Meatless Monday – Alchemy to the Rescue!

My own brand of recipe alchemy intervenes in Cuban cuisine. This Meatless Monday post makes over some signature Cuban food into a healthier vegetarian/vegan version.

  • cucuruchoa dessert made with nuts, fruit, coconut and honey.
    Described as ambrosia-like this dessert can be quite cloying and the addition of honey renders it non-vegan. The make-over? Apart from substituting honey with an alternative liquid sweetener and reducing the amount of it not much else needs to be done to make this dessert ‘healthy.’ Try a fruit salad approach by drizzling a minute amount of agave or maple syrup over top of fresh seasonal fruit, freshly grated coconut (store-bought shredded coconut will work too) and sprouted nuts.
  • chorote – a breakfast drink made with chocolate, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and corn or cassava flour (helps make drink rich and thick)
    Chocolate for breakfast?! Yes please! I can get used to this but the added sugar diminishes the nutritional value of the other ingredients. The make-over? Omit the sugar, substitute the flour with a vanilla flavoured vegan protein powder and make sure to use unsweetened dark chocolate with a minimum 70% cacao content. If you have coconut milk powder, use a few teaspoons and combine with 200 mL of water and the other ingredients over medium heat until the chocolate is melted. No coconut milk powder? No problem. Just use reduced coconut milk instead. Or use half water and half reduced coconut milk to lower the fat content yet maintain a rich creamy taste.
  • Moros y Cristianossimply beans and rice
    Often made with black beans, white rice and some sort of animal stock, this dish is easily made healthier and vegetarian. The make-over? Use vegetable stock (or mushroom for a more ‘meaty’ impersonation) and whole grain rice instead of white. Reduce the amount of oil and salt normally called for in the recipe by at least half to up the health quotient. See ‘authentic’ recipe here.
  • Cuban sandwichham and cheese on white
    Spotted everywhere, this sandwich seemed to be the street food of Cuba. The make-over? Clearly get rid of the ham! Substitute it with baked seitan, tempeh or tofu in a marinade of pineapple juice, sodium-reduced soy sauce, a little liquid smoke, a bit of oil and a pinch of ground cloves. Use a smoked vegetarian or vegan cheese and build your vegetarian/vegan Cuban sandwich on two thinly sliced pieces of whole grain bread. Or use just one slice if you would prefer less bread.


See our sister site Weal World Travel for some background info on food in Cuba: Nutrition & Travel: Cuba

Canada Day Special – Would You Like Poutine with That?

Does Canada have a national dish? One that typifies this country and unifies its people? Some would argue poutine; however, poutine is a Quebec invention and there is a segment of the Quebec population who have wanted to separate from the rest of Canada (and to be truthful a section of the English-speaking population who would also like the same. The English-French rivalry still carries over from the Old World to the New World…)

Canada is a vast expanse of regions, territories and geographic and demographic variety. The food reflects this too. Maple syrup you say? Well maple trees are native to Quebec and Ontario and do not grow in Western Canada. (With modern technology, though, anything can grow anywhere.) On the coasts it’s all about the fish (cod to the east, salmon to the west, Arctic char to the north) and in the landlocked provinces it’s all about the beef. Fruit is regional and very seasonal too. So other than European imports like pizza and fish and chips, is there a food that all Canadians eat and embrace as part of the Canadian experience? I would suggest it’s poutine though there are some other strong contenders (e.g. butter tarts, Nanaimo bars and dare I say/type it…bacon).

Poutine is simply a dish of french fries covered in gravy and squeaky cheese curds. You can get all fancy, as some do (Montreal Poutine), but nothing beats the classic: tasty potatoes layered in salt and fat. Mmm…

For our top (and only) poutine posts, click here.

Apparently the McDonald’s restaurant chain has come out with their own version of poutine. I guess their famous prescribed phrase will no longer just be “would you like fries with that?”


The Morning After: A Bread Report “Seeing Doubles”

And so it is…the last bread class towards getting my Artisan Bread Certificate. This course is entitled Global Breads and for 10 weeks we shall take a trip around the world through food. First up a taste of India in the Caribbean.

A roti is an Indian unleavened flat bread usually made with whole wheat flour and cooked on a griddle. There also exists a Caribbean version which is more crepe-like in nature. Rotis can often be made with a spicy filling and for my vegetarian/vegan brethren, that filling is often curried vegetables and/or legumes. We made a Trinidadian classic in class: the dahl puri roti. After the dough was mixed and divided, it was filled with a spiced split pea mixture and then formed into a ball. The ball was rolled out (as best we could) into a circle and then cooked in a lightly oiled cast iron pan. The roti was brushed with an oil/butter mixture and then folded in half and/or quarters depending on your preference. The finished product and filling are featured in the first picture on the left at the end of this post.

Doubles are a popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago. It is like a sandwich, having two (i.e. ‘doubles’) pieces of fried flat bread surrounding a curried chickpea filling and usually topped with pepper and mango. Though popularly eaten as breakfast food, doubles are enjoyed anytime of the day by just about everyone who has tried them and like them. (I can attest to this as I had a double in class around 9:30pm, another one at 11pm and yet another the next day at 11:30am.)

In class, we added yeast to our doubles dough and let it rise until it ‘doubled’ in size. Eight single size pieces were formed and there was enough left over to make a sacrificial double. It would go into the frying pan to test the oil’s readiness. With the temperature climbing towards 375ºF, it was the perfect time to let the doubles go for a little dip. In just under a minute the dough puffed up and was ready to drain on a cooling rack. If eating immediately, you can assemble your doubles right away. If eating later, put the components into a tiffin carrier (pictured upper right) if you have them and bring them to school/work for lunch. A stainless steel container is less likely to be permanently stained by the generous portion of turmeric contained within the dough.

Mango chutney, spicy chickpea filling and double doughPhoto by Kimberley (c)2014
Mango chutney, spicy chickpea filling and double dough – Photo by Kimberley (c)2014
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014
Dahl Puri roti – Photo by Kimberley (c)2014


Photo by Kimberley (c)2014
Mango chutney, double senior and the sacrificial little one – Photo by Kimberley (c)2014