Dinner is a slowly evolving single pot meal. It began as rice and lentils. Originally red lentils. The red lentils would cook down enough that they dissolved into a pot of rice creating a nice thick meal. This soon grew old. We started adding bouillon for a little more flavor. Beef or chicken. Whatever we had. This too, soon grew old.
We moved on to concentrated mole flavoring and eventually found tomato sauce. The tomato really adds a lot of flavor and umami to the dish. Our “Mother” dish.
Red lentils were replaced by standard green lentils. Not by choice but because they are all we can find south of the border. They don’t cook up as well as the red, adding a little crunch to dinner. They are, however, cheap and nutritious.
Variations on the mother dish are numerous. In Mexico and Guatemala we bought tortillas, cheese, avocado, and onion. The mother was used as a warm filling in the tortilla while the other ingredients were diced and put on top. For a special treat, one can warm the corn tortillas on top of the pot while the mother is cooking.
Additional variations include cracking two eggs into the mother when it is half cooked. Oil, if you have some, adds richness to the dish. Soy sauce can create a nice contrast to the rich tomato. Salsa can replace the tomato sauce in the Mother to make Mother Casera.
When really lucky, a nice host will provide the weary cyclist with fresh greens from the garden. Add carrots, broccoli, and onion to the Mother while cooking. Drop in two eggs half way through and stuff the pot with swiss chard. Force the lid on and let everything steam together. This is high dining.
Tomato sauce has all but disappeared in South America and has been replaced by Salsa de Tomate. Don’t be confused, it’s just Ketchup. It’s also terribly sweet and doesn’t work in dinner. We have tried. The Ecuadorian Mother has become pasta (cooks faster at altitude) and cream sauces. Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Corn being two staples. Toss in fresh or dried veggies when available.
Clean the pot by adding two cups water and any available tea. Jamaica was widely available in Mexico. Horchata is the tea of choice in Ecuador. Heat to a boil, swirl to clean, and enjoy.