Location: Off the coast of West Africa
Geography: An volcanic archipelago of ten islands and eight islets.
Signature flavours: Corn, pork, seafood, beans, sweet potato, tropical fruits
Eric and I had just gotten back from a trip to Portugal and the Portuguese islands of the Azores when my Cabo Verde assignment came up. Since Cabo is a former Portuguese colony, I imagined that the archipelago would have some crossover with the abundant seafood and sweet pastries that we enjoyed in the Azores (happily, I was right). I looked forward to diving in and finding out what Cabo would bring.
Cachupa: The national dish of Cabo Verde, this is a hearty stew of hominy (white corn), beans, potato, onion, carrot, sausage, and tuna.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Guisado de Buzios: Strips of pan fried conch with garlic, tomato, and bell pepper, garnished with olives.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
Fonguinhos: Deep fried dough made from banana, sweet potato, and corn flour.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Torta com Doce de Goiaba: A fluffy rolled cake with a guava filling.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
The Shopping List
I found reasonably priced conch at St Lawrence Market, as well as guava paste and hominy. All other ingredients, including vegan sausages, came from a local supermarket.
I realize my menu is half dinner and half dessert, but with the amounts of delicious sweets on offer, I couldn’t help trying a couple. I made the torta first, starting with a meringue-based dough that I coated with thick guava jam and rolled up. It looked beautiful, dusted with sugar and served on a dish we bought in Portugal. The cake itself was light and fluffy, the jam sweet and sticky. Eric likes guava more than I do and he raved about the torta. I enjoyed it, but I want to try the recipe again with a jam more to my liking, like strawberry or grape.
The guisado was next to be started. Conch can be eaten a variety of ways (raw, fried, steamed, etc.), but the recipe I had called for almost an hour of boiling before frying with vegetables. The conch had a very tough, rubbery texture and was hard to cut.
It didn’t ever soften up much, and I learned that experienced conch-makers usually tenderize the meat first, regardless of cooking technique. Live and learn. The dish was probably my favourite on the table anyway, though. I didn’t mind the chewiness, and loved the garlicky vegetables with the saltiness of the olives.
The cachupa, like most stews I’ve made for the blog, was mostly a matter of chopped and tossing in the pot. It consisted of a hominy base, lots of veg, and chunks of vegan spiced sausage. If you haven’t tried hominy, it has an almost potato-like texture, with a mild corn flavour. It was really good in the stew, which Eric and I both scarfed down by the bowlful.
The second dessert was a little bit of a bust. I ended up with far too much sweet potato in my fonguinho dough, which made the dough too wet. To compensate, I added enough corn flour to make the dough moldable, but the result was a dessert that had far too corny a taste. I drizzled the fonguinhos with butterscotch to temper the corn-ness, but they weren’t great. If I made them again, I would add more banana, less sweet potato and less corn flour.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.