When making food for the Americas, it becomes a bit too easy to forget that there is a large amount of countries in Central America waiting to be crossed off – their position being usurped by the large number of Caribbean nations and the physically large nations of South America. It’s been 6-7 months since I was last making food in this area (where I made something delicious for Panama), so a return is long overdue.
Like with other nations in this area, the food of Nicaragua is influenced by a mixture of the native cuisines and that of the Spanish colonizers. Also like other nations on this particular isthmus, there is some variation depending on whether you are Caribbean or Pacific facing, however that did not end up being the main focus of my cooking.
Instead, I wanted to focus on a national dish as there was something specifically Nicaraguan that was within my power to make. It is based on corn, like so many of the dishes I make from this region end up being, and has some really interesting flavours in there which made the kitchen smell like I was making a salsa mojito. Not a bad thing, although the idea of that as a drink sounds rank.
So, for Nicaragua I ended up making Indio Viejo (meaning ‘Old Indian’ in Spanish). There is a story behind the name that says it originates from a native Mesoamerican who did not want to share their food and instead said that they were eating the remains of a dead member of his community. It’s a fun story which gets across the general feeling towards the interloping Spanish, like ‘you’ve taken everything else, so just let me eat my dinner in peace’.
This dish (made using a recipe from Curious Cuisiniere) uses old corn tortillas mixed with beef broth to make a thick porridge-like stew. In there was beef, bell pepper, onion, garlic, mint, tomato and lemon juice. You are meant to put coriander leaf in too, but as usual I leave this out otherwise my husband would have a rotten time eating it.
For a dish from an equatorial country that doesn’t exactly know bitter cold, Indio Viejo really feels like a hearty dish that would work well in winter. However, I can see this being great on a summer’s evening due to the cool flavours provided by the mint and lemon. So this may just be a dish suitable for all seasons – just need to find a way to streamline the early prep if I want to make it again.
Back to Europe next time with what may be a long overdue return to Northern or Western Europe. I’ve been a little bit over-focused on getting a variety of Eastern European dishes in that I think I have been neglecting the countries closer to home. Also means I have a better shot at finding a dessert recipe, which could be really fun.