Think of Ecuador and what comes to mind? No, not certain inhabitants of the London embassy, but great and diverse produce such as bananas, quality cocoa, coffee, Ecuadorian prawns and quinoa. What Ecuador can produce gastronomically was showcased brilliantly at last night’s Pro Ecuador event at the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall.
The Flavours of Ecuador were cooked up by Ecuadorian chef David Reyes, who whetted the guests’ appetites with two banana-based appetisers: Patacon, or fried plantain slices, were served with guacamole and fresh spiced Ecuadorian tuna. The other, Bolon, a delectable cheese-stuffed green plantain dumpling served with a tomato-scallion sauce. They were washed down with a delightfully steaming hot classic Ecuadorian cocktail called Canalezo, made with naranjilla, a delicious tropical fruit.
Dr Juan Falconi Puig, Ecuador’s new ambassador, welcomed members of the press and invited them to a table beautifully decorated with Ecuadorian roses, famous for their unique characteristics and incomparable quality. The first course, Prawn and Palm Heart Ceviche, was a surprise for those of us who have never had palm hearts before. The crisp, fresh Ecuadorian palm hearts were marinated in lime juice and blended beautifully with the flavours of tomatoes, onions, orange juice and coriander. This vivid starter was served with a generous helping of chifles, home-made plantain crisps, which perfectly complemented the flavours and textures of this national dish.
Quinotto was served as a main course using the very healthy Ecuadorian quinoa grains. Its creamy, almost risotto-like texture was enhanced by crispy Ecuadorian broccoli, roasted tomatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms and was topped with a creamy cheese sauce. Quinoa is one of Ecuador’s most important export products and comes in many different varieties. Earlier this year, UN Headquarters declared 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa, making last night’s main dish particularly topical.
For dessert, a flourless chocolate pudding showcased some of the best ingredients Ecuador has to offer. The chocolate sponge cake with chocolate sauce (made with a 65% Ecuadorian chocolate) was accompanied by caramelised banana pieces and served with a homemade physalis (goldenberry) ice cream, one of Ecuador’s most popular fruits.
Rounding off the evening was hearty sip of Ecuadorian coffee, emphasising the fact that Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that produces and exports green, roasted and soluble coffee.
1 medium desiree potato
5 tablespoons of olive oil
3.2l vegetable stock (made with stock cube, follow pack instructions)
800g of quinoa
1 large broccoli cut in bite-size pieces
1 butternut squash cut in 1cm cubes and cooked
200g wild mushrooms
200g cherry tomatoes cut in half
4 teaspoons of chopped garlic
1 teaspoon of thyme
200g (Ecuadorian cheese) cottage cheese
50ml of milk
2 onions, chopped
300g bread crumbs
100g plain flour
3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Marinade the cherry tomatoes with: 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper. Cook them in the oven at 100C for about 40 minutes.
Cook 1 medium desire potato and mash.
Using a blender, mix 150g of the cheese with some of the milk until you get a thick double cream consistency. Adjust seasoning.
Rinse the quinoa and rain it.
Heat a large pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add 1 ½ of the chopped onions, 2 teaspoons of garlic and cook it at a low heat for about 5 minutes until transparent.
Add the quinoa to the onion mix and 2.4l of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. At this point, add more stock if need be, and when the quinoa becomes transparent and a little tail is appearing around it, it is ready. Cover it ans et it aside.
Heat a medium sized pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the remaining onion and garlic, cook until transparent and then add the mushrooms.
Take 1/3 of the mushroom mix, 1/3 of the butternut squash and chop it finely. Add the remaining cheese, 2 teaspoons of the chopped parsley and 24 tablespoons of quinoa. Mix together and use the potato to bind. Check seasoning. Divide it in 24 equal balls and pan it using the flour, egg and bread crumbs.
Add the remaining butternut squash to the quinoa and heat it up; add the parsley before you serve it.
Heat oil to 170C, fry the quinoa balls and drain them in kitchen paper.
Heat the broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Plate the quinoa and garnish it with the broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese dressing, quinoa balls and cress.