We rose naturally with the sun. Not rushed, or hurried, but that luxurious rarity of  “because it felt right”. We dressed and packed our souvenirs before heading down to find something to eat. We seated ourselves in the cheerful courtyard, not far from the shining turquoise pool shimmering in the sunlight bringing up memories of last night’s swim alcohol fueled skinny dip. A small Indian woman brought us water and coffee while we waited for breakfast to materialize. The table was festively decorated with a tiny red pepper plant.
    When breakfast arrived it was a wonderful departure from strictly local Nicaraguan food. It was a unique twist that could only happen there- Indian with a Nica flare. A sort of egg crepe layered on top of a kind of a cross between a poppadom and a naan bread sprinkled with little aromatic black seeds, garnished with tiny red Nicaraguan peppers that were almost sweet. Of course, this was also served with yet another version of Nicaraguan table Salsa.

The owner of the hotel greeted us cheerfully and thanked us for staying, and even said hello to Mister Pants. He explained that he had recently opened the hotel. He was having trouble importing all the spices he needs for traditional Indian cuisine, so he’s been forced to improvise with local ingredients. He went on to describe his creative vision for the space, complete with real rose petals carpeting the ground. It sounded magical, and I hope to visit again when he gets it up to his high standards. But as it currently sits, I believe it’s the only place in the world that I know of where Indian and Nicaraguan fusion is happening in the kitchen.

    After we all polished off our plates we made our back to the truck and started to slowly take the reverse journey back to Playa Gigante. As it was still early there wasn’t much traffic. Except for one busy road which seemed to swell with locals running around busy with the details of their lives. It was exciting to see so much life that wasn’t on the show for tourist. At one point on this busy street, we were stuck behind this taxi who had stopped to speak with a potential fair. We saw the driver and customer nod in agreement and then the customer waved to unseen people waiting on the sidewalk. Seriously 15 people, probably the entire extended family of the guy negotiating the ride, piled on in. We watched in awe as young and old alike seemed to confidently approach like Harry Potter to platform 9 3/4. Traffic on both sides of the street stopped while this miracle of transportation happened before our eyes.
That’s something I’ll always remember about Nicaragua. I was constantly both fascinated and enthralled with small wonders like this. Seeing people gracefully confront what we pampered Americans might see as a challenge- to safely transport more than a dozen family members- in a way that was both nonchalant and got the job done was inspiring and entertaining. Sure, on the one hand, you could focus on the poverty and the lack of having a better situation to get around in. Instead, I respect the ability for a family to make the best of a situation for everyone involved, without any obvious squabbling or bickering. My family can barely get along during holiday dinner. Everyone was in there together. I’m still curious about where they were going all together that day.
        After the entire extended family made it into the magic taxi they melted into traffic and we continued to make our way out of Granada. As per usual, we stopped plenty along the way. Our first stop was at what I can only describe as the Nicaraguan GoodWill or thrift store, only it had pretty intense security. They wanted to collect our purses and hold them while we shopped. Neither Eve or I felt comfortable handing over our purses ( mine had my passport inside as well). So, we lingered outside while A.D shopped through what seemed like the rejects from American GoodWill for a gem or two for the house. There was also a food truck selling fried plantain chips which we noshed on while we waited.
      After the thrift store, we headed back to Catarina to pick up some plants. A good amount of time was spent picking out plant babies to bring back to Casa Victoria. Each of the roadside stands seemed to have their own very special, almost symbiotic niche. One place had beautiful handmade pots at jaw-droppingly low prices. I couldn’t help but sit there and try to rationalize a good way to get some back to the states, unfortunately, I only had one suitcase that was already full- but I made a mental note. Next to the pot place was a plant place- see symbiotic. Plants go in the pots, and everyone has something unique and beautiful and makes some money.
     After loading up with all kinds of beautiful plants and wandering around in what felt like a magic jungle we headed towards the Catarina high street to search for furniture. One place specializing in bamboo was spotted and we went to investigate. My friends didn’t see what they were looking for outside, but we were beckoned inside the home of this family of craftsmen to look at the furniture they had inside- that they used every day. Again I was in awe of the welcoming and warmth of the people. While my friends looked at furniture I noticed a little boy sprawled out on the floor playing with his pet parrot while watching cartoons. The grandmother plucked the squawking parrot up and placed it on Eve’s shoulder to our delight. They made a deal to have some really wonderful bamboo furniture made, and it seemed the parrot was the icing on the cake.

By the time we made it home we were all hot and exhausted and needed bask in the sacred flow of the air conditioner. Eve somehow had the energy to make Gallo Pinto for dinner, and I was never so grateful for beans and rice.
bowl.jpgCurry Recipe
In honor of our earnest Indian hotelier’s incredible breakfast- which I dare not attempt to recreate lest I ruin it and the memory of it; I offer a curry recipe. Curry started out in India much like our host, but curry wasn’t always hot. Peppers are from South and Central America and so eventually the peppers made their way into the curry dishes of India that we know and love today. This recipe is inspired by that original fusion of cultures, that blends so beautifully together. We’ll be serving the curry with a Candied Coconut Quinoa, that is great by itself but since it also originates in South America let’s try it along with the curry instead of the traditional east indian rice.

Candied Coconut Quinoa
1 cup red organic quinoa
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup filtered water
pinch of pink Himalayan salt

Rinse quinoa under cool water.  Throw in a medium sauce pan to toast over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add 1/2 can of coconut cream 1/2 cup coconut Milk and 1/2 cup filtered water. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or so and wait until the first wiff of something burning. The first time I did this I thought I ruined the quinoa- but actually, I just happened upon something unexpected. The resulting quinoa will be crunchy, sweet, and flavorful.  The sugars in the coconut cream tend to caramelize into something akin to molasses. I like to season it with a pinch of pink Himalayan salt. This is delicious by itself but we’re making this to go with our curry instead of the more traditional rice since quinoa comes from South America.  So let’s get to it!

candied quinoa.jpg

Set aside and focus on your curry. Once the quinoa is sorted it can keep for a few days if needed.

Curry Recipe

2 table spoons coconut oil
1 table spoons coconut cream
4 cloves of garlic ( grate these)
3 tablespoons ( grate this too)
1 tablespoon fresh ground cumin
2 teaspoons fresh ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric ( turmeric is the essential spice in curry )
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 can watercress
1 sweet potato
1 small broccoli crown
1/2 small white onion
1.5 cups of coconut milk ( more to taste if you want more sauce )
Snow pea slivers and mint to garnish


Curry is all about the spice mix. Grate your garlic and fresh ginger. Set aside while you measure out your spice mix. Drain and rinse chick peas set aside. Cube sweet potato. Chop broccoli into florets.

Make your spice blend
Grate your garlic and ginger fresh. If you have whole seed spices grind a fresh batch.

Heat oil until sizzling. Turn heat down to low when you add in your garlic and ginger spices. Add onion. It will be pretty dry at this point- that’s ok. It acts to toast the spices. Add your broccoli until it turns bright green. Add sweet potatoes.

after it’s cooked a wee bit ( the broc should be bright green) add your coconut milk
and 1 table spoon coconut cream. Mix and simmer for about 5 minutes. After that’s cooked a bit add your water cress and your chick peas. simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve over quinoa and garnish with snow pea slivers and a mint sprig on top.

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