Ron y la cocina

Trip Start Feb 03, 2013
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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Flag of Nicaragua  , Leon,
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'd had a taste of Leon whilst on Raleigh PPV, so was excited to return. In contrast to the evident wealth of Granada, Leon looked a little rough around the edges, with it's churches and other central buildings looking a little lacklustre, but it still had it's charms.

When we arrived, we checked into the same hostel I stayed on PPV and had dinner at the same restaurant. Neither were planned, but my friend was still unwell and even after a homely tomato soup for dinner that night, he spent the rest of my time in Leon curled up in bed. Left to my own devices once more, I set out to explore the city the following day. I visited the main square and a number of tour companies, trying to decide how best to spend my time. Due to my achilles tendinitis (and also my lack of enthusiasm for trekking), I skipped both the volcano hike and the infamous boarding. My tours were therefore a little different to the adrenaline junkies standard, I instead picked drinking and eating!

My first tour was to Flor de Caña, which is a Nicaraguan rum company. I'd been introduced to this rum in my first week on Raleigh and whilst I've never been much of a rum drinker, I really liked the smooth taste. I was joined on the tour by a French Canadian couple and a German guy and once there, the tour started with a history lesson. Flor de Caña, which means sucarcane flower, was first produced in 1930s and is the most awarded rum worldwide. We learnt about it's origins, the production and aging methods, plus it's environmental credentials.

Once we'd been indoctrinated in the many virtues of the brand, we were ready to taste the real thing. We went to a special tasting room, where large glasses of 18 year rum awaited us. We used four of our senses; first sight, taking in the dark colour; second smell, wafting the rich aroma; third touch, we poured a little into our hand, apparently proving it's quality due to the lack of stickiness; and finally taste, a powerful flavour which warmed all the way down. We visited too, the bodegas where the aging barrels were stacked, which had a sweet smell and a punch. I already loved it, but after the tour, I now truly believe it is the best rum in the world!

The next morning I had booked a cooking class at Lazy Bones hostel. I arrived there and soon set off to the market with my profesora de cocina Janina and a fellow Brit who would be joining the lesson. We travelled to the market in a local collectivo, a minibus much the same as the ones I'd travelled in frequently, but this time with seats removed and handrails added for standing passengers. At the market, Janina showed us the various food stalls, bought samples of things for us to try (happily, not iguana) and picked up the ingredients for our meal. We were particularly glad to see that we purchased the chicken from a refrigerated shop, rather than the many other warmer offerings. We were to make tortillas, followed by Indio Viejo, plus a number of drinks; all of which used corn as the main ingredient.

We hopped in a tuk tuk to travel back to the hostel and once there, the cook and her assistant started to prepare the items needed for our dishes. Whilst we waited I had a paddle in the hostel pool, to cool off after the heat of the market. First up we made tortillas and thanks to my awesome Costa Rican maestras, I am now I dab hand at tortilla making, receiving enthusiastic responses from my teachers. After we'd wolfed those down with local cheese, we moved on to the main event, which literally translates as an old Indian. It's really a stew made with corn as it's base and thickener, with chicken, plantain, tomotoes, onions, chillies, mint and the juice from incredibly sour oranges. The end result tasted and looked a lot like a korma and after two hearty portions I was full to the brim.

A nice couple of days spent in Leon, just a shame my friend was so sick he couldn't join in the feasting. Next stop was a swift visit to Honduras, this time no planes were involved in heading north, just a rather long bus journey.
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