Mmmm, that’s good!

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The large mahogany table in the kitchen groaned with bowls and baskets of fruit, some, like tomatoes, staples of our diets at home though different varieties that seemed to have more flavour.

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One of the joys of a large table is the amount of fruit you can load it with. It never lasted long.

We trawled market and supermarkets for salad ingredients and experimented with some fruit and vegetables we weren’t familiar with. Bananas were Madeiran, slightly smaller, firmer and less cloying than those we usually buy, but with a flavour that filled your mouth. We ate lots, and I demolished one for breakfast every morning whilst sitting outside in the sun.

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Bananas grow in all the coastal areas. In fact many families seem to have their own banana plantation – even if only a small patch in their terraced garden. They are seemingly easy to grow and are a ready source of income.

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These bananas were available in the market. Their peculiarly patterned skin covered a sweet squishy flesh.

Daughter and her family are vegans and their meals are gluten-free. They came across sweet potatoes which were white rather than the orange fleshed ones usual here, and enjoyed them, baked, as part of their meal one evening. The fact the sweet potatoes were white explained something about which I’d wondered since, on previous December holidays in Madeira, coming across numerous stalls cooking and selling Bolo do Caco, a traditional bread. To me it looks and tastes like the large soda scones my mother used to make on her cast iron girdle (or griddle as it’s referred to outwith Scotland). The Bolo do Caco however has yeast in it and some versions are made with sweet potato. It is served warm, split and slathered with garlic butter.

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One of many stalls selling Bolo do Caco.

We bought lots of them in the supermarkets, and found they made admirable sandwiches for the journey home when we missed out on dinner. Filled with salad and cheese they provided a meal that sustained us until we reached home.

Another new vegetable was one with a pale green skin, with deep folds, which when cut looked similar to a pear, but which had quite a crisp texture. Indeed vegetable pear is one of its many names, though more commonly referred to as Chayote. It’s a member of the gourd family, so related to melons, cucumbers and squashes. We ate it peeled and sliced into salads, but if we come across it again will be more adventurous in the way we use it. You can see it in the dish at the bottom right of the photo above of our fruit-laden kitchen table.

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Persimmons look something like tomatoes but with a different flavour.

The other surprise was persimmons (also known here as Sharon fruit as they come from Israel), which again go by a variety of names and come in astringent (bitter) and non-astringent (sweet) types. They look something like a large tomato, and indeed that’s what I used the ones we had as, being told to eat them when very red. Despite squishing to pulp when cut they did add an interesting flavour our salads. Perhaps these were an astringent variety. However, since coming home I’ve been able to buy persimmons in my local supermarket where they are called kaki which is the Oriental or Japanese persimmon. These we are eating before they become red, and have the most wonderful peach flavour. I don’t even need to peel them. Hopefully the supermarket will keep stocking them as they are a fruit well worth buying, adding a touch of the exotic to winter fare.

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And of course there were lots of grapes as well as mangos. These ones in the market were an array of jewel-like colours.

When in Rhodes in June we were surprised by how good and cheap lamb dishes were, despite the bareness of the hills. We were assured there were sheep – further south. In the Scottish Borders sheep are everywhere, yet lamb is hardly plentiful in shops and is expensive. So it didn’t really come as a surprise when we found steak in Madeira (an island of volcanic rock and steep narrow terraces totally unsuited to cattle) was much cheaper to buy than at home in Scotland, famed for its beef. And that was despite the very significant drop in the pound against the Euro before we travelled. So naturally we made the most of it.

When, many years ago, my grandparents were organising a large party for their golden wedding my mother asked my grandmother if everything was as she wanted it. She admitted to being disappointed by only one thing. Her wedding had been a small affair and she had always dreamed of having a two-tier cake. So my mother assured her that for her golden wedding she would ensure the cake had two tiers. Funny the dreams we sometimes harbour! I wasn’t worried about the number of tiers, I just wondered how I’d manage to organise a cake, not being an item I could easily pack in my suitcase with all the other clutter I was taking.

However my daughter came to the rescue. She and her family are vegans and eat only gluten free food, so I was intrigued as to what our cake might be like. On the day, I was banished to read in the sun whilst daughter’s family took over the kitchen. Late afternoon a snack appeared – freshly roasted chestnuts.

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Granddaughter Molly (six in a few more days) admitted she had been tasked with cutting a cross in the top of each but had found it too difficult so her dad had to help her.

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Chestnut stalls always seemed to have very large bags of supplies stacked beside them so presumably roast chestnuts are popular with the Madeirans, specially in the run-up to Christmas.

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Starter made by husband of roast pears and peppers (I did say we were experimenting). It proved a very successful combination. A flavoursome but not heavy starter.

Our lemon golden wedding cake was wonderful, sprinkled with gold edible glitter and topped with a heap of chocolate truffles. We demolished every last crumb, even though our main course of pork stuffed with cured ham and prunes had been filling (forgot a photograph of that, too).

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A golden cake for a golden occasion.

Our second celebration a few days later was Molly’s sixth birthday for which her mum and dad produced a rich chocolate cake sprinkled with dried rose petals and topped with chocolate covered dates stuffed with lemon filling.

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This is when Molly discovers the candles won’t blow out but keep relighting.

There are times when only one word is adequate. Mmmm!

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Says it all, really!

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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14 Responses to Mmmm, that’s good!

  1. Chris says:

    Those Ananaz bananas are intriguing. I’ve seen many varieties of bananas, but never these. The name seems apt, considering the texture of the skin and the fact that ananas is Portuguese (and French and German and… ) for pineapple. Persimmons are a favourite fruit, though I agree with you that the sweet ones (Fuyu) are tastier than the astringent Hachiyas. In Viet Nam, they are sliced and dried or candied whole for New Year’s.
    Molly’s cake sounds wonderful, and that look on her face is priceless.

    • The Ananaz bananas had a texture like very soft bananas but did have a flavour of pineapple. Somewhat strange. We didn’t see many of them so perhaps more a curiosity for visitors. Love to hear how persimmons are used in Viet Nam, Chris. Upstairs in the farmers market in Funchal there are stalls with dried and candied fruits. Some of them may well have been persimmons. On a previous visit husband bought some candied flowers, very sweet, but good for decorating sweets.

      I think Molly thought her efforts at candle blowing weren’t good enough, until it dawned on her that the candles were being extinguished but lighting again. Eventually her dad brought a glass of water and dunked them into it so we could all have our cake.

  2. russellbruce says:

    The table had quite a few bottles of wine at times too

  3. carol1945 says:

    I really enjoyed reading this food travelogue. I sometimes feel so narrow within my own world, and then to travel and find these unusual bananas and persimmons and sweet potatoes (white ones?) fills me with amazement. This morning, I have only travelled and seen these things through your eyes, dear Dorothy, but some day, I will see these things for myself.

  4. Thank you, Carol. I’m sure you have been many places I haven’t. I’ve never been to the States. Europe, on the other hand, is reasonable close, even from Scotland. Madeira and Rhodes are only about four hours flying time from Edinburgh but what a contrast. Scotland is Northern European, long days in summer, short in winter; summers usually warm but not hot, winters cold but not usually too severe as the Gulf Stream keeps the temperature higher than Scandinavia for instance. Madeira being a great volcanic rock in the midst of the Atlantic has a wonderful climate which is usually between 20 and thirty degrees C, in winter rarely dropping below 14. So for us a wonderful winter destination where the days are longer than here.

    Hope you manage to visit some of the places on your bucket list, and look forward to hearing about them.

  5. walter- says:

    An interesting post, the great variety of fruits, some that only saw in photos: kaki and ananaz banana. Although everything looks delicious.

  6. One of the great things about a self catering holiday is that you can visit markets and supermarkets, browse amongst the food, see what’s different from home and do a bit of experimenting. Such fun. It’s all part of the enjoyment of a holiday in a different country.

    • carol1945 says:

      One of my favorite things to do is shop for food in a different country. I did a house exchange with a family in the British Isles, and I still remember how much better the lettuce and strawberries tasted because they were locally grown. This was 25 years ago, now in the U.S., we can get locally grown produce at Farmers Markets.

      • Carol, I remember eating oranges in Cyprus that were picked straight from the tree for us. They tasted nothing like oranges at home – little bombs of delicious flavour and so juicy. The same no doubt applies to Madeiran bananas. Picked one day, bought the next, or maybe even the same day depending where they are bought. No lengthy journeys in a ship’s hold, storage in a warehouse, on to a retailer, before ending in your fruit bowl. Yes, freshness counts.

      • carol1945 says:

        This year, I went to Southern California with my daughter and grandchildren. Driving home on the long ride, we stopped at a cherry orchard. OH my, we ate cherries right off the tree, and they were just fantastic. Even the ones I brought home and ate the next day were just fantastic compared to any bought in the store.

  7. You’re making my mouth water, Carol and have me thinking summery thoughts. It’s dark here, fairly mild for the time of year but damp, dull and misty with storms, heavy rain and high winds forecast Ugh! Hope you have a merry, cherryful Christmas.

    • carol1945 says:

      It is gorgeous weather here in San Francisco, cold (42 degrees is cold for us) but bright. Luckily we had some rain. The lighted Christmas tree looks so bright on a gloomy day. Have a wonderful holiday.

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