With summer firmly on it’s way out and Autumn settling in, the chilly nights demand some great comfort food. I wanted to try something different so I choose a popular Costa Rican dish – Casado. Why? Well, it’s the ideal comfort food, easy to put together and tastes amazing! Best part is it’s very easy on the pocket and if you plate it well, it looks like a posh meal – no one would guess what went into making it!
Casado literally means a ‘married man’ and it is said that the name probably originates from how the local men expected food to be served when they were eating outside so that it reminded them of familiar tastes of a home cooked meal. An authentic Casado which is served at ‘sodas’ or local cafes is accompanied by what is known as a Lizano sauce. The brand name Lizano is now generic and retails in N. America. Since this sauce is yet to hit UK shores ( believe me I did a fair bit of looking around in shops that sell Mexican ingredients, Asian, Carribean and most of my local supermarkets) I finally decided to make my own ,which was a great decision – why ? Well scope to experiment and innovate for one, coupled with freedom to incorporate easy to procure, local ingredients – resulting in a deliciously moorish creation! A traditional root vegetables dish from Costa Rico called Picadillo is a popular side dish with rice and tortillas. You can safely say that the gravy sauce is a marriage of sorts between the Lizano sauce and the Picadillo. I have done a fair amount of customisation and the most interesting part of cooking Casado was creating the gravy sauce, combining it with root vegetables and serving it as a wholesome gravy side dish. Let’s get started with the sauce aka gravy as this will take the most time to cook of all the other sides.
Recipe is good for 2 with generous helpings.
Root Vegetable Gravy Side
Prep & Cooking Time: 35 mins
- 1 medium juicy tomato – finely chopped
- 2 small red onions finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots chopped into tiny cubes
- 3 small sweet fresh peppers finely chopped
- A handful of cauliflower florets
- A handful of very finely chopped sweet potato
- 1 heaped tbsp of finely grated celeriac
- A pinch of garlic puree
- Half a dry red Kashmiri chilli
- ½ tsp of thick tamarind puree
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
- 2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp roasted cumin powder
- 2 tbsp Oil
- Salt as per taste
- A handful of finely chopped coriander
- In a large saucepan, heat oil and add the chopped onions, add the garlic puree and cumin powder and stir well.
- When the onion starts to reduce add the bay leaves, the chopped tomato and chopped sweet peppers, stir the the tomato & peppers around vigorously bit to get them to release their juices and reduce the flame to a minimum.
- Throw in the finely chopped carrot cubes, sweet potato, grated celeriac, tomato puree and add enough water to cover this mixture.
- Cook with lid on till the sweet potato and carrots begin to soften, then it’s time to toss in the cauliflower florets, season with the dry red chilli,tamarind,cracked black pepper, salt and sugar and give it a good stir.
- Let this cook on a low flame with lid for about 25 minutes.
- Keep opening the lid, stirring and adjusting the water if it becomes to run dry, we need a gravy like consistency.
- When it done, add some finely chopped coriander in the tamarind should give it a bit of tangy twist, while the dried Kashmiri chilli gives it colour and mild heat, the sweet pepper and tomato puree work their magic together and the gravy is delicious and wholesome what with so many veggies hidden inside!
Red Kidney bean side
Prep and Cooking Time: 15 min
- 1 can of red kidney beans
- 1 medium sized red onion
- 2 large tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp garlic puree
- 1 tsp red chilli flakes
- Salt to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat oil and sauté the chopped onions, add the garlic puree and stir well.
- After the onion has sautéed, add the tomato puree and stir then add the beans and mix well.
- Add some water to the mixture and reduce the flame to a minimum, cook with a lid on but check often so that it does not burn or run dry.
- 4.Since the canned and ready to eat red kidney beans are preserved in salty water, check the taste before adding in any more salt, chuck in some dry red chilli flakes for flavour and set aside.
Boiled white rice
- Cook 1 cup rice using exactly double the water and a pinch of salt
- Peel and chop the plantain into large chunks and fry in hot oil in a kadhai or wok until they are a light brown. It’s easy for them to char so get them out as soon as the colour turns a golden shade of brown, allow to cool on a plate on a bit of kitchen roll to soak excess oil.
- Don’t fret if like me you can’t peel the plantain I simply use a knife and remove the thick green skin, even if that means that the plantain pieces are hexagonal or cubes now, well I never was too good at geometry ;)
- Casado can be served with meat, fish or chicken. Chop one large fillet of fresh salmon and pan fry both sides till done in about 1 tbsp oil.
- Heat a large flour tortilla –shop bought on a pan and adds a generous helping of grated parmesan cheese on tortilla. Just as the tortilla heats up and the cheese shows sign of melting fold the tortilla in half and flip over and toast each side till you have a crispy yum cheesy tortilla, slice into neat triangles ready to be served.
- Chop a fresh cabbage fine to get one large handful of cabbage, add half a red onion and a small handful of finely chopped cucumber, squeeze half a lime, sprinkle some cracked black pepper, a small amount of fresh finely chopped coriander and toss all these together. Easy-peasy right?
Serve the steaming hot rice with the salmon on the side, topped with some of the root vegetable gravy. Mop up the beans with the cheesy tortilla and munch on the sweet fried plantain with generous bites of the tangy cabbage salad in between mouthfuls of everything else.