Struvor and Api (But Mostly Api)

Some lifestyle/family blogs only publish the fun bits. An outing a sunny autumn day, the perfect crafty idea for a 1-year old, an amazing flea market find.

Well, that’s exactly what I had in mind for this piece on last night’s tea! “The Mighty Successful Struvor-and-Api Combo”.

Only it turned out to be more of a kitchen disaster.

Here’s what happened.

Ages ago I was given a struvjärn, and, longer still, the Swedish baking classic “Sju sorters kakor”. Inspired by the recipe’s grandma vibe, I set off making these Belgian Waffles-like delicacies.

This is proper Jamie Oliver-defying deep frying, and the oil needs to reach 180ºC. So while both the iron and the oil were warming up, I prepared…

the api! Api is a thick purple drink made of (purple) maize, and drunk in the Bolivian Highlands. It’s D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. You jump off your night flota at the magnificent Bus Terminal in La Paz, made by Mr Eiffel (yes, as in the tower) himself, get a steamy polystyrene mug of way-too-sweet api from one of the ambulating kitchens and feel your stiff limbs coming back to life again. Not forgetting to squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon in your api to get that characteristic zingy twist. Or, you’re a lucky ex-pat who gets occasional goodie packs in the mail from a loving Dad. (Me! Me!) Easy peasy: Mix the contents with one cup cold and 3 cups boiling water; simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry your struvor until golden brown and pick them loose with a fork. Alternatively, don’t bother. I don’t know how the nans do it. What a mess. So I settled for blobs, in all shapes and sizes.

Voilà! Delicious treats for a weekday evening viewing of Skavlan! (That stray strawberry makes it look a whole lot healthier, ey?)

Santa Cruz Goodies

While fasting from sugar during Lent, I rediscovered the joy of savoury snacks. If you’ve been to any tropical country in the world, or to your local Jamaican take-away, you will know plantains. A cousin to the banana, the plantain, or plátano, is bigger and a whole lot less sweet, and therefore perfect to put into food. Forget the squashy and sickeningly sweet fried banana dessert from the Chinese – this is completely different! So after a surprise find of plantains in Tesco, here’s what I’ve been doing with those babies:

Masaco:

1. Mature your plantains. Stores sell them green, but we need them utterly matured, to the point where you’d think they’re black and rotten. They’re not – they’re prime raw material for an array of tropical dishes! Anyway, to do this, wrap them up in several layers of the morning paper and stick in a cupboard for a week or a couple, if you’re unlucky like me.

2. Peel them lovingly with a sharp knife, then cut them up.

3. Heat up a couple of centimeters of veg oil in a pan. Pop them in there and watch them sizzle for about 30 secs. Turn them over (mind those fingers!) and give them another 30 secs. If you’re health conscious, you want to let them drain off the excess oil on a bit of kitchen roll.

4. Here’s where we’d need a tacú, if we were doing things properly and preparing a dozen plantains at a time. But a conventional mortar will serve just as well… Mash them up nicely.

5. So we’ve got our fried, drained and mashed plantains. Now we can go 2 ways: veg or non-veg. In Bolivia, non-veg is the rule and people will tell you they don’t feel full unless every meal contains some kind of meat. In masaco, we would put something called charque. Charque is salted, sun-dried beef that is prepared in the plains of the Orient, where electricity, refrigerators and, therefore, means of storing food over a longer period of time, are scarce. To prepare the charque, you let it soak in water for hours first to reconstitute some of its moisture and wash away part of the salt, and then fry (surprise!) it in oil. You are then left with one of the most delicious, salty and chewy bits of meat you will ever have tasted. Good for the old fillings! For our recipe, however, we’re going veg, and that means plenty of cheese! So grate a good chunk of a hard type cheese variety and throw it in the mortar with the plantain. Frugal as I am, I just use whatever variety I have at home at the moment, although something less creamy and more salty than Cheddar is preferable. In Santa Cruz we used a super salty variety made by the Mennonites, and now in Sweden my mum swears by feta, so really, anything does it.

6. Throw some salt into the party; mixi-mix, and now enjoy and feel good about yourself for staying clear of sugar!