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