Cookery & Recipes

The most striking finding with regard to the diet of the population of Cape Verde at the dawn of Cape Verdean history is that two distinct diets were maintained for a long time, not so much because of the obvious dual origin of the people (European/African), but because of the deep-seated conviction at the time that Europeans would not resist the African diet, as Africans would not with the Mediterranean diet.

While Europeans anchored themselves persistently in the trio of bread/wine/oil regularly arriving from Portugal and Spain, Africans fed on maize and rice, loaded with slaves, in the monthly consignment of supplies along the riversides of the continent.

Of course, these diets were not only the anchor foods, as they were completed with abundant production of cattle (cow and goat), vegetables and fruits, produced in great abundance on the udder banks of the Ribeira Grande, in addition to the dried fruits, cheese and honey arrived along with wheat, wine and olive oil from the Portuguese metropolis.

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As with the language of communication, and although the food was abundant and quite varied in the first centuries of the formation of the Cape Verdean people, it was the blacks who had to adapt more to changes, not so much because they lacked food, but because the cultural aspect of their gastronomy was changed. In fact, in the societies of origin, the populations of West Africa fed frequently (6 times a day), and in small quantities each time, and varied the intake of a whole range of foods according to the circumstances they lived, from family or community events to stages of personal life, such as deaths, births, local festivals, entry into puberty or the occurrence of menstruation, etc. There was a ritual aspect to food that was either lost or changed to different customs, originating in the kingdom of Portugal, which quickly shaped the food wheel of the entire population of Cape Verde.

Even due to the demands of profitability of slave labour, the cadence of meals rose to 3 or even two a day, and there was no concern to meet the eating habits of Africans in its most ritual aspect, which would have required a set of condiments to be carried from the Rivers of Guinea that in Cape Verde, only with the establishment of new agricultural crops in part.

However, it is important to note that, despite this important change in pace and feeding regime, it seems to have always been abundant in the period of settlement of the original wave of the Cape Verdean people in Ribeira Grande, a phase in which it seems that the biblical expression that characterized Palestine as the “land where milk and honey flowed” can be applied.

It is known that such abundance would not last through the centuries, from the very beginning when the population began to spread to the islands of Santiago and Fogo, and the fugitives found themselves in the contingency of having to assault the organized populations in villages or the very city of Ribeira Grande to survive.

Later, with the attacks of the corsairs on the city, it was the city itself that experienced a time of famine, unable to defend itself and its assets.

And the great famines, at the rate of one or two per century, that decimated the population, and made that inaugural period of abundance a memory many times more distant, until the middle of the twentieth century, with the organization of public assistance services, and soon after with independence, with the establishment of an economic and social organization attentive to the citizens of all islands.

Meanwhile, and even so, the passage of the centuries has enriched the gastronomy of the Cape Verdeans, who have benefited from various and successive capital gains brought both from the East and from Brazil, with the numerous ships that docked at Ribeira Grande, and has gradually made the Cape Verdean diet richer and more sophisticated, especially with the inclusion of various spices, the influence of varied Chinese and Indian cuisine, which generated marinated dishes and mixing herbs with legumes, meat, crustaceans, fish and other condiments, on a table that today is rich, something varied and always tasty, finished with sweets, fruit, liquor and tea or coffee.

Countless dishes, almost always delicious, resulted from the Creole culinary tradition developed over 500 years. In this presentation of Cape Verdean gastronomy, only a brief description of some of them can be found, but it is worth the reader’s while to look for the numerous recipes published in various published culinary works.

This homemade culinary tradition has been slowly transposing itself to restaurants, especially in hotels, as Cape Verde becomes a country increasingly visited both by tourists and by people in increasingly diverse businesses and events, and also by the Cape Verdeans’ progressive awareness of their cultural values, one of which lies precisely in the richness of their gastronomy. As you can see below, there is no lack of potential in restaurants, increasingly numerous on the islands of Cape Verde, to offer dishes of great quality and culinary refinement.

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Cape Verde offers a wide selection of seafood. In Cape Verdean cuisine it is possible to taste different dishes of seafood, fish and seafood such as lobster, crab, octopus, tuna, sawfish, without forgetting the famous conch. The basis of Cape Verdean cuisine is corn, prepared in different ways, usually accompanied by pork, beans, manioc and sweet potatoes. The most appreciated and the best-known dish is Cachupa, a national dish and emblematic of Cape Verde. You can’t forget corn starch, cuscus and corn pastel either. Cape Verde also provides a homemade scented liqueur known as Pontche and the Grogue. Below, you will find recipes and specialities from some islands.

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