In the poorer regions of Honduras yucca root is one
of their staple crops. It grows anywhere, leached out soil, muddy river
banks even in sand. It’s a lifesaver to those living on land where
nothing else will grow. As well, it need not be germinated from
seed; merely plant a stalk or branch from another bush and roots will
start to grow. Amazing plant.
Alas, yucca on its own fails to be a gustatory treat.
In soups or boiled and served with a sauce of some sort it is OK, like a
highly glutinous potato. It takes a bit of creativity and savvy to whip up
anything special where the main ingredient is yucca. So, check out this
Our good friend Dona Elma Bodden hails from a Miskito
Indian village Raista, on the inner shores of Laguna Ibans in the Mosquito
Coast region. Her kitchen is locally renowned. The tourists who come to
tour the Raista Butterfly Farm, the staff of the NGO Mopawi
(internationally funded non-profit group that helps with local development
projects in indigenous communities) and a few locals all dine there
regularly. I asked what sort of “cuisine” could possibly be made with
yucca and she delivered. This is a variation on pumpkin pie, dense, sweet,
chewy and wonderfully flavored.
Topping for pie:
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup powdered milk
1/2--3/4 cup water
Combine flour, salt and baking power. Cream butter
and sugar, add spices, coconut milk, coffee. Mix in dry ingredients. Pour
into greased, floured baking pan and bake in a 375 degree oven until
solidifies and turns golden brown on top.
For the topping, melt butter, add sugar, powdered
milk and water. Hydrogenate by stirring while heating. Cook until
thickens. Pour over top of pie.
Herb Tortilla Pan Bread
We shared a meal with a few fellow travelers while staying in a
motel with a little kitchenette in the coastal town of Tela, Honduras. I wanted to make
something with a little Euro flair but the oven was broken so I improvised a little pan
bread with some flour, baking powder, lard, salt and local rosemary from the town market.
I would call it a cross between Indian Nan bread, latin tortillas and Italian Focaccia.
The flour, lard and salt were all inspired by tortillas and visions of chewy bubbly nan
and fragrant rosemary-topped focaccia influenced the rest. It is extremely simple and
ready in minutes. We dipped warm pieces of the bread in olive oil laced with fresh garlic,
salt, oregano, rosemary and chile and ate it with slices of sweet red tomatoes and
perfectly ripe avocado. And that was only the appetizer.
Back on the water two days later I took the leftover ingredients to see if it was
feasible to create the same thing on the beach. Same as before, I mixed up all the dry
ingredients in my main cooking pot (as a bowl), added a large dollop of lard and a bit of
water to help bond it together. I stirred it around with a fork to get the dough started
and then kneaded it for a couple minutes. I set the frying pan over a med-low flame and
started forming chunks of dough by hand into flat round tortilla shapes. I cooked them on
the pan, flipping them until puffy and golded brown. The crust was slightly crispy and the
interior with the warm softness of a tortilla and the fluffy chewyness of nan and
focaccia, all infused with an herbal bouquet. Great with one-pot slop camping soups, stews
Fresh bread when camping, in less than 10 minutes, nothing better!
3+ cups of flour
1 ½-two tsp baking powder
4 tblsp manteca (cooking lard, comes in handy tube-shaped plastic bag in Cent. Am.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tblsp dried herbs (oregano, sage, rosemary, basil work best)
few tblsp of water to bond the dough together
Mix all dry ingredients. Add lard and H2O and stir with fork to
moisten and start the dough. Mix rest with fingers, incorporating all the flour and knead
for a couple minutes. Adjust with water and/or flour to make a slightly sticky, moist and
pliable dough. Form tortilla shapes with palms of hand and lay on heated griddle. Cook
when puffy and golden brown. Serve hot for best response from fellow diners.
Campers Orange-Coconut Cake
As I believe I demonstrated in the section on outfitting your camp kitchen,
it is possible to turn your adjustable flame camp stove into a quite
effective oven. But like I said, it has to be a stove with simmer control
or you’ll turn the bottom of the cake into charcoal. As well you have to
have a foil sheath to wrap around the entire stove and pan to create some
This one was an inspiration that came to me, believe it or not, in the heart
of the Rio Platano Biosphere in the Mosquito Coast. We were 50 miles up
river at a one room boarding house run by a Pech Indian man Bernardo and
his family (see our journals). In only nine years on that plot of land
they have turned it into a veritable Garden of Eden. They got lucky and
happened upon a spot with thick, fertile top soil and everything they
planted thrived. Their holdings include, sugar cane, coffee, cacao, yucca
root, corn, peppers, breadfruit, guava, avocado and lovely fruit trees of
limes, oranges and coconuts. The juices from them provided the liquid for
I boiled down the water from a coconut until it was a third of its original
volume. It became viscous and sweet and it was difficult to refrain from
just drinking it right there. I then juiced one orange and one lime into
the pot. Bernardo’s daughter ran and got me one egg from their gaggle of
free range chickens and I mixed it with almost a cup of sugar. Then
pancake mix and a couple teaspoons of baking powder went into the mix. We
set it on the burner on the lowest setting, cocooned it in the sheath and
10 minutes later, a springy, moist, delicately flavored cake emerged from
the pan and was quickly consumed. It was the texture of steamed bread with
just the right amount of tangy citrus flavor. How decadent to sit with a mug of chamomile tea and munch cake
while listening to the nocturnal symphony of the deep jungle.
Variation: If you are out camping with few supplies there is a much
simpler version that is still quite good. You can leave out the egg and
replace the coconut water and citrus juice with a small packet of Tang
powdered juice and water.
Boil down the coconut juice until one third original volume, take off the
heat and cool for a few minutes. Squeeze in lime and orange juice, beat in
egg and sugar. Mix in dry ingredients slowly. Cook over lowest possible
heat for 10+ minutes. Test with knife, as soon as no dough sticks,
immediately take off heat. Latent heat from pan will continue to cook it
for a few minutes and nothing is worse than dry cake in the jungle.
de Milagros Sencillos
is a personal creation based on ingredients and preparations found in
southern Mexico. I call it “Soup of Simple Miracles” as it is hard to
believe that such flavors can be derived from such basic ingredients.
flavor base for the soup is a paste made from the following ingredients that
are dry roasted on a skillet: garlic, chile peppers, almonds and sun-dried
tomatoes. The tomatoes and garlic give it a savory sweetness. The pasilla
chiles lend a smoky spiciness and the almonds add a toasty depth and
ingredients are easily found at a late Summer or Fall harvest market. Pork
or chicken, butternut squash or pumpkin, potatoes, onions and spinach. One
further optional ingredient, chorizo sausage, may be a little difficult to
find but it’s the secret ingredient that brings the soup from being merely
excellent to exceptional.
palate will distinguish three stages of flavor as you eat the soup. Savory
sweetness is followed by a deep smoky earthiness and what lingers is a touch
of heat and whiffs of allspice, cumin and roasted garlic.
with hearty bread or warm tortillas and a spicy, full-bodied red wine it’s
perfect for a cool Indian Summer night.
the unpeeled cloves of garlic over low/medium heat on a dry, thick-bottomed
skillet for fifteen minutes turning until all sides are slightly charred.
Roughly chop the sun drieds and roast for a few minutes turning often until
browned and smoking. Toast almonds on same skillet until golden brown. Cut
open chile pods, take out seeds and toast on skillet pressing down with back
of wooden spoon until chile started to bubble and smoke, flip and repeat.
Rehydrate the chiles in warm water for ten minutes. Add all other
ingredients to blender or Cuisenart. Add chiles and a little of the water
and blend until nearly smooth.
medium potatoes cubed
butternut squash cubed
bunch fresh spinach chopped
(head) of roasted garlic cloves (same preparation as above)
of chorizo sausage
cups cubed pork loin, chicken or beef stew meat
black pepper, cumin, oregano, allspice to taste.
thick-bottomed stew pot, brown the meat in dash of olive oil over med/high
heat. Remove. In the rendered fat, saute the onions until translucent. Add
chorizo and saute until cooked. Add water, bring to a boil, add meat and
roasted garlic cloves and reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add
potatoes and a few minutes later the squash. When potatoes are cooked, add
spinach and simmer for a few minutes more. Serve in large bowls with grated
parmesan and a dollop of sour cream.