Market photos courtesy of Stella Harpley
Cape Verde Self-Catering, Cape Verde Cuisine
Ideal for fish eaters and vegetarians
The cuisine in the Cape Verde is derived from Portuguese traditions and is also similar to Brazilian. It relies on an abundance of locally caught fish, and some locally grown vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peppers and salads. On Sal, tuna, wahoo and a variety of Atlantic fish are landed every day at the pier. Most are bought by big hotels, but if you arrive before mid-day and pay a bit more you can get what is going. The nursery just near Murdeira off the Espargos-Santa Maria highway will sell boxloads of fresh vegentables grown with minimal water in a hydraponics system. So self-catering is much cheaper than in Europe.
Rice is imported from the US and Portugal and frozen chicken from Brazil. Good frozen meat is available from South Africa courtesy of Delta Airlines flights . Very few cattle are kept on the islands although you will see a forlorn decapitated cow`s head on the open air market. Pigs, sheep, chicken and goats are produced on the islands with most vegetation and can be found on the others for sale - sometimes whole. Self-catering holidaymakers can ask for it to be cut up.
The national dish, cachupa derives, amazingly enough from an English recipe called ketchup. This must have been well before Mr Heinz degraded it and put it into a bottle. It consists of rice, tomatoes, beans and usually either small pieces of fish or chicken. It is good value at around £3 in local restaurants and can make a nice breakfast with a fried egg on top. In self-catering flats and villas, it is quite simple to cook from local ingredients.
The other main dish is white fish, cooked wih potatoes rice and carrots. Most Cape Verdean dishes feature both potatoes and rice. Beans - black, white, red or brown - are available in profusion, imported in bulk from Portugal. Most self-catering flats and villas have large freezers so you can buy fish for a week.
Wine too is mostly Portuguese but you can also find local wine from the volcano on Fogo, the most southerly vinyard in the Northern hemisphere. It is excellent but not as cheap as the Portuguese which can be £2/3 a bottle. Local rum or grogue is produced on Santa Antao and is well wotrth drinking at £4 per bottle or much less if you buy direct from a distiller - many of whom are bootleggers. For self-catering villas, drink can be delivered to the door at wholesale prices direct from the importer..
There is only one supermarket, as yet, a French discounter Leader Price in Praia. In other large towns such as Espargos, Mindelo or Sao Felipe there are self-service superettes. Elsewhere shops can be scarce and poorly stocked - particularly on the more remote islands as deliveries depend upon the erratic shipping service. You can buy fresh vegetables and fish from the islands either in shops or more cheaply in market stalls or direct from farmers and fishermen. For self-catering it is often best to take a taxi to go shopping as the shops where the locals sjhop are always cheaper than thiose in the tourist villages.
Fish can cost as little as 10p for a sardine on Sao Nicolau or £5 per kg for tuna at Palmeira. Meat, chicken and shellfish tend to be imported frozen and therefore more costly. Good Spanish ham is often available as well as locally made cheese, often from goat or sheep. Good local bread costs about 20p for a roll but the padarias are open at odd times and often out of stock. Simple spices and fresh chillies are available but if you want bacon or marmite you should take it with you.
B’stilal is a layered savoury pastry with a flaky, fillo dough, interleaved with meat and vegetables. The Cape Verde version is filled with a mix of corn, almonds, honey, and sometimes olives. IIt can also be made with spicy polenta - flavoured with garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, butter, and grated cheese The “salsa” atop is a mix of black and green olives, roasted almonds with mild paprika, onion, red bell peppers, and a splash of orange juice and rum, all topped with some freshly julienned basil.