But the majority of our meals here are vegetable and carb-based, and we eat fish three or four times a week. (Generally grouper and shark.) This is a longish explanation for why we weren't tucking into a traditional fiambre on Monday.
For most of last week we were finishing off our curtido, and just happened to pass the Carnicería San Jose opposite the AECID, where the pint-sized proprietor has been treating V to his doting eye for almost thirty years.
We wandered in and later emerged with several chunks of carne de res, which we duly fried with yaki-nori (strangely less expensive in London than in Tokyo), which I suppose serves to lull us into thinking we're not really eating red meat after all.
The butcher on the sexta avenida also sells some rather excellent slabs of high cacao-content drinking chocolate from Mixco, and insists that it is superior to the San Juan del Obispo product, "que solo tiene el nombre."
Monday is also the day that Don A comes round with our weekly ration of tiburón. I used to wonder just how fresh it was, because he appears to have walked for miles with it in his woven sack unrefrigerated, and anyway back in Britain Monday isn't considered the ideal day for going to the fishmonger. Fortunately we now have an professional fisherman from Tampa in the neighbourhood and his expert nose has declared Don A's shark pretty fresh by any standards: "two days since the catch, at most".
V's sister immediately offered up some recipe advice and appeared a little put out when we explained that we like our shark to be fried in olve oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs. There would seem to be a belief in these parts that pescado looks its best covered in breadcrumbs, but generally we only do this with very thin cuts of fish where the migajado helps prevent disintegration.
Another dangerous culinary fallacy cropped up recently on Secretos de Cocina, quite possibly the most cringeworthy cooking programme on the planet. Jorge 'Coque' Calderón is undoubtedly a proper professional chef (and a significant improvment on the mudo he replaced on this show), but his hands are completely tied by the need to prepare every dish with a major dollop of some glutinous processed salsa from Hellman's, Malher or Natura's. His less than impressive assistant had our eyebrows in an elevated position this week, when she turned on a tap before announcing "Hay que lavar bien los champiñones..."
Here's a really big secreto de cocina: don't ever wash mushrooms*. If they must be cleaned, put them in a bowl with some flour and shake vigorously, gently rubbing down any that have managed to remain soiled. Cover them in water and you might as well be eating the rubber soles of your shoes...just soggier and with less flavour.
A few days ago V caught sight of the pic I used for my guest post on AntiguaDailyPhoto.com back in August 2009: the ejotes envueltos, a dish we have somehow neglected to prepare again since then. And so, armed with our new electric whisk, we had another bash at it one lunchtime last week, this time with added spaghetti.
The white queso seco, tipo Zacapa — much favoured by Antigua's street vendors — is an acceptable analogue of Italian parmesan. Being European I tend to take my coagulated milk protein seriously, but I've learned the hard way in Guatemala that authentic local queso is generally cheaper and tastier than anything one finds taking the name of a foreign regional cheese in vain: parmesan, peccorino etc.
That said, we do like to intercept the yoghurt van that delivers once a week at Doña I's shop, because its occupant sells us 2.5lb bags of 'mozzarella' (marca Lactosa) for just Q55. This ability to snag wholesale prices from parked vehicles is just one of the advantages of living in close proximity to a well-stocked local tienda. I've mentioned before that Doña I is also prepared to act as a kind of remote agent by shopping in the market for certain foodstuffs on her client's behalf.
* That is if you can find any champiñones around here that don't cost more than cocaine.