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“Flavors of Belize,” McNab Publishing Ltd., 144 pages. $39.95, www.flavorsofbelize.com.
McNab Publishing

Mayan meal

Cook up party for end of calendar with traditional dishes

McNab Publishing photos
Grouper in Banana Leaf with Mango Pico De Gallo
Puerco Pibil

Doomsday it is not.

Dec. 21, 2012, which marks the end of the Mayan calendar, has been ominously called the end of the world. Conspiracy theorists, authors and a popular John Cusak movie have all dramatized what will happen when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m.

But Tanya McNab isn’t worried. It’s just the end. The end of a very long cycle, she says.

“Nobody feels that it will be the end,” says the cookbook publisher and resident of Belize. “It’s the start of one cycle, not the end of the world. … The festivities that are happening in Belize are celebrating things that are coming.”

Parties and events will take place all over the small Central American country, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of Maya. Belizeans will be drawing on that culture and history during the festivities – from activities down to the menu.

Traditional Maya dishes such as corn-based tamales, fish baked in banana leaves and chocolate treats are sure to be served.

“They called (the cacao bean) the food of the gods,” says McNab, who recently published “Flavors of Belize” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012) – a collaboration of recipes from Belizeans and professionally trained chefs.

You might not be ringing in Dec. 21 with McNab ala New Year’s Eve at the Mayan ruin Caracol, but you can still host your own “It’s not really the end of the world” party, complete with a festive menu of dishes that stay true to Mayan traditions.

kdupps@jg.net

Kack’ick Soup

The name means: Spicy Red Soup and is translated from the queck’chi Mayan language.

4 pounds chicken, cut into serving sizes

2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled, diced

6 to 8 cloves garlic, divided

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided

6 medium tomatoes, deseeded

4 medium green bell peppers, deseeded

1 teaspoon dried chilies, to taste

1 tablespoon red recado (see recipe below)

1 cube chicken bouillon, optional

Spicy red chili powder, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced, for garnish

1 ripe avocado, diced, for garnish

Place chicken, salt to taste, ginger root, 3 cloves garlic and 1/4 cup cilantro in a large pot with enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer until chicken is cooked. Grill the remaining garlic, tomatoes and green peppers. Soak the dried chilies in broth until tender. Purée all grilled vegetables, red recado, the remaining cilantro and the soaked chilies. Sieve the purée and pour into the broth; add chicken bouillon, spicy red chili powder, black pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with coconut white rice and garnish with cilantro and avocado.

– “Flavors of Belize,” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012)

Red recado paste

5 tablespoons annatto seeds (also called roucou or achiote)

6 to 7 allspice seeds

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

1/4 cup sour orange

1/4 cup vinegar

Grind annatto seeds, allspice seeds and whole cloves to a powder. Combine annatto powder with sour orange and vinegar and process to a paste. May add more sour orange and vinegar if necessary to achieve a thick paste. Store in refrigerator.

– “Flavors of Belize,” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012)

Grouper in Banana Leaf

4 grouper filets, 8-ounces each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons butter, melted

4 large banana leaves, smoked

Season fish with salt, pepper and garlic. Drizzle with melted butter. Wrap fish in smoked plantain or banana leaves, folding the edges like a gift. Steam the fish in a shallow pan with fish stock or bake in oven until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 12 minutes.

Mango Pico De Gallo:

1 cup ripe mango, diced

1 cup tomato, deseeded, diced

1 cup onion, diced, rinsed with cold water

2 limes, juiced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Habañero pepper, deseeded, minced, optional

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the mango, tomato and onion in a bowl. Add lime juice, cilantro, habañero pepper and seasonings. Mix well.

Serve the fish on the aromatic banana leaf slightly opened revealing the white flaky grouper filet. Spoon mango pico de gallo on top. Makes 4 servings.

– “Flavors of Belize,” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012)

Puerco Pibil

Cochinita (small pig) pibil (to bury) literally translates to “buried whole suckling pig.” Traditionally, you should marinate the pork in the same manner but cook the whole pig wrapped in banana leaves underground with fire wood and hot stones for hours until tender.

5 pound pork shoulder or pork leg, bone in

1 head garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons red recado, diluted to form paste

1/2 cup sour orange juice

2 medium onions, quartered

2 medium green bell peppers, quartered

1/4 cup minced cilantro

Smoked banana leaves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pierce pork with knife and insert garlic cloves all around. Mix all dry ingredients; combine with recado, diluted in orange juice, and coat pork. Marinate overnight. Place pork in large roasting pan lined with banana leaves. Add onion, sweet pepper and place cilantro on top. Pour remaining marinade liquid and add more water to pan to about 1 inch high. Cover with banana leaves and seal tightly with foil. Bake for 5 hours or until meat is very tender and starts to release from the bone. Shred pork and serve on warm corn tortillas topped with pickled red onions or habañero salsa.

Can also be cooked in a slow cooker, on low, for 12 hours, or on high for 6 hours. Makes 8 servings.

– “Flavors of Belize,” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012)

Maya Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour and line with parchment paper. Combine buttermilk, oil, vanilla and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time, mixing with water as needed. Mix until well blended. Pour batter evenly into the two baking pans. Bake 40 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, loosen sides, then cool to room temperature and remove from pan.

– “Flavors of Belize,” (McNab Publishing Ltd., 2012)

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