Ingredients & Seasonal flavours
Venezuela produces some of the finest cacao (cocoa) in the world. There are at least twenty two different beans produced in Venezuela across three varieties known as Criollo, Trinitario & Forastero.From my city of Merida, you can find beans such as Sur de Lago, known for its strong cacao aroma and nutty, subtle fruity flavour with a great level of acidity. One of the rarest and most sought after beans is the Porcelana, which has nutty and delicate creamy overtones.
Guava is a fruit with a fairly dense texture and a strong flavour.The mild taste is said to be a combination of pear and strawberry. The pulp of the fruit may be sweet or sour depending on the ripeness. The sweet varieties taste like a combination of grapefruit and pear. If upon smelling, a guava gives off a tropical, strong, and sweet aroma, it is perfectly ripe.
In Venezuela, passion fruit are much larger and have yellow skin. They are known as Parchita. The yellow, jelly-like pulp of the fruit has a fresh, sweet yet slightly tart taste.
Passion fruit pairs well with a wide variety of ingredients, such as banana, mango, guava, coconut, and more.
Coconut is the ultimate in tropical fruit. Seen on desert island beaches, at roadside stalls, and piled up in markets, the coconut is a versatile drupe (a fruit with a central stone containing the seed and has three layers) and each and every part of it is used. The flesh is thick, fibrous and full of flavour.
Mangoes are sweet in flavour and very juicy. The flesh of the mango is a golden colour. Some mangoes have a tart, lemon-like taste. In Venezuela you can find the Haden, Tommy Atkins, Kent, and Springfels. The Kent is a large fat mango that is green in colour with a reddish side. The Hayden is a small, round mango with green or yellow skin. This variety has a reddish tint and a rich flavour.
Winter -December, January, February
During the winter months, a variety of preserves made from earlier harvests of apples, pears, raspberries and rhubarbs along with orange marmalades are the main flavours for this season. Fresh carrots make the perfect carrot cake as well as fresh swede, parsnips and beetroot for delicious vegan cakes and plenty of hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts and walnuts for a crunchy texture. But it goes without saying that the main cake of the season is our delicious Christmas fruit cake.
Spring - March, April, May
Apart from bringing us beautiful daffodils, bluebells and lily of the valleys, we will be benefiting from rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries and elderflowers. The main cake of this season is of course the traditional Simnel cake to celebrate Easter. For those not familiar with this, a Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with two layers of marzipan and eleven marzipan balls on the top which represent the Apostles minus Judas.
Summer (June, July, August)
The beginning of the sunny season delights us with a wider selection of ingredients to include: apricots, cherries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, figs, melons, plums, blackcurrants, white currants, and red currants. Beautiful calendula and courgette flowers are also in blossom as well as daisies, roses and sunflowers which are the perfect complement for those very special wedding cakes, which are the main cake star of the summer.
Autumn (September, October, November)
This stunning and striking season enchants us with beautiful orange colours and plenty of cobnut, figs, damsons, elderberries, apples, pears, quinces, medlars, cranberries, sloe, sweet chestnut and walnuts. Hazelnuts are the star ingredient for the main traditional celebrations: Michaelmas Day on the 29th September, Soul cakes or pumpkin cakes to celebrate the old English tradition of Hallowe’en, and the less known Parkin cake from Northern England to celebrate Bonfire Night.
Panela has a mild, sweet molasses taste with elements of caramel. It is full of flavour and rich aromas. It has been traditionally made by dehydrating raw sugarcane over a very low heat. Because the process is slow, it retains the flavour and rich molasses of the sugarcane. Some producers use an interesting pulverising technique to further dehydrate the panela into a powder which can then be used in baking.