Ecuadorian Holy Week – A Festival for Foodies!
As a predominantly Catholic country, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Easter celebrations in Ecuador are a big deal! In fact, during Holy Week most of the country is on an extended vacation allowing plenty of time for relaxation, celebration, fasting and feasting! Whilst you’re not going to find the Ecuadorian supermarkets lined with chocolate eggs (this might be a relief for those of you who, like me, find yourself harbouring a half-eaten Easter egg until mid-September), you’ll be able to take your pick of the local restaurants which are guaranteed to offer a range of typical Easter fare. If you want to attempt some of these tasty Easter dishes in your own home you wouldn’t go far wrong in starting your Easter feast with a hearty portion of fancesca, said to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples, followed by some warming molo (Ecuadorian mashed potato). For those of you craving the sugary hit usually provided by Easter chocolate, why not top things off with some rich Dulce de Higos (candied figs)?
Molo (Ecuadorian mashed potato):
- Prep: 30 minutes
- Cook: 30 minutes
- Total time: 1 hour
- Recipe serves: 4
- 6 Medium sized potatoes
- 4 Tbs butter
- 1 Cup finely diced white onion
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 Tsp ground achiote or annatto (substitute with saffron soaked in hot water)
- 1 1/4 Cups milk, maybe more to taste
- 1 Cup crumbled fresh, mild cheese (feta is a good option)
- 1/4 Cup double Cream
- Salt to taste
- Lettuce leaves, feta cubes, hard boiled eggs, avocado slices, fine slices of mild chilli, spring onions, coriander (or parsley) and diced tomato - to serve.
- Peel and halve potatoes then boil for 20 minutes (or until soft). Take off the heat, drain and put to one side.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat adding the diced white onions, minced garlic, achiote powder and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are translucent, about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure they don't burn.
- Add the potatoes and milk to the onions mixture, mash the potatoes until the are creamy and lump-free.
- Mix in the crumbled cheese and cream, season to taste.
- Use a small bowl as a mould and serve a dome of mashed potato on a bed of lettuce leaves, garnished with a selection of ingredients from the list above.
- Dulce de Higos:
- Prep: 15 minutes
- Cook: 1 hour
- Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Recipe serves: 8
- 12 Fresh figs (firm but not ripe)
- Pinch of baking soda
- 1lb Panela or dark muscovado sugar
- Ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, al spice (at least a 1 tsp of each - depending on how strong you wish it to be)
- Slices of quesillo cheese (substitute with mozzarella)
- Gently open the ends of the figs by making two small diagonal incisions into the narrowest end of each fig.
- Place the figs in a bowl, cover them with cold water and let them soak for 24 hours.
- Rinse the figs and place in a saucepan. Fill with enough water to cover the fruit.
- Add the baking soda and slowly bring the water to a boil over a medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes or until soft.
- Remove from the heat and let the figs soak in the same water for another 24 hours.
- Drain the water and lightly squeeze each fig to remove some of the excess water.
- Combine the panela/brown sugar and spices in a large saucepan, cover with around 1 litre of water, bring to the boil.
- Ensuring that the panela/brown sugar is completely dissolved, add the figs and simmer on a low heat until the water begins to thicken and turn syrupy, stirring occasionally. This stage of the process will normally take at least a couple of hours - if the liquid is evaporating too quickly, lower the heat further and simmer with a lid on for half the time.
- Serve either warm or cold with a slice of quesillo/mozzarella. Alternatively, serve with mature English cheddar or stilton for a British take on this classic Ecuadorian dessert.