Here is my favourite Cuban recipe often bought from a street stall in a recycled cut-off beer can.
Salted Caramel Coconut Flan
- 1/2 cup muscovado sugar
- large pinch of sea salt
- 1 Tbsp water
- 400 ml can Tradeaid coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 free-range eggs
- Preheat the oven 180C. You will need 6 x 120ml ramekins or 2 stainless steel containers (approx. 12cm wide).
- To make the caramel: Combine the sugar, salt and water in a small saucepan and heat over a low heat until a thick golden caramel. This will only take several minutes. Pour the caramel into the ramekins or containers and swirl to coat the sides - most of the caramel will settle on the bottom. Set aside to cool.
- In a large jug whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and eggs until well combined. Once the caramel is cool pour the custard into the ramekins/ containers. Place the ramekins into a baking dish and fill with boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes (ramekins) or 50 minutes - 1hour for the larger containers. Check the custard is set with a toothpick, it should come out clean when pushed into the centre of the custard. Cool before serving. If using stainless steel containers you can run a sharp knife around the edge then invert onto a plate, then holding the plate and container tightly give a strong downward shake and the custard should slide out of the container onto the plate and all the delicious caramel will run down the sides.
Deciding what photos to share for my second installment of our visit to Havana, Cuba has not been easy. I have ended up with about twice the number of photos I planned but there are just so much amazing images to be found in this surreal city. My apologies for the long scroll to the recipe but really this is a place I can not rate high enough for places to visit.
The cityscape of Havana City with the Caribbean lapping at its toes.
An unused sport stadium.
We were welcomed with open arms by my Mum’s husband Solo and his family – his son Christian, his mother Dulce, and his two aunties, or ‘the aunties’ as they soon became known. Although ‘the aunties’ spoke no English, and sadly our Spanish is very limited, we still managed to communicate with gestures, nods and big white-toothed smiles. Although the variety of food is often limited in Cuba we were well looked after with amazing home-cooked Cuban food. These simple but flavoursome meals consisted of the staple rice and beans (arroz con gre), a soup or casserole of meat or fish, and a large platter of sliced avocados and tomatoes. I often joined the ‘the aunties’ in the kitchen, helping a little (they wouldn’t let me) but mainly taking notes of the dishes they prepared. This reinforced the belief I have that you don’t need to speak the same tongue to communicate the language of food.
Aunty Merera, my Mum, Solo & Mama Dulce
I would love to share some of the recipes I learned. However, they are so simple I feel the authenticity would be lost to write them down. Cubans have learned, maybe not by choice but by circumstance, to subsist on what they have at hand, and the food they eat reflects this. A fusion of Caribbean flavours mixed with Spanish, with a little Chinese and Russian thrown into the mix. My children never ate so well, and I don’t just mean in the sense of wholesome food, but more that they ate whatever was put in front of them. I don’t know whether it was the simple clean food, or the fact there just wasn’t any crackers or snack bars, even sliced bread was a rare purchase (I am not exaggerating here). We lived on plates full of rice and beans, scrambled eggs, creamy avocados, lamb caldosa (casserole), even fish head soup was scraped clean.
Cuba for over 50 years has largely had to sustain it’s people off it’s own land. Until recently very little was imported, and Cuba is thriving. They have some of the best (free) education and healthcare in the world, and the streets are as clean as a whistle. Cubans dress immaculately even through they may only have several changes of clothes. They are proud people especially of their appearance. When you walk down a clean street alongside beautifully dressed and groomed people it is difficult to understand that Cubans are very poor. The average wage is $30CUC a month (approx. US$33) with a doctor making around $50CUC a month. Although there is poverty they look after each other, everyone is a cousin even if not by blood. Everything is reused, recycled and reused again. Nothing goes to waste (even the snout of a pig). I think we can look to Cuba for inspiration to live cleanly, reuse what we can. Grow as much food in our backyards as possible. Buy local and eat in season rather than relying on food miles to bring us our food. I am inspired and humbled by this trip.