20 Sep 2014

Smooth... Smooth...

When I smell the taste of some exotic fruits as papaya, acerola and pineapple I do remember about my childhood: my lovely mum used to prepare smoothies very early in the morning for my day in a metropolis far away from home… At that time they were not called smoothies. For me they will be always "sucos" as we say in Portuguese for juices. 

Nevertheless I bought a book with some ideas to fortify the immune system and I loved the ideas of using superfood in smoothies. 

Nowadays you mix salads, vegetables and herbs that I don't think my mum would ever dare to put in the juices. I will try them with the kids and see how it works.  

14 Sep 2014

Vanilla sugar and some curiosities

Things work like this for me: sometimes I read a book and it leads me to read another 5: I am reading a book about a botanical explorer which is taking me into the world of plants. How amazing I was when I found out that vanilla is a Mexican flavour and it derives from an orchid. I thought it was an European spice and had no idea from each kind of plant it comes from. 

Vanilla and chocolate were both introduced to Europe in the 1520s. The initial attempts to cultivate vanilla outside Mexico didn't succeed because the vanilla orchid  needs its natural pollinator (the Melipona bee) to set the fruit from which the flavour is derived. It was only in 1841 that global cultivation became possible, after a slave, a twelve years old boy, discovered that the plant could be hand-pollinated. I am sure this was a clever guy but it seems like he didn't have the opportunity to show it or didn't make a good use of his intelligence  as he died in poverty. 

Growing the vanilla seed is a long process. Therefore vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron. 

Well, reading some much about this delicious flavour, I thought I could show you how to make your own vanilla sugar. In Europe you have got vanilla sugar  packages in all supermarkets but in other places of the world it can be very difficult to find it ready. Anyway, it tastes much better if you prepare  it yourself. 

You just need vanilla beans and your favourite sugar. I took a brown one:

Cut the beans in half and scrape out the seeds with a knife. 

Mix the vanilla beans, seeds and sugar all together. 

Close the pot and let the mixture age for approximately two weeks.  The longer you wait, the more flavour the sugar will get. 

Have you never used vanilla sugar before? You can try it on cakes, desserts and teas. It is delicious or as Frederic Rosengarten Jr. described in the book Book of Spices: pure, spicy and delicate.