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Adventure and Epicure

Local Dishes
My Recipes from Belize

by Luke Shullenberger

Spinach Linguine with Garlic-Chile-Rum Cream Sauce

When shopping in Chetumal Mexico prior to heading out for Belize, I found some good cheap ($0.80) imported pasta. It was the spirally kind of fresh-then dried linquine and not really packable but for one night’s meal out of two weeks, I say dare to be decadent. My birthday was coming up any way.

We actually mistook the date and ended up dining on a tiny dot of sand called Rendezvous Caye the day after my birthday, but the flavor and the sentiment was right on. Under one of the dozen coconut palms, I whipped up a sauce of sautéed garlic and onions with a dash of chile paste and rum, boiled the pasta in ½ sea water and then tossed the linguine in the frying pan with the sauce and a few heaping tablespoons of milk powder. The powder thickened everything giving it viscous, parmesan cheese consistency and it was better than any pasta I’ve had in a restaurant in a long time.

Preparation:

-mince fresh garlic (always a must when camping) into pan, dice 3 tablespoons of onion. Add couple teaspoons of olive oil and sauté on low heat until caramelized.

-Add dashes of chile paste and rum, a sprinkle of chicken bullion.

-Mix in cooked pasta, a few tablespoons of milk powder and a little water and stir over low heat.

Serve warm.


Coconut Chile Rice

When camping in the Caribbean, an easy and excellent accompaniment to grilled fish.

*Caution: you have to climb the tree to get the coconut

**Flesh from coconut can be smoothed onto abrasions and cuts sustained while climbing.

Essential Ingredients: fresh coconut juice, fresh garlic, chile paste (chipotle adobado etc.)

Preparation:

Before boiling rice, sauté garlic and chile in 2 tsp. olive oil. Instead of water, boil rice in proper proportions in coconut juice. Add chicken bullion to rice during cooking for saltiness/or substitute a little sea water for coconut juice.


Coco-Chile-Ginger-Lime Chutney on Grilled Grouper

Jean-Philippe called this one truly inspired and it was one of the best camp dishes I’ve ever prepared. It’s hard to claim much credit however, considering the amazing ingredients. Cuisine is only as good as the raw materials.

This day JP speared a 12 inch grouper and "to keep up with the Joneses" so to speak, I was under pressure to concoct something to match its glory. I sautéed the ingredients and spooned the caramelized sauce over the fish that had been grilled over coals from coconut palm fronds and old husks. The smoke imparted a musky sweetness to the flesh and the sauce was spicy, tangy, sweet and salty all in one package.

Preparation:

Sauté the diced flesh of a young coconut with two large cloves of garlic, ¾ tsp. of fresh minced ginger, zest from half a lime, 1 tsp. of chile paste and a tsp. of chicken bullion. Low heat is the key, sauté until caramelized. Add a dash of rum and lime juice and sprinkle of sugar and spoon over freshly grilled grouper.

Wrap it up in tortillas and stuff your face.

*Juices running down your chin may find their way into cuts and abrasions sustained when climbing the coconut tree. NO WORRIES! It stings but the fat and chiles (natural disinfectant and blood clotter) help with healing.


Ultimate "Out on the Cayes" Conch Ceviche

I know that I promised you the best Ceviche in Baja recipe ages ago, but honestly, in Baja I just didn’t find anything that was worth raving about. Not to toot my own horn, but the stuff that I made occasionally was better than most that I ate. I think that the secret is making it fresh to order. Few establishments in Mexico do that, rather they make up a bucket of it the night before and ladle it out the next day. You lose all the crispness from the veggies and it just doesn’t give you that tantalizing variety of textures that it should have. However. . .

I found it in Belize! Just over the border from the Yucatan city of Chetumal into Belize, lies the town of Corozal. It’s a very slow town with not much happening these days, and is nothing if not rustic. But there are some nice folks who know how to cook. And for the BEST CONCH CEVICHE in Belize go to Nestor’s.

Most restaurants all over the country claim to have the best ceviche, it’s far from the truth. When they bring you out a platter with a mix mash of whatever veggies fell off the cart that morning (sometimes carrots, jicama. . .in ceviche?) I don’t know how they can even say that with a straight face. It’s all about the right ingredients and making it fresh.

The Nestor’s recipe comes to fruition just after you order it. It is young tender conch cut into cubes, mixed with chunks of tomato and cucumber with diced green pepper and onions, a pinch of fresh minced garlic, a heaping handful of chopped fresh cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Served with tortilla chips just out of the fryer and habanero salsa, you need nothing but a local Belikin beer and a nice view to have it all.

Ceviche for Two

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups cubed conch steak (substitute fresh scallops)
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1/2 of a large cucumber
  • 1/2 of a green pepper
  • 1/3 of a large yellow or white onion
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • large handful of fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1-2 limes depending on size
  • salt and pepper

*optional: a tablespoon or two of minced fresh chile (jalapeno, cerrano, etc.)

Preparation:

The conch should be done first. Cube it into quarter inch or smaller chunks place in a bowl and squeeze the lime juice over it. It’s the acidity of the juice that cures the meat, so it needs a little time to work.

The veggies: I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that exact ratios and measurements have no place in my kitchen. Don’t worry about the size of the tomato or the other veggies, use your judgement and make it to your taste. Texture is important, so the operative word here is "chop", not mince or dice. Chop the tomato and cucumber into quarter inch chunks. The onion and green pepper are firmer vegetables and should be cut significantly smaller, dice them. Mince the garlic, and roughly chop the cilantro. Mix all into a bowl with the conch and lime, salt and pepper to taste and serve with warm tortilla chips (out of the bag if you don’t want to fry your own) and tabasco or habanero sauce.


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