Think about a peach.
The supple feel of it in your hand, fuzzy down soft on your fingertips. Pale pink in colour, the ripe skin washed with orange and so sweet smelling – even before you’ve taken a bite.
The noisy, juicy crunch as your teeth tear through it, the taste of tangy flesh that bursts onto your tongue. Satisfying, isn’t it?
Truly great food delights all the senses
Every single one, every single time.
With no other cuisine as vibrant and varied as the humble island of Cuba, there isn’t any other place in the world that will take you on such a sensual journey through food. It feeds the soul. In every sense. And satisfying every sense along the way.
Today, we’re telling you about some of our favourite flavours – so, fancy an authentic taste of Cuba?
Let’s start with the hearty Cuban staple, baked empanadas
Tasty, flaky homemade dough, buttery and soft with a satisfying crunch, these ‘hand pies’ are found on every dinner table in Havana.
Filled with spiced ground beef, lean and tender, with sliced green olives and heat from a spicy chimichurri sauce – or pollo (chicken), or queso (cheese), or authentic picadillo with capers, tomato, onion and raisins. Whatever filling floats your boat, you better believe you’ll find an empanada for you.
The best we ever tried paired chicken with pineapple.
The satisfying savoury flavour of chicken married perfectly with light, zesty sweet pineapple, bright citrine in colour, peeping out from under the pastry. Unforgettable.
The crust was crunchy like water biscuits, brittle so it cracked audibly when pressed with a fork; grains of salt and a dusting of flour bounced off the surface as it broke in two.
Inside, shredded spinach soaked in herbs, complementing the chicken with charming whispers of Caribbean spice, steam rising from the plate.
So good, we made a giant version. And put it on the menu.
Or what about the time-old tradition, arroz con pollo?
Or to you and us, rice and chicken. Sometimes, with great food, simplicity is perfection. And this dish? It personifies that truth.
For, when cooked correctly, the uncomplicated flavours of arroz con pollo possess an incredible depth. You can taste the passion; the recipe that’s been passed down through generations. The secret that the real flavour can only be coaxed out through unhurried cooking, and gentle care and attention.
It’s the investment of time that goes into marinating and slowly roasting the chicken that makes it so soft, juicy and flavourful. With fluffy saffron rice that serves as the perfect accompaniment, fragrant and flaming yellow.
All tossed together, to be cooked in a wide cast iron pan that burns hotter than a blacksmith’s forge. Like bare feet on tarmac, after a day out at the beach.
Yes, this dish is simple. And for that, it’s perfect.
We couldn’t talk about Cuban food that feeds the soul without…
The nation’s crispiest, crunchiest, tastiest delicacy: churros. So sinfully pleasing, no person can stop at just one.
These fluted sticks of fried dough, are fluffy inside, hot, rich and indulgent. Star-tipped and buttery to the taste, the only place to purchase is yours is from Churritos Habaneros; a rickety old stainless steel cart just off Havana’s Plaza Vieja.
The smell floats like a tiny bird on the air, and with each bite you take you’re hit by an immense, mouthwatering flavour.
The churros are sweet, rolled in cinnamon and sugar dusting, and melt on the tongue like ice on a hot day. Delicious. And dangerously moreish.
Now speaking of ice, what are we drinking?
Cocktail-wise, we wouldn’t be in Cuba without a crisp, refreshing, classic Mojito.
The original Cuban recipe uses garden spearmint or yerba buena; for a more subtle menthol flavour, mild and sweet to the taste. It’s muddled in the bottom of the glass with brown sugar and lime, to release that smooth tingle of mint oil that teases the taste buds.
Swirled with white rum and a little soda water, bubbles fizz in the mouth, as the rum reveals its complex flavour; vanilla and almond notes, and a barely noticeable nod to the charcoal and oak barrels that aged such a spirit.
If the classic Mojito is one thing, it’s one cool customer. And it’s entirely called for on a hot day in Cuba.