The Jungle [Cook]Book

In July I arrived in Ecuador to work for the Timburi Cocha Scientific Research Station, Payamino, for my year in industry. Fully prepared as I was to spend a year in the jungle, cut-off from civilisation, and living on rice and beans, I won't deny my delight in the fact the research station has flush-toilets, a cold shower (of sorts…), a satellite internet connection, and a kitchen. And the food has been far from your bog-standard rice and beans!

Tamara Williams (AKA Sámara, AKA Farmer Tea), a fellow zoology placement student from Manchester, has been bestowed the role of head chef – for good reason. We've had meals far fancier than those my usual broke-student-in-a-hurry diet would consist of, from red bean chili with tortilla wraps to lentil and cauliflower dahl with naan breads, even Irish colcannon! She's pioneered "steam-baking" at the station by making peach sponge and banana bread without an oven, so I'm quite happy I can resume baking even from the middle of the rainforest (Image 1).

Image 1 - Barmbrack, left; banana bread, right. As cooked in a pot inside a bigger pot of boiling water...
No matter how delicious and satisfying the meals, however, fried sides and snacks have become omnipresent. Yuca (you may know as cassava, and banana, in its various encarnations, have almost become staples for us. Below are yuca chips (Image 2), fried maduro (mature plantain; Image 3), and guiñeo (elsewhere referred to as bananitos, ndizzi, or finger bananas; Image 4). Other ways we've enjoyed bananoids is as patacones (fried verde, green or unripe plantain; photos to come), and oat and banana "milk"shake, the latter made with powdered milk, as milk doesn't keep in the tropical heat without a fridge.

Image 2 - Yuca chips
Image 3 - Fried maduro (mature plantain)

Image 4 - Ripening and overly ripe guiñeo

Unfortunately, I am guilty of expanding the fried menu further by often taking over breakfast. Below are the recipes for kabalagala (Ugandan banana pancakes) and mofo menakely (Malagasy dough balls; Image 5).

Image 5 - Mofo menakely, Malagasy dough balls

Fried corn or choclo and pop-corn or canguili, are popular snacks at the station as well, or now that corn is in season, we've been enjoying America's edible gold on the cob – at least we don't deep fry that! [Image 6]

Image 6 - Sweet corn grown in Payamino

Frieds aside, I have resumed the jam-making role I have at home. So below is pineapple jam [Image 7]. Next I want to make one with the various fruits grown in the region, and have a Payamino jam to share. I predict this will primarily consist of chihuilla (pineapple) and cocona (naranjilla).

Image 7 - Pineapple jam

NB - I will endeavour to stop posting about food and resume writing about camera traps and bromeliads and whatnot!


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