As I promised, we are getting to explore a lot of Africa in the “C’s”. Our next adventure is in Cape Verde. Cape Verde is a group of islands off the coast of Western Africa.
Total land mass is about the size of Rhode Island! Speaking of Rhode Island, I’m lucky enough to know several Cape Verdeans, as Massachusetts and Rhode Island are popular places for expatriated Cape Verdeans.
Which brings me to another interesting factoid (these are compiled from a number of sources but all verified by CIA World Factbook – if the CIA says it’s true, it must be, right?) – there are more Cape Verdeans living abroad than currently live in Cape Verde! True story. Current population in the islands is around 500,000. The Cape Verde islands were original uninhabited until the Portuguese came across them and decided to settle in. Because most of the Portuguese didn’t bring their wives, but did bring their female slaves, the population of Cape Verde is primarily mixed race about half African and half European.
Cape Verde has suffered from many severe droughts, and with land that is limited and not suited to growing much, this drove a lot of the locals to leave. Currently the biggest industry is tourism, from the pictures it looks like a lovely place to vacation. Although the droughts made life difficult in Cape Verde, they do have a relatively stable government and have managed to avoid the violence and deep poverty that many of the other countries we’ll be talking about soon have endured.
Tiny country, small population, do they really have a cuisine that is distinctive? Fortunately for me (and for you), they have Cachupa, the unofficial national dish. Like so many national dishes, there are as many recipes for Cachupa as there are Cape Verdeans. The basics are hominy, beans and meat. I deconstructed a bit and added my own touches and made a burger topping that has the sweetness of corn balanced with beautiful ripe tomatoes and smoky bacon. I used pork for the meat because pigs are great animals to raise on small amounts of land, then I added in a little Portuguese sausage to spice up the dish and add even more smokiness. I couldn’t decide what to do for the starch so I whipped up a polenta and grilled it, I bought some Portuguese dinner rolls and I purchased a store made corn bread – we tried all three and, believe it or not, the corn bread won over the fancier options. It was a slightly sweet cornbread and it really brought out the sweetness in the hominy and balanced the smokiness of the meat. It was also easy to make (open container and slice to burger bun size)
The dish was slightly spicy because of the sausage, so if you want to avoid spice, just cut down on the sausage or leave it out entirely. We tried a Portuguese wine with this burger, but I really can’t recommend it – I think a Pinot Noir or a light Chianti would be best, although beer would also work well.
Cape Verdean Burger
¼ pound linguica sausage
¾ pound ground pork
2 teaspoons peanut oil
Remove the casing from the sausage and pulse in a food processor just until sausage is texture of ground meat. Combine the sausage and the pork and form into 4 patties. In a non-stick skillet, heat peanut oil and cook patties until just done. Remove burgers from pan. Slice corn bread into 4 squares about ½ inch thick. Grill lightly in pan until just warmed. Serve the corn bread with burger patties and a generous helping of Cachupa.
In a medium sauté pan, brown bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Add onion and garlic, sauté until onion is translucent. Add hominy and salt, cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach