TASTE | THE CULTURE OF FOOD

I could start writing (and talking) about food and never ever stop! I honestly don’t know where to begin? Not even which country? 

I am drawn most to strong authentic flavors that are more grandma than gourmet. I love an aromatic pho beef noodle soup or a spicy pungent laksa, and I will continue to sacrifice the skin on the roof of my mouth at the altar of a steamy soup-filled dumpling every time. The memory of eating every type of taco loaded with spicy condiments in the streets of Mexico City still makes me salivate. 

Kristy at the Mercado de Bazurto in Cartagena. Note: Do NOT visit this incredible place without her!

Kristy at the Mercado de Bazurto in Cartagena. Note: Do NOT visit this incredible place without her!

 

 

When I travel, one of the main ways I connect with the local culture is through food. The ingredients, cooking methods, eating rituals, eating spaces, all reveal so much about the collective identity of a place. So when I arrived to Cartagena five years ago and found an absence of any food-related tourism, I was propelled on a course that has seen me create street food tours, market tours, cooking classes, rum tastings, coffee tastings and all the other food experiences I was looking for when I first touched down.  

La Mulata
Calle Quero 9 58 Sandiego, Cartagena De Indias
+57 5 6646222

If there's one restaurant I recommend every visitor to Cartagena includes in their itinerary,  it's this casual, colourful,  vibrant Cartagena favorite. This is where you'll sample the most typical of Cartagena cuisine (heavy on the seafood),  plated beautifully, and at super affordable prices. And for my money, the best coconut lemonade in town (must try).

 

 


HOME COOKING

Now that I've eaten pretty much all the food in Cartagena,  more often than not,  I'll prepare the majority of my meals at home. The food I like to cook definitely has an Asian focus, and tends to be fast and simple. Lots of stir fries, Asian omelettes and soups.   

About once a month I love to host a dinner party for fellow foodie friends. This amazing vegetarian lasagna was one of the biggest hits and even the devout meat eaters devoured every bit. Added bonus is that it freezes like a dream, so I like to make a batch then freeze in easy to reheat portions.

VEGETARIAN LASAGNA

Basically a few different components. All layered into a baking dish. 

WHAT YOU NEED + HOW YOU MAKE THEM

Eggplant
3-4 large, or 7-8 small eggplants, cut into 1cm round slices, salted to draw out bitterness (optional,  if using baby ones you probably can skip this step), then panfried or oiled and oven baked until soft. 

Tomato Sauce
Fry a chopped onion, add some herbs (basil, thyme,  bay leaves, oregano whatever you're feeling) and garlic  (I say lots) and  a couple of  tins of tomatoes or the fresh equiv.[cooked].  I love Paul Newman sauces as well if short on time.  

Roasted Red Peppers
Oven roasted whole, then remove the skin. You can also buy them prepared in jars or at deli counter. 

Béchamel
Flour, butter and milk. I start with about a fist of butter, make a roux with flour so it's smooth and without lumps, then slowly add milk until I have the desired consistency and quantity.  Once thickened I'll then stir in about 200g of grated parmesano cheese.

Cheese
Grated cheddar or similar tasty cheese

Pesto
I normally make a basil pesto with pinenuts if they aren't too expensive or blanched almonds if I'm economizing. A big bunch of basil, say 200 grams of whichever nuts, chilli flakes, 200 grams parmesano,  olive oil.  Salt and pepper. Blender. 

WHAT YOU DO

Now you've got the components,  you just need to layer them into a rectangular baking dish. 

Spread some oil all over the dish, then spread the tomato sauce across the bottom of the dish. Layer the dried lasagna sheets directly into the sauce and add another, thicker layer of tomato sauce and lay the eggplant and  roasted peppers, spread the pesto, scatter the cheese   ... and repeat. The last layer should be pesto followed by béchamel. Bake in oven about 40 mins until a little goldenish on top but not too brown.

*Editor's Note: This recipe is exactly why I fell in love with Kristy at first sight. I'm a recipe follower so this "recipe" makes me anxious, but it also makes me love her even more. Because of course her lasagna recipe is basically just a few things thrown into a dish without any measurements or amounts. And guess what? It's sublime!