CHEF JPS CUBAN STREET FOOD REVOLUTION PART II
Chef JP continues his gourmet dalliance with the exquisite gastronomy of Cuba and its capital city, Havana. Join him and enjoy more street food fusion, garnished with a trip down memory lane.
031 MEETS HAVANA
Over the past couple of months, the O&A Team has discovered that it is often almost impossible to separate out food from the lifestyle, personal and even business stories that make up our website. Food is part of our identity as individuals, as a culture, as a nation.
It’s part of our social fabric and was even during the sixties when the Cuban Hat Society was at its peak (all puns intended). Even those days, it was all about being “out and about”- being seen, being on the A list, booking a table at a swanky
restaurant or even being spotted at the pie cart.
That bit of whimsy was multiplied when Shirley and I spent a little time around the older parts of Durban – yes, those ‘burbs on the wrong side of the river – to investigate some fine examples of the one thing that really unites the cities of Durban and Havana. There are some sadly dull or derelict examples of our Art Deco heritage. But there are also some stunning examples of the signature patterns, colours and almost 3-D designs of the period, too.
Even in Havana, I am told, there is a melange of neglected buildings beside some of the world’s most significant examples of Art Deco architecture. Some have been delicately renovated while others watch on in their increasingly shabby state. These cities have so much in common. The ugly bits seem to elevate the lovely ones.
Apparently, Art Deco arrived in Havana during the 1920’s when the country was flooded with American goods and movies. The president of the time was on a mission to modernise. Once a Spanish colony, Cuba was quickly finding its own identity and the linear, glamorous lines and patterning of Art Deco was its new age livery.
Surrey Mansions in Currie Road on Durban’s Berea is one of Durban’s grandest examples of Art Deco. The original architect was William H Barboure of Langton and Barboure. He incorporated a rich tapestry of stucco reliefs complete with everything from vines to lions. The block stands out in the storm battered city, painted in authentic pastels as it reaches skywards.
Another of the great societies in Durban – this time the Art Deco Society – reminds us that there are more than 100 Art Deco buildings in Durban dating from the interwar period. Art Deco is such a distinctive style of angles, lines, geometry, decorative motifs in brick and plaster. Durban, because of the many apartment blocks, office blocks, homes and even simple shops, has been recognized internationally as a city where you can view Art Deco architecture with its motifs and colours in all its splendour.
Which takes me back to the food revolution that has seen these beautiful buildings become part of two great cities. We’re drinking a toast to Cuba, Durban’s Art Deco Society and to the delicious flavours that have emerged under the Havana and Durban sun.
Welcome back to the island of my culinary imagination – the land of sunshine, waving palms, daiquiris and mojitos and, of course, grand old vintage automobiles.
RUM AND FUN UNDER THE HAVANA SUN
FROM THE PANTRY
5 cleaned jumbo shrimp
1 Tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped
zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoon mustard
1 Tablespoon ratted garlic
1 Tablespoon orange juice
salt and pepper
dices of pepper and chilli
Peel and devein your jumbo shrimps and let them in soak in 50 ml of white Cuban rum
in a sauce pan. Pour some olive oil in to the pan and add your grated garlic. Set it out, using your diced peppers and chilli. Sauté them and add some orange zest and a Tablespoon of mustard. Bring it up to heat and add your orange juice, followed by your rum infused prawns and grill fast and furiously for 2 minutes per side. Turn down the heat and let them rest. The alcohol would have evapourated and you the citrus and sweet fragrance of the rum will have soaked into the prawns.
To garnish, add some fresh orange, salt and pepper and your chopped coriander leaves.
Red, the colour of revolution, gives this rich grilled red pepper gets five stars in my Cuban street food rendition. The filling is very traditional for Cuba with slow, cooked pork (yes again). This comes with black beans, sautéed peppers, onion, cream cheese and lemon juice.
If time is on your side, brine your pork shoulder overnight in some saltwater, apple vinegar cider, cloves, cumin and cinnamon. Once drenched, place the meat in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes and soak up all
those Caribbean flavours. Let it rest and cool down before pulling the pork. Add some cumin and olive oil for the final braise.
Heat a saucepan with some olive oil, sweat some red onions and add your pulled pork to the mix, some corn and decanted black beans. Simmer.
Remove the insides of your bell peppers and glazed with olive oil before leaving them to blister in the for 20 minutes before filling. Add your mix to your charred red bell peppers and garnish with crème fresh and cilantro.
HABANERO PEPPER POPPERS
These sun blistered peppers speak to sexy nights in the streets of Havana and calls for something sublime.
Open flame-grilled peppers can be served with a sweet chilly and lime dipping sauce. These babies are so succulent and tasty, you just want more and more. Just add some coarse salt and drizzle on some orange, then sit back and dream of Havana.
CUBAN CIGAR FINGERS
I haven’t forgotten something sweet. Cubans love their sweet treat street finger foods and this truly fits the bill.
I’ve made my version – caramel and star anise coated biscuits using locally available boudoir biscuits. I made a quick caramel sauce from 1 cup brown sugar, 6 Tablespoons salted butter and 1/2 cup of cream. If you’re feeling a tad lazy in the sun, just use a squeeze of caramel syrup. Add a star anise to the mix.
I then added some caster sugar, a Tablespoon of melted chocolate and some glazed apples that are easily caramelised in the caramel sauce. This is poured over the biscuits to create really sticky fingers for a street treat.
If you’re that way inclined, don’t forget the traditional Cuban rum and a good Cuban cigar to round out your night on the town in Havana.
One thing is for sure, Cuba remains on my bucket list of food venues to explore. I emailed a friend last night who is a pilot of Qatar Airways and found out that it only takes two days and four hours (with plenty of stop overs) to get there from little old Durban.
Meanwhile, I’m dreaming up the flavours and the culinary experiences in my own kitchen while taking the odd trip down memory lane to the swinging sixties at the Durban seafront as doors burst open and shed their golden light on to city pavements and the first strains of rock ‘n roll drift into the humid night air. (Sorry, but Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, although Cuban, only arrived around 20 years later!)
How often so you wake up with a reflection of palm trees in your rum-induced Cuban coffee?
So, cheers, I’m having a glug of rum to celebrate the sun and I’m about to start planning my journey to magical Cuba …