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20151121_203744Cuba is a country in the Caribbean consisting of numerous archipelagos, officially known as the Republic of Cuba. The largest city and capital is Havana. It is geographically considered part of North America, being only approximately 360 km (220miles) from Miami,Florida. The culture is part of Latin America. Cuba is the largest island and second most inhabited after Hispaniola. A very mixed country culturally and the customs, people and culture originate from varied roots, including aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney people.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and the second-most populous after Hispaniola, with over 11 million inhabitants. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and a close relationship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Before the colonisation of the Spanish in the late 15th century,  Amerindian tribes inhabited Cuba. It stayed as a colony of Spain until 1898, when the Spanish Civil War broke out, which led to nominal independence in 1902. As a delicate state Cuba tried to strengthen its democratic system,  but issues meant in 1952 the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, but this was only short lived, further unrest saw  Fidel Castro coming to power. Since 1965, the country has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba.    Although Cuba is ranked  poorly in political and economic freedom, It is situated very high in human development by the United Nations, and performs well in health and education. It became the first country to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis in 2015 . This was a milestone noted by the World Health Organization

“as one of the greatest public health achievements possible”.

The cuisine of Cuba is a combination of Native American food. African. Spanish and Caribbean cooking.  There are recipes that embrace the techniques and flavours/spices with African and Spanish cooking and some Caribbean  spice and flavour. This all results in a one off flavourful and interesting mixture of many cultural influences, with quite strong similarities with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  In the Havana region there is a small Chinese influence and during the colonial times Cuba was a main port for trade and there were many Spanish people that lived there and their and shared the culinary traditions.  Cuba itself is an island, therefore seafood is something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another factor to Cuban cuisine is the fact that Cuba is in a tropical climate. The tropical climate produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.

Searching for something for today was difficult. I don’t know why, but it took me more time than normal. We only wanted something easy as we had had a big meal with our son last evening who was home form university.

Trawling the net I found beef pasties…Beef pies – pastelitos de carne

“Typical of Cuban food, these beef pastries combine savoury and sweet flavours with a glazed crust and a spicy filling. Pastelitos area popular street snack in Cuba, featuring buttery puff pastry filled with meat or fruit pulp”

The little pies were very easy to prepare and the combination of the herb/spices added to the minced beef were a great combination. Green peppers chopped small and cooked in oil until soft, then add the mince and the spices, cumin, cinnamon,oregano and all spice. I didn’t have any ground cinnamon in the cupboard but a cinnamon stick was just as good, just remember to tell folk they may come across it…DSCF2706DSCF2713Cook through then add passata, all but around 25mls of stock and sultanas. Mix the remaining stock with cornflour and add and cook through until sauce is thick. The aroma was beautiful coming from the mince and could be used as a base for a cottage pie if you so desired for something a little different…Leave to cool

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The recipe asks for ready made pastry which was fine by me…Shortcrust pastry I can make – as my mum taught me, but puff pastry, need Gordon to show me that one…..Roll out and make circles, fill each circle with the cooled beef mixture and then place a circle of pastry on top ensuring the edges are sealed – see recipe, then brush with egg and bake in the oven. The recipe ask to make a syrup glaze, but we omitted this as hubby not a fan of sweet glazes.

I opted to serve this traditional Cuban pie with a cuban salad…Avocado and Pineapple salad and baked potato and sweet potato wedges sprinkled with cajun spices….

This is a great Cuban salad that blends the sweetness of pineapple with the sour flavour of oil and vinegar.

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Again very easy to prepare. The dressing is a combination of orange juice, vinegar, olive oil and sugar, all blitzed together in a processor. I was unsure about the vinegar content, but actually it worked and the taste was gorgeous…

The salad is shredded iceberg lettuce, red onion and pineapple tossed in the dressing and when ready for serving add slices of avocado.

The combination of flavours is amazing and could be served with variety of things in my opinion.

 

Family Verdict: Very enjoyable and made a change after a large meal the day before. Very tasty and the salad combination worked really well. Very filling and although they look large from the photograph , they were smaller than a traditional individual pie and contained less meat as the meat was shared out between 16 pasties/pies.

Certainly would cook them again and would be good for a picnic or even just a snack

 

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