Sunday, 27 September 2009

My First Veggie Garden

I have grown herbs and some veggies before, but nothing quite on this scale. The last finca we were staying in, I planted a few rows of veggies and salad leaves but not a lot. Plus there were a lot of plants already there. God I miss the mora…. They all got wiped out in a freak hailstorm the day before we left the place.

So when we rented this place, we made sure we could dig up a little bit of land and plant a few things. We were even given permission to have some chickens. This we haven’t taken up yet.

After some backbreaking digging, we now have two small plots to which we have planted a random mixture of veggies and salad leaves.

The 1st plot we dug is downhill from the house. It’s situated quite close to a pine tree, which gives it some needed shade from the intense midday sun.

Originally it contained broccoli, poblano chilli’s, some picante chilli’s, celery, parsley, beetroot, parsley, runner beans and peas. Most of these we brought one day in a garden centre in la zona. Each plant cost 60 centavos. Quite easy to go mad in there. Lina did.

We had to extend that plot, so we could plant all the little plants that we started off in the seed trays.

These included more peas and runner beans, cayenne peppers, borlotti beans, radishes, caverlo nero, rocket, carrots, spring onions, spinach……

I also ordered a lot more seeds from a Franchini supplier in the USA, but none have turned up. I’m going to try and see if I can get more sent to Orlando and have someone bring them for me. Shame as I really wanted those buggers.

My two sisters and my mum, sending packets of seeds from Blighty, supplied the salad garden. Gracias.

These we started in seed trays and have now more or less transplanted all of them to a small patch next to the house.

After a night having a little hissy fit, they all seemed to have settled in nicely. We even brought some black netting to ward off the midday sun. Remember we are very close to the Equator here.

Also next to the house, we planted a few herbs to keep us going along. Rosemary, thyme, mint, fennel seeds, coriander and cidron, which produces the most aromatic lemony leaves. Great in teas and iced drinks. My bay tree, which I brought at least two years ago, is nestled in our piece of land. It doesn’t seem happy there, so we may have to go and dig it up and bring it here.

I’ve thought about fruit trees and the like, but we may not be here past February, so no point really.

I dug a small hole and have been filling it nearly on a daily basis with organic waste from my kitchen. It is now quite a site. Not ready to spread on my plots, but getting there.

The owner of the farm we are staying in pays a guy to come once an week and cut the grass and do odd jobs on the land. He continually dumps the grass cuttings and the leafs he sweeps up in one big pile. After digging this over last week, I discovered that the bottom has more or less rotted down to become perfect compost. Excellent.

So, now is a waiting game. I hope I have the patience for this. I am looking forward to picking the veg a lot.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Medellin Food Show

I was supposed to publish this right after the show, but I’m just pretty damn lazy these days….. But better late than never ….
The food show was billed as the spectacular culinary event of the year in Medellin. I’d been to one or two food shows before, and sometimes they are a little disappointing. This one fitted that bill perfectly.
It was held in the Jardin Botanical, which is trying to set itself up as a culinary wonderland. They had closed the Botanical Gardens for this 3 day event. They also decided to impose an entrance fee of 16,000 pesos, which to a lot of people is a lot of money. Grudgingly we paid and entered.
The fair was set up in 3 different areas, quite close to each other. One area was designated to foods from around the world (?). These included Peru, Mexico, and Ecuador and from Colombia, the State of Boyoca was being highlighted.
Another area was for food demonstrations. We were there for over 3 hours and never saw sign of one.
The final area was where the stalls were selling locally produced culinary delights. All everyone was selling were jams, conserves and sauces. It occurred to me looking around that people here really have no imagination. When one person comes up with an idea, instead of going forward from there, everyone copies. As everyone was selling literally the same products.
As we wandered around, we noticed no one was giving tasters. Now, I am a sucker for buying stuff at markets, if I have been able to sample a little bit of it. Maybe they were worried that people would just taste and walk away and not buy anything. We were given lengthy talks on the products, but when we were expecting to sample a little. Alas no. So we did not buy. Shame.
Back to the first area, a restaurant represented each country invited, and they had prepared dishes for people to try. Small tasters I think are the best way to describe it. These were not free, but the dishes we saw were 6,000 pesos each.
The look of the food from Ecuador and Peru did not tempt me, as it was mainly stir-fries. Not very Latin. The Mexican stand was only selling tacos. Lot’s of them. They were really busy. It had been a while since I had eaten a good taco. So looking at the list I had to have a mole and a tinga one too.
It was pure Mexican street food. The taste was superb, slightly less hot than you would get in Mexico, but Paisas can’t take much heat. The consistency was a little too runny, but they had made it in bulk, and to last for a while. Apart from that they were pretty good. The price was a little out of order. $3 for a taco that would normally cost less than a tenth of that back in Mexico. But hey ho.
We only tried a loganiza from Boyaca. It’s kinda like a chorizo but filled with chicarron (kinda similar to pork scratching), and a few other bits of meat. It was pretty damn good, but as was only a taster, not enough of it. It went down well with the beer I was drinking.
All in all it was a pretty crappy fair compared to others I had been to, but for Medellin this was a big deal.
On a positive side it is showing Medellin going slightly forward in a land of inward looking people. But for me it is too slow. I’d say they are where England was back in the 70’s or early 80’s. In some restaurants the decoration is a bit too much. I mean who really wants to eat a whole sprig of rosemary. But on the whole, at least they are moving forward.

Friday, 4 September 2009


There is something about tripe that sends me into ecstatic excitement. I can remember my Nan cooking tripe and onions as a child. Not sure if I ever ate it back then, as I was a fussy kid. I still won’t eat brussel sprouts.
Tripe or mondongo in Spanish, hence the name of the restaurant, Mondongo’s.
They do of course sell the typical foods of Medellin. Bandaja Paisa; frijoles; carne asado. But you can get that anywhere. The one and only reason I goto Mondongo’s, is to eat Mondongo.
There are 3 restaurants in this chain. One near to the University where I am studying Spanish at the moment. One in Poblado, and one bizarrely enough in Miami. The Mecca for all Latinos.
The stew or soup that they serve comes in 2 sizes. A normal size, which they call the half size, and a slightly larger version, which would easily make Mr Kresote a content man. As I’ve commented before, I can only ever eat the baby portions, which still leaves me full and content.
It comes with a few accompaniments. A slice of avocado, a couple of small arepas, rice (of course), a slice of fried platano, a bowl of finely chopped coriander, and jars of sweet chilli, and a hotter version.
You can order a few extras, like, chicharron, morcilla and the like.
When the bowl of steaming soup arrives. I gaze at its beauty. This bowl of offal, which some many people find repulsive, sends shivers up my spine. I immediately scatter over some chopped coriander and a good hearty spoonful of hot chilli sauce, lastly is a squeeze of lime. I give this a mix around, and dip my spoon in and fill it to its limits.
What most people hate about tripe, is it’s smell. Thankfully this soup does not smell of anything but goodness. The initial taste is of the freshness of the lime, the herbyness of the coriander and then the spiciness of the chilli. The tripe only shows itself in the texture of its honeycombed body. The small potatoes are only there to beef up the stew, and a good job they do as well. The base of the stew is a rich chicken stock, as most soups here are, even the vegetable soups.
You also get a quarter slice of avocado. Which always gets left behind on my plate. Rice, which I spoon into the soup and moisten it with the soup broth. A banana is present also, to which I have never been able to figure out why, but I eat it nonetheless. It doesn’t make the soup any better, but I like bananas, so I don’t complain. The small arepas, just fill me up, again I like them so they get eaten also.
I sometimes have an extra order of chicharron and fried platano also. I love the crunchiness of fried pork skin and the sweetness of the platano. It’s pure heaven.
I’m still waiting and probably will wait for a while longer for their bean stew. It’s been saying soon for quite a while now. But as soon as it’s available I will break a habit and try something different in the Holy Temple of Tripe.