A cocktail recipe from Nicaragua: the Macuá

Drinking cocktails is one of the best ways to escape the summer heat. Of course, a good cocktail has to include my favourite ingredient the Flor de Caña rum from Nicaragua.

The rum inspired me to look for new drinks, and that is how I discovered the Macuá cocktail. A couple of years ago the Macuá cocktail was chosen as the national drink of Nicaragua.

I’ve never tried the cocktail when I was travelling in Nicaragua, but I discovered I missed out on a good drink! The orange and lime juice give it a refreshing taste which is perfect to cool you down.

Macuá cocktail from Nicaragua

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts (white) rum of Flor de Caña
  • 2 parts guava juice
  • 2 parts orange juice
  • 1 part lime juice
  • sugar to taste
  • A handful of ice cubes

After some stirring your cocktail is ready. Decorate it with a slice of lime.

Close your eyes, take a sip and imagine yourself far far away in a tropical country… Salud! 

 

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Mexican hot chocolate abuelita

chocolateabuelita

In Europe we’re mentally preparing for the cold, and dark winter days. The best drink that keeps me warm during these days is hot cocoa. My favourite version is chocolate abuelita or hot cocoa granny style from Mexico. It’s a creamy cocoa with as special ingredient cinnamon. I got really fond of it, as it adds a bit of more warmth to the chocolate. Chocolate abuelita certainly helped me to warm up during rainy season in Mexico City. This winter it has to work its magic in Europe.

A tablet of Chocolate Abuelita

If you can lay your hands on a tablet of Abuelita bring a saucepan of milk to a simmer, and add the tablet of chocolate. Give it a good whisk until the chocolate is dissolved and you have a nice foam on top. Once it’s all creamy, pour it into mugs and serve. Here in Europe it’s hard to find, but I know that in the Netherlands it’s sold online or in local shops that sell products from Latin America. Try a Google search to see what is available in your country.

Of course it is easy to make chocolate abuelita at home with the following ingredients (for 1 serving):

Ingredients Chocolate Abuelita

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips  (four tablespoons of drinking chocolate powder)
  • one cinnamon sticks
  • a teaspoon of sugar
  • for a sweet version: vanilla drops or for a spicy flavor chili powder

I’m a real chocoholic so I prefer to use milk to get a creamy hot chocolate. Also I’ll be using chocolate chips instead of powder. That way you get small parts of chocolate throughout the cocoa. Yummy!

Add the milk to a small saucepan. Warm the milk over medium-low heat, then add a cup of chocolate chips. I love dark chocolate, but you can also use milk chocolate chips. Then add the sugar and the cinnamon sticks.

Preparing Chocolate Abuelita

Stir it around, until the chocolate chips are melted. Bring it to a simmer for a few minutes before serving, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot. The trick is to heat the milk, not boil it. If it’s too much chocolate, add half or a cup more milk. And if you like it sweet, add some more sugar and even a little vanilla extract.

Once it’s all melted and smooth, pour the hot cocoa into mugs,  and enjoy your hot chocolate abuelita 🙂

Spice up your Chocolate Abuelita

If you don’t get warm with a cup of hot cocoa you can finish it off with a splash of Tequila, Kahlua or, like I do, some Flor de Caña. That will get your feet warm this winter!

Sopa negra

Sopa negra or black bean soup is a soup from Central America. I remember that the last time I ate it was when I escaped the hot city of León in Nicaragua, and went a day to the beach to get some fresh air. There I had a huge bowl of sopa negra for lunch. Although it was delicious, I still find it strange that I loved the soup so much despite the warm weather. I always associate soup with cold weather. That’s why I thought it’s a good time to try to make sopa negra to warm you feel all warm inside during this autumn.

Ingredients sopa negra

Ingredients (4 portions):

  • 2 cups of black beans
  • 3 garlic cloves, 2 of them finally chopped
  • 1 white onion finally chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper finally chopped
  • 100 grams of bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of heavy cream
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano
  • fresh coriander to taste, chopped

For the vegetarians, just leave the bacon out.

The name already gives it away: black beans are the main ingredient. It’s hard to find them, but here in Brussels I’ve found dried black beans in a shop selling African products. There must be a similar shop in your city.

Soak the black beans

Start the preparations a day before, because you’re going to need the time to soak the beans. Use 3 cups of water for 1 cup of dried beans. In this case it’s 6 cups of water and 2 cups of dried beans. Let them soak overnight.

Cook the black beans in a pot

The next day, throw away the water, and rinse the beans with clean water. If you’ve a pressure cooker put the beans in there. It will save you a lot of time. If not, use a big pot. Add 4 cups of water, 1 (whole) garlic clove, the oregano and the thyme. Use enough water to cover beans by about 2 fingers. Bring the pot to a boil, and reduce the heat to simmer gently until the beans are tender. For the pressure cooker, it will take 30 – 40 minutes, and around an hour for a normal pot.

Use a stick blender to puree the beans

Strain out 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of the cooked beans. Place it in the food processor, or like I did, let it cool down and use a stick blender to puree the beans.

Fry the vegetables and bacon

Fry the bacon, add onion, the sweet pepper, cream, and at last the beans.

Cook over low heat until soup begins to boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Break the eggs into the soup and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve with 1 egg in a bowl, sprinkle fresh coriander on top and serve with bread or latin america style with tortilla.

Sopa negra or black bean soup

How to select a good avocado?

Eating an avocado or aguacate is best when its ripe. Then you’ll really taste the smooth, buttery, and nutty flavour. However, selecting the right avocado for your guacemole or other recipes can be hard, so here’s a small guide on how to select a ripe avocado, how to open it, and how to store it.

Selecting

Press opposite of stem
To see if an avocado is ripe press at the end opposite of the stem of the avocado. Ripe avocados should have a bit of a give to them; it should not be completely soft to touch, but neither too hard. The meat ripens from the stem down, so if it yields a bit when you press the end farthest from the stem, you know that the rest of the avocado is at least as ripe. Check the rest of the avocado as well, because people often manhandle it and you’ll end up buying a squishy avocado. Also important is to find out if an avocado is not overripe. Gently shake the avocado near your ear and if you hear the seed rolling, it’s overripe. Choose another one. Lastly, the avocado should have an even coloured skin all over.

Avocados don’t ripen until picked which is why the avocados sold in supermarkets are often under-ripe. The best thing to do is to buy your avocado 3 or 4 days in advance, and let it ripen at the fruit bowl. In case you need to speed up the ripening process, you can store the avocado a day in a brown paper bag together with some bananas or apples.

Opening

Cut the avocado all the way through in the length and turn the halves in opposite directions. The meat of a good avocado will be light-green of colour. If it’s brown or black it’s rotten. Sometimes you’ll find some brown spots. Just remove these as the rest of the meat will be fine. If the avocado is ripe, you can easily peel the skin now it’s cut open.

Storage

Leave unripe avocados on the counter to continue to ripen. It’s best to eat ripe avocados immediately because the taste will be stronger. However, if you have to, you can keep them in the refrigerator drawer for fresh products to last them several days longer.

If you just use one half of the avocado, save the part with the pit attached, and put a bit of lemon or lime juice on the cut side. Wrap it in plastic foil and keep it in the fridge. You can save it up to 2 days. Cut avocados turn brown quickly, and the lime juice, and plastic foil slow down the browning process.

Guacamole

The ingredients for guacamole

Guacamole is my all time favourite recipe. It’s easy to make, everybody loves it, and it’s very healthy too. Because a good guacamole is all about avocados, make sure you’ve got some ripe ones. If you’re not sure how to select a ripe avocado, read my tips.

Like with all recipes there are a lot of variations of guacamole out there. One is spicy, the other mild, or chunky or smooth. I’ll be sharing the recipe I got from my Mexican roommate when I was living in Mexico City. It’s a mild guacamole, because Mexicans add enough chilli sauce to their food, but you can spice it up with some cayenne pepper if you want.

Of course guacamole contains some of the main ingredients of Mexican cuisine: coriander or cilantro, lime and salt. To be precise, you’ll need:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • juice of half a lime
  • roughly 1 table spoon or to taste of fresh coriander, chopped up
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 1 (roma) tomato seedless and diced
  • a pinch of salt and pepper

Mash the avocados

Mash the avocado with a fork.

Add other ingredients

When it’s a smooth texture add the onions, tomato, and the coriander. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed properly with the mashed avocados.

Add lime juice

Finish it off with a squeeze of lime juice. Again, mix it well with the other ingredients.

Guacamole and tortilla chips

You’ll end up with a bit of a chunky texture. If you prefer a smooth guacamole, just put all the ingredients in the food processor to chop it up fine. Transfer it into a bowl, and serve the guacamole immediately. It’s as easy as that! I’ve added a big bowl of tortilla chips to dip, but you can also chop up some veggies like carrots to dip or put the guacamole on top of tortillas.

Store your guacamole with plastic foil on top

If you want to store the guacamole for a while you can add some extra lime juice, and cover it with plastic foil. But the tastiest is to eat the guacamole straight after preparing.

How to eat tunas

tunas

This week when I was passing by the Arabic shops in my neighbourhood, I discovered it’s tuna time. I really love these edible cactus fruits which I ate for the first time in Mexico. It can be a bit tricky to cut them because of the small hair-like spines. But with these tips you should be able to cut a tuna or cactus fruit without problem.

be careful with the spinesI cannot stress this enough, be careful with the spines.

This is why you've to be careful when cutting a tunaI’m clearly not the best person to give a good example 😉 Watch out for the hair-like spines. They are very small and can cause a lot of pain and/or skin irritation. You’ll end up finding them everywhere, and they are hard to spot.

Hold the tuna at both ends

To avoid the spines, hold the tuna at both ends.

Cut one end of the tuna

Cut off one end of the tuna while avoiding the spines…

Cut off the other end of the tuna

…then cut off the other end of the tuna.

Cut the tuna lengthwiseNow you can cut the skin lengthwise, still holding both ends of the tuna.

Remove the skin of the tunaFinally you can remove the skin. This can be tricky because you still have to be careful of the spines and pull the skin at the same time. Watch carefully where you’ll place your fingers.

Look at the colourLook at that beautiful orangey red colour! The grainy flesh is the part you can eat. The first time it feels a bit weird to eat the small seeds, but it’s delicious. It tastes a bit like a juicy pear but sometimes they can be a bit bitter too.

Cactus figs come in many different colours such as green, white, yellow, pink, brown and red. Also the flesh comes in a rainbow of colours: white/yellowish, light green, orange or like now red/purple. In Europe they are available from August through October. A ripe tuna should have an intense colour, and the fruit should yield slightly to the touch, just like a ripe pear.

Go and have a look if they sell tunas in your neighbourhood. Remember to hold the tuna at the end when you buy, and cut it.

Tell me, how was your tuna?