Sunday, December 30, 2018


Cutting banana leaves
One of the nice things with the villa here in Costa Rica is that it comes with a housekeeper. She comes every second day to water all the plants and clean the house. She also expressed a willingness to cook for us, but we enjoy cooking, so we did not need her for this most days. We did ask her to cook a typical Costa Rican dish for us when we arrived. Something got lost in translation however and we had a delicious chicken cordon-blue when we got here.

Each day when she comes, she brings something for us. One day it was an odd looking vegetable that she explained was like a potato, then she brought tomales for us to try. Now this was a typical Costa Rican dish. She also showed us how to make traditional rice & beans, which is eaten with every meal as far as we can tell.

Once Alisha arrived we asked Nora to come one day and show us how to make her tomales. We got a shopping list (In Spanish to make it easier to locate stuff), and a trip to the grocery store got
All ready to assemble
everything we needed.

Nora arrived in the morning and the first thing she did was to climb down the hill behind the villa and using the handy Costa Rican machete, cut four huge banana leaves. She then checked the bags of ingredients we bought and was upset there were no potatoes. Alisha cannot eat potatoes because they are part of the nightshade vegetables and cause severe joint pain. We have always been able to substitute sweet potatoes, but this was completely unacceptable to Nora. I suspect it would have worked but she simply had to have potatoes. She put fatty pork chunks in a big pot with onions garlic, celery cilantro and spices and put it on to boil. She then told me to watch it while she made Regis, Derek and Alisha to to a local grocery store for potatoes and Achiote paste (more on this later).

Wrapping the tomalley
Next step was to heat the banana leaves, cut them into smaller pieces and to wash them. We used the barbecue to heat the leaves, and it seems to pull a bit of moisture out of the leaves and make them more pliable. The leaves were then put together with a larger and a smaller piece and arranged in a pile.

Potatoes were peeled and rice was put on to boil Achiote paste was added to the rice, and on the way back from the store Nora stopped on the side of the road and picked four actual achiote pods to show us, This seems to add colour to the rice more than flavour.

We then mixed flour, corn starch, and the stock from the boiled pork and the potato water to make a paste the consistency of wallpaper paste. Added to this is a package of consume, salt, and salsa (Very important!). This was cooked and stirred until it thickened it up so it looked more like instant mashed potatoes.

The Finished Product
We cooked cubed potatoes, sliced carrots and sweet peppers. Then everything was lined up in an assembly line. Alisha put a spoonful of the paste on the banana leaves. I added a spoonful of rice, Nolan added a cube of cooked pork, and strategically placed a carrot, a slice of pepper and a potato cube on each leaf. The leaves were then wrapped tightly around the assembly by Derek and Regis and two tomalley were tied together. With Nora watching closely to make sure we were all doing it correctly.

Finally the finished tomalley were put into a pot of boiling water for an hour to finish the cooking. When they are done the banana leaves are unwrapped and entire assembly is one solid cooked unit. We already knew how good the Tomale were because Nora had brought them for us earlier finished
and ready to eat. I can only hope ours turn out as good as her's.

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