Archive for category vida en la granja

cosas que pasan…

P1070487

Hace unos días me dejó de funcionar la banda magnética de mi tarjeta de crédito, con la que saco dinero de los cajeros para ir tirando en mi viaje. En un principio me cogió por sorpresa, claro, y me comencé a preocupar, pero después me dejé seducir por la idea de tener que salir adelante de todas formas, pensando en la gente que conozco que se gana la vida vendiendo artesanías, haciendo malabares en la calle o tocando música. Así que me paré a pensar en qué habilidades podría tener yo a las que sacarles provecho económico, y ya que mis talentos manuales y musicales son bastante nulos, decidí a ponerme a vender comida. No soy un gran chef, pero no le tengo miedo a los fogones, y además el cocinar para otros me motiva para intentar hacerlo bien, con mayores estándares que cuando cocino para mi mismo. ¿Pero qué puedo cocinar que a la gente le guste? Pues pensé en dulces y pasteles, que a todo el mundo gustan y son fáciles y rápidos de hacer, y en mi momento de mayor necesidad, cuando tenía que acumular una buena cantidad de dinero para el billete de Nicaragua a Guatemala, decidí cocinar una cena con un plato muy español, que además había estado practicando en distintas casas recientemente. Así que el menú de la noche iba a ser empanada de verduras con tortilla de patatas. La compra la hice con mis últimos $12 y la contribución de un comensal mexicano que se fió de mi lo suficiente como para pagarme su cena por adelantado. Órale que chido, el güey! :)

el relleno de las empanadas y las papas y cebollas friendoseEl relleno de las empanadas y las cebollas con las papas cociéndose en el fuego.

Entré en la cocina como a las 2 de la tarde, y allí estuve hasta las 7, hora en la que iba a servirse la cena. Todo fue de maravilla, porque me había programado para tener todo listo a las 6, con lo que estuvo listo exactamente a las 7. Vendí 17 platos de comida, y eso me permitió pagarme la noche en el hostal y el billete de chicken bus hasta Guatemala. Eso sí, después de estas compras me quedé otra vez a cero, así que me puse a hornear. Hice pan de banano y caracoles de canela, que también conseguí vender, paseando de hostal en hostal y ofreciendo a todo el mundo que veía con pinta de goloso, jeje.

Así me pagué las otras dos noches que me quedaban en el hostal y conseguí $15 extra para poder pagarme los buses hasta San Marcos de Atitlán después de llegar a la Ciudad de Guatemala. Estuvo justo, y llegué con sólo Q15 (unos $2) de más, pero conseguí llegar, y lo que pasó cuando llegué ya es otra historia.

¿Y la moraleja de todo esto? Pues que siempre hay alternativas y soluciones para todo, y no hay que estresarse demasiado. Como les gusta decir en Costa Rica, las cosas no son más que Pura Vida!

las tortillasLas tortillas

el plato final ya compuestoEl plato final, con vajilla de lujo! ;)

, , , , ,

1 Comment

La Isla de Ometepe – Isla de magia y encantos

Ometepe, la isla de los dos volcanes

¡¡Al fin he llegado a la Isla de Ometepe!!

Tras muchos meses de correrías por Panamá y Costa Rica, al fin he conseguido comenzar mi ruta hacia el norte y hacer camino hasta la Finca Bona Fide, una finca reconocida por su trabajo en Permacultura y su enfoque en la educación y en la recolección de árboles frutales de todo el mundo. En un paseo por esta finca encontrarás especies tropicales de Asia, la India, China, África, Sudamérica y por supuesto de su entorno en Centroamérica.

Mi experiencia en esta finca ha sido muy enriquecedora. Intentaré describirla un poco. De todas las fincas por las que he pasado en estos 14 meses de periplo, es la que más se enfoca en educar a los voluntarios que acoge con un programa específico para “entrenarlos” en las distintas tareas requeridas en el trabajo del día a día de la finca y una orientación en la que explican en profundidad las características de la finca y el por qué de cada elemento. Para los que sepan algo de permacultura, es donde explican sus zonas, sus gremios de plantas y sus líneas de energía. Eso sí, el programa educativo tiene su precio, y es que esta finca es bastante rústica, con caminos de tierra que se enlodan con las lluvias, donde el único sistema eléctrico funciona por paneles solares y tenemos restringidas las horas de carga para nuestros dispositivos y donde el internet, como de costumbre en estos lugares remotos en los que me muevo, es muy poco fiable. Pero es que la finca es ante todo una explotación agrícola y busca gente con ganas de ensuciarse las manos y echar una mano antes que turistas con cámaras de fotos bien cargadas y ropa inmaculada.

Sin embargo, en esta nueva casa, aparte de una finca agrícola de permacultura y vida sostenible, he encontrado también una energía vital tremenda y gente cariñosa e interesante que me ha reconectado con otro aspecto de mi ser, interesado en las artes creativas y en el yoga, los masajes y una nueva pasión: ¡las telas acrobáticas! No se muy bien cómo voy a hacer para seguir practicando y aprendiendo a hacer bailes verticales según voy viajando, pero allá donde encuentre la oportunidad me guindaré a un palo y me pondré a hacer piruetas! :)

practicando en las telas acrobáticas

La isla en sí es también un lugar encantador. Formada por la unión de dos volcanes, la Isla de Ometepe tiene forma de ocho con un cono volcánico en cada extremo. Las vistas que tenemos del volcán Concepción desde la finca son increíbles, y cada puesta de sol es un regalo. Los habitantes de la isla son también personas encantadoras, que incluso después de un duro día trabajando en el campo o pescando desde antes del amanecer siempre sonríen y están dispuestos a reírse a carcajadas de cualquier broma. El otro día me fui caminando alrededor del volcán Maderas, donde está la finca, proposición que me llevó más de 7 horas. Acabé cansado pero muy feliz, y así pude conocer algunos rincones preciosos del otro lado de la isla.

Ahora estoy en San Juan del Sur, descansando en la playa y descubriendo la magia del surf. Mañana salgo hacia el norte de Nicaragua para conocer sus montañas y la zona cafetalera y unos proyectos que hay allá de producción de productos herbales.

1 Comment

levantando un tejado en La Iguana Chocolate

Este es el proceso de levantamiento de un tejado que hubo que hacer de urgencia después de que unos vientos fuertes levantasen el antiguo techo de paja que había en la casita del árbol. Al igual que los 3 cerditos, después de fallar la paja, se decidió probar con algo más sólido, como un tejado de zinc. :)

el carpintero bandido

El carpintero bandido sacando planchas “rectas” para las viguetas del techo

Este proceso implicaba cortar tablas de madera para sacar cabios y listones rectos con los que armar una estructura sobre la que poder fijar las planchas de zinc. Aquí en Costa Rica los llaman “perling” y “reglas”.

lijando los perling

lijando los perling, otro trabajo para “bandidos” ;)

talandrando los agujeros para las barras de sujeción

taladrando agujeros por los que meter las barras de sujeción de los cabrios

perlings y reglas, ¡listos para colocar el techo!

la estructura armada y lista para el zinc!

el jefe de obra

el jefe de obra, contento :)

el trabajo más delicado, el acabado!

el ingeniero Vinicio haciendo el trabajo delicado de colocar las últimas planchas de zinc, atado a un árbol para no caerse

la casita del árbol

la casita del árbol, con el techo casi acabado

las vigas desde abajo

la estructura terminada, vista desde dentro

Una vez terminado el techo, no tardé en instalarme allí en una de las 2 habitaciones que hay en el tree house. Son más bien para parejas, pero a mi me dejan también instalarme allí por guapo :)

mi cuarto en la casita del arbol

mi cuarto en la casita del árbol :)

4 Comments

the fromsoiltosoul version of pesto

The main purpose of this journey of mine into agriculture and food processing is to get closer to the source, to become more involved in all the processes related to food consumption, from growing the produce to harvesting it and transforming it into something edible, hopefully enhancing the natural flavours of the products involved. Sometimes this involves adapting traditional recipes depending on product availability, due to climatic or seasonal or any other factors. And this is how we get to making the fromsoiltosoul version of pesto, a process involving a full day of work, since everything from the nuts to the basil is collected from the field (except the olive oil, which fortunately was bought in, and the parmesan cheese, which was left out since there are vegans on the farm that we have to cater for).

cashew fruits & nuts

Ripe cashews on the tree, ready for collection.

So, what is pesto? It’s a traditional Italian oil-based sauce that uses nuts, cheese, oil and an herb pulsed together. The traditional version uses pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil and basil, plus some salt for seasoning.

We started by collecting the nuts. It is currently the season for cashews, so it became immediately obvious what we were going to replace the pine nuts with! :) The cashew nuts must be extracted from the comma-like appendage hanging from the bottom of the fruit, with care not to get burned by the acids in the outer skin. One way to do this is by wearing gloves while handling them, cutting them open and carefully peeling off the inner paper-like skin that lines the nuts. This is slow and painstaking work, so we opted for just roasting them directly, which gives off a thick toxic smoke, and when the nuts heat up enough, they burst into flame and spit fire everywhere, the closest thing to a fiery inferno that I’ve ever experienced.

P1050652

Roasting cashew nuts, the closest I’ve ever come to the fires of hell. :)

shelling the nuts

Volunteer Spencer shelling cacao beans. The shelling of the cashew nuts is similar, but I’ve replaced the photo for this one because it’s the only one I’ve got.

basil as squash understory

A lovely basil plant as understorey for squash.

So, once the nuts were roasted and shelled, we then picked the basil to add it to the sauce. 2 cups is what the recipe called for. That’s a lot of basil, but luckily the family at La Iguana Chocolate doesn’t like basil, but still has lots of plants of it around the garden! :D

So, I then toasted some of the nuts over the stove, just to get them warm and get those oils flowing, and blended the nuts, the basil and some lemon juice together in the food processor with some salt and oil.

So, it’s pretty involved, takes a while to do, but the end result is all the more delicious for it! :)

beautiful pesto

The little jar of pesto that lasted about a minute…

Pesto recipe. Here’s the basic recipe that I modified to make the pesto:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, or more as necessary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, or more as necessary
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more as necessary
  1. In a food processor, pulse garlic and pine nuts with the salt until finely chopped.
  2. Add basil leaves and lemon juice and blend until basil begins to break down. Add olive oil and puree until the mixture is smooth and has the desired consistency, adding more oil if necessary to break down the nuts and herbs.
  3. Fold in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and lemon juice to taste.

Leave a comment

bread baking – lessons learned by an amateur baker

the last bread I made, letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight

the last (and best) batch of bread I’ve made, letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight

So what is bread, actually?

Well, the way I see it, bread is basically a baked dough that develops bubbles in it and acquires a spongy texture that can take on different consistencies and flavours. There can be acid breads and rich breads, dense or soft, but they all have bubbles in them or otherwise they would be too thick and chewy to eat.

In order for the bubbles to be trapped in the bread we need an elastic protein that holds the air inside, which is gluten. This protein is found in wheat, rye and barley, which is why bread always contains flour from at least one of these cereals, with white wheat flour having the highest content, and which also explains why in corn-eating countries they usually make flat tortillas instead of thick loaves, because corn flour does not trap the air bubbles inside and any loaf would end up like a brick. In order to have the gluten in the bread trap the bubbles inside it, its fibres must be stretched and aligned, which is done by kneading and/or letting it ferment and rest.

For the bubbles to be formed we can basically use one of three techniques: chemical substances that produce air when exposed to the heat of an oven, such as baking soda; commercial yeasts that typically consist in a single strain of yeast, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer’s yeast; or natural leaven or sourdough, which is a mixture of different wild yeasts and bacteria that usually results in more flavourful and longer-keeping breads, although they rise much slower and require special treatment.

The ten steps of baking bread:

So, according to the research I’ve been doing on baking bread, the whole process can be divided into ten steps, from preparing the mixture to finally baking the bread in the oven.

  1. Mise en place
  2. Mixing
  3. Fermentation
  4. Stretch and folds/Degassing
  5. Dividing
  6. Preshaping/Shaping
  7. Final Proof/Panning
  8. Scoring
  9. Baking
  10. Cooling/Storage

I shall try to provide a brief description of each step.

  1. Mise en place – This is where we prepare ourselves for the task at hand, gathering all necessary equipment and weighing all the ingredients
  2. Mixing – As you might have guessed, this where the ingredients are combined together into the dough. Care should be taken not to take too long during mixing, since the flour may oxidise and the dough become much denser and brick-like
  3. Fermentation – This is where the dough is left to rise in a warm place by the action of the leavening agents of our choice (not necessary when using chemical leavening agents), and is one of the most important steps since 75% of the flavour of the bread is developed during this stage
  4. Stretch and folds/Degassing – Many doughs benefit from a series of stretches and folds during the fermentation process, which help to stretch and align the gluten proteins and give the bread better texture
  5. Dividing – This is where we divide up large batches of dough into their respective individual shapes
  6. Preshaping/Shaping – Once divided, the dough is gently coaxed into the final shape we want it to have, creating surface tension so that it doesn’t just flatten out against the tray as it grows
  7. Final Proof/Panning – The dough is allowed to rise for the last time before hitting the oven, and a good rise is what proves that the yeast is still alive in the dough (thus the name proofing). A good test for “doneness” is to press into the dough with your finger. The dough should push back but not completely recover its original shape
  8. Scoring – The decorative cuts made into the dough before putting them in the oven create a weak spot in the tense surface, which will become a place through which the bread can rise and take its final shape. The best way to do this is with a sharp knife (could be your bread knife), cutting half an inch into the dough and at an angle. This is much better than cutting in vertically into the dough. Try it out!
  9. Baking – The final firing of the bread, where the heat of the oven creates a crust that seals the outside (thus the importance of scoring the bread and using steam to delay the process, allowing the bread to rise) and caramelises the sugars in the dough, creating yet more flavour
  10. Cooling/Storage – This is also an important step, since freshly-baked bread has not yet developed all of its flavour. It should be allowed to cool down to finish the process. Once baked and cooled, bread can be stored cut side down on a chopping board or in a paper bag if it is to be stored longer. Enriched breads can be wrapped in plastic or frozen in plastic wrap

Well, and after this overdose of information, here comes a bread recipe:

Classic French Bread (from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day)
(makes 2 large loaves, 4 small loaves or many rolls)

5⅓ cups (24 oz / 680 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz / 14 g) salt, or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons (0.25 oz / 7 g) instant yeast
2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)

The day before baking, combine all ingredients and mix for 1 minute (on lowest speed with a mixer or by hand) until well blended and smooth. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 5 mins. Mix again with a mixer or by hand for another 2 mins, adjusting with flour or water as necessary. Knead the dough by hand for 1 more minute, then transfer it to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then immediately refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. If the dough feels too wet and sticky, do not add more flour; instead, stretch and fold it one or more times at 10-minute intervals, before putting it in the refrigerator. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)

On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you plan to bake. Gently transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, taking care to degas it as little as possible. For baguettes and bâtards, divide the cold dough into 10-ounce (283 g) pieces; for 1 pound boules, divide the dough into 19-ounce (53 g) pieces; and for freestanding loaves, use whatever size you prefer.

Form the dough into bâtards and/or baguettes or boules. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and proof at room temperature for about 1½ hours, until increased to 1½ times its original size.

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 550°F (288°C) or as high as it will go, and prepare the oven for hearth baking (placing a baking stone and steam tray inside the oven).

Remove the plastic wrap from the dough 15 minutes prior to baking; if using proofing moulds, transfer the dough onto a floured peel. Just prior to baking, score the dough ½ inch deep with a serrated knife or razor. Transfer the dough to the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan, then lower the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C). Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich golden brown, the loaves sound hollow when thumped, and the internal temperature is about 200°F (93°C) in the centre. For a crisper crust, turn off the oven and leave the bread in for another 5 minutes before removing.

Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.

VARIATION

By simply varying the method so that the shaped loaves undergo cold fermentation, rather than the freshly mixed bulk dough, you can create a spectacular loaf with a distinctive blistered crust. After the dough is mixed and placed in a clean, oiled bowl, let it rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes, until doubled in size. Divide and shape as described above, mist with spray oil, then cover the shaped dough loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight, away from anything that might fall on it or restrict it from growing.

The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking. It should have grown to at least 1½ times its original size.

Prepare the oven for hearth baking. While the oven is heating, remove the plastic wrap and let the dough sit uncovered for 10 minutes. Score the dough while it’s still cold, then bake as described above.

final remarks

so, some things I think worth mastering to improve your understanding of the bread-making process are: a couple of different recipes, one for lean bread, one enriched bread; introducing different flours in your breads; and dealing with different dough consistencies, such as firm and wet.

links for more in-depth info about bread and bread-making:

· For beginners:
http://tequedasacenar.com/como-hacer-pan/
(in Spanish)

· For simple, delicious, “quick” recipes baked the day after preparing the dough:
Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day – Great recipes for cold-fermentation breads (where the dough rises in the fridge overnight), from lean breads to enriched breads

· For experts or people who wish to become more involved in bread making:
http://www.elforodelpan.com/ (in Spanish) – a forum for people passionate about baking
Baking Artisan Bread, by Ciril Hitz – A good guide on baking bread, detailing the steps described above and with all kinds of different recipes from lean to enriched breads.
Dan Leppard’s The Handmade Loaf – Advanced Techniques and breads using lots of different ingredients

, , ,

Leave a comment

homemade tomato sauce

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday I went into the field to pick some tomatoes so I could help Juanita make some tomato sauce and in the process learn a bit about home canning. The sauce was delicious. I scraped off all the leftovers in the pot with my finger and hardly left anything to clean! :)

, , , ,

1 Comment

natural building techniques – building with cob

the laughing house

the documentary First Earth is a full-length documentary dedicated to the wonderful building medium that is the earth itself, plentiful, cheap and malleable, which allows building very picturesque constructions with curvy, organic shapes and very personalised touches that are just incredibly beautiful, cozy and welcoming. Add to that the irreplaceable feeling of actually being involved in the building of your house and giving yourself the time to do so instead of slaving away at some (hopefully pleasurable) job just to be able to pay somebody else to build it for you and/or then rent it off the bank for 20-30 years and you’ll start to understand the beauty and the power of building with earth. Fortunately it is available on youtube in several languages and the links are available from the website itself.

And if you want to find out more about building with cob check these two books:

I hope you enjoy it and find it inspiring :)

1 Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers