch the late shoppers like myself.  So this week I decided to try to get there relatively early, and was there by 10 a.m.

The streets were busy, but I have seen them more crowded.  Maybe this is attributed to it being the low season for tourism here in Belize.  There definitely weren’t as many vehicles on the streets as I have seen in the past and in my opinion this is a good thing.  Front Street is a narrow street to start with and with the market and an abundance of people cars are just an additional hazard.  However, in the time I have been here I have not seen, nor have I heard of any problems arising associated with the vehicular traffic.  I live fairly close to the market and with Front Street being a one-way street I am sure I would have heard of something.

Now you may ask, if the market runs 5 or 6 day why would I have a market day?  The answer is simple – I work in my office in the morning, from 9 until noon generally where I encourage drop-in visitors to ask real estate related questions or just to sit and visit with me.   By the time my office hours are done so is the market so I need to make a determined effort to get what I need at least on Saturday.

I pack up my re-usable bag, which hasn’t caught on here at all yet, and away I go.  While the clouds looked like they were going to open up on us at any time, they didn’t.  It turned out to be quite a sunny day and it didn’t rain at all.

Cars on Front Street

I make my way down the street, greeting and chatting with people I know and saying hello to people I don’t.  The market is a place to see people, to meet people as well as to find the freshest produce around.  I had one lady come up to me and ask if I was the “real estate lady”.

So now comes the best part – what did I get?  24 BZ ($12 US) bought me a lot of fruits and vegetables (values approximate for cucumbers, onion, cabbage, cause I can’t remember how many pounds each was).  I got:

  • 7 bananas – 1.00 – didn’t put all in the picture because the pile was falling over
  • 5 oranges – 1.00 – no room on tray for the oranges
  • 5 onions – 5.00
  • 2 cucumbers – 6.00
  • 3 carrots – 2.00
  • 1 cabbage – 3.00
  • 1 plantain – .50
  • 3 tomatoes – expensive at $3.50 lb – rainy season reduces yield
  • 12 kenips – 2.00
  • 5 limes – 1.00

Pile of Fruits and Vegetables

As I had some ground steak defrosting in the fridge the first thing I did was take some of these yummy vegetables and make stew.  Then I tried one of the kenips.  These fruits look like small limes and are about 1″ in diameter.  The inside is kind of squishy stringy texture that is slightly tart in flavour.  The seed is quite large for the size of the fruit.   The flavour and the texture are definitely different from anything I had eaten before.  When I asked the stall vendor about them she just broke it open and showed the insides – just eat the pulp off the seed.  There isn’t much pulp at all and it is a lot of work for such a small reward.  But now I know.  And that is part of the appeal of being in a new place with new foods and new activities to be experienced!

Kenip Fruit and Seed

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Cooking in Belize

 

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Cooking – A New Challenge


I consider myself to be a pretty good cook.  There isn’t much I won’t attempt to make especially when asked by my kids or husband for their birthday dinners. In the past my son has kept me challenged by asking for fish tacos (sound worse than they are), for duck a l’orange, black forest chocolate cake done with Kirsch and german chocolate, orange chiffon cake, tres leches cake.  These are just the ones I can remember that I have done over the years.  I have hosted a birthday party for my dad, with 75 guests in attendance – pretty much all food made with love by my husband and myself.  When my daughter got married I volunteered to make the wedding cake – this came about after she told me how much it would cost to have one made.  Then she proceeded to tell me she wanted 150 individual cakes done with fondant.  My first question was – “What’s fondant?”  I tell you this so you get the idea that I am not afraid to cook and try new foods or recipes in the kitchen.

When I came to Belize though, I felt like I needed to learn to cook all over again.  There are some foods I can get – chicken, rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce, carrots, onions, broccoli, watermelon, banana, oranges, (apples are $1 bz each – $0.50 cdn).

So during my first few days here, getting confused about the contents in the grocery stores, one of the first things I cooked was macaroni and cheese, with canned tuna and broccoli.  This is not a local dish, I am sure, but it was something I was familiar with.  The packages here in the stores are written mostly in Spanish, even though the official language of the country is English.  And this has made it more difficult when it comes to cooking local dishes.  I can look up the recipes and see what the ingredients are, but I can’t find them because I don’t speak or read Spanish. I don’t want to stick to macaroni and cheese, but I do find that I fall back on the old standby fairly often.

Macaroni and cheese, broccoli and canned tuna.

Boiled potatoes, scallions, chicken with jerk seasoning and canned peas and corn

One of the next meals that I cooked was potatoes, chicken (with jerk seasoning) and peas and corn from a can.  I am not a canned vegetable lover but in those first few days and weeks as I was getting to know and understand the grocery shopping concept here I was using what I knew.  I could get these items in the grocery store and I hadn’t become familiar with or comfortable with the market yet.  Frozen vegetables are non-existent here – not sure why.

Not one of the best ways to start eating in a new country with nobody to each or explain what to do but enough time has gone by now that I am ready to start preparing more local, authentic dishes.  Foods like Johnny Cakes, Breadfruit Pizza, Sapodilla Pudding – these will be on my menu in the coming weeks.  Oh, and be sure to watch for lessons on how to make Chocolate Chicken.

What have been your experiences with eating in a new country?

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Cooking in Belize

 

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