Turtle stew, fried lungs and malted fizzy drinks may sound like acquired tastes. But acquire them I did, during my year in Colombia. Certain food items I was less keen on, and I had particular dairy dilemmas when I realised all yogurt was either watery or contained gelatine and came in a jelly-like block. Total greek, Yeo Valley, Rachels Organic, donde estan, I would ask?
Despite my yearning for real yogurt, Colombian cooking captured my heart. Colombian food is never going to compare to classic French cuisine, but it comes from a totally different angle. The main dishes serve to feed and fill a crowd – big stews, rice and meat dishes and a lot of carbohydrates dominate.
With so many regional differences within the culture, Colombian food varies hugely: from the creamy potato and chicken soup ajiaco in cold and central Bogotá to more tropical flavours such as coconut and the fruit chontaduro on the warm yet wet pacific coast. Despite its regionally varied dishes and interesting, complex flavours, Colombian cuisine is still relatively unknown to the British palette, but I’m on a personal mission to make Colombian food more popular within the UK.
There’s a huge Latino population within London and some pockets of the city seem almost entirely Spanish speaking. I think it’s brilliant that I can buy empanada flour, the infamous bright pink fizzy drink postobon and achiote chilli powder less than half an hour away from my house and the fact the cashier will speak to me in Spanish without a second thought.
With Colombian products so readily available, I decided to recreate one of my favourite Colombian cakes – a wonderfully dense and moist vanilla sponge marbled with bocadillo, a sweet paste made of guava pulp and sugar. I bought my bocadillo in Brixton market and I’m certain you can find it in either Elephant & Castle or Seven Sisters too. If you’re not London based, you can find it here, or you could also use membrillo, the Spanish quince jam available in most larger supermarkets near the cheese.
Enough waffle, time to bake cake.
Bizcocho con bocadillo (Vanilla and guava cake)
-100g warm milk
-2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
-300g bocadillo (or membrillo)
-Dash of vanilla extract (1 tsp)
-4 tbsp water
- Line a grease a large round cake tin – I used a 9 inch x 3 inch springform pan.
- Start your sponge mix by mixing the flour, bicadrbonate of soda and sugar together. Melt the butter completely, leave to cool slightly and whisk into the sugar and flour mixture, adding one egg at a time, mixing it all together. As you whisk add in the 100 ml warm milk and the dash of vanilla extract. Your cake batter is now ready.
- To make the bocadillo marble, you need to cut your bocadillo into small cubes and place it in a pan over a low heat, with 2 tbsp of water. As the bocadillo starts to melt down, stir it gently and add the rest of the water (and more if required). Take off the heat. You’re aiming for a liquid consistency you’re able to drizzle, but not something that’s overly runny.
- Quickly, as you don’t want the bocadillo to re-solidify, pour half the vanilla mix into the tin and then drizzle in half of the bocadillo mixture, swirling it around to create a marble pattern. Top with the rest of the vanilla mix and then repeat the bocadillo swirls on top.
- Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, and if top is overly browning, cover with foil. Cake is done when a a knife poked in comes out clean.
A very pretty cake and a bit more exciting than a Victoria Sponge. Give it a go!