When at home, the kitchen is where most people start every day properly. First priority is generally to switch on the coffee machine then think about breakfast and greet the family with chats about the day ahead. Wouldn’t it be nice to start each day in a cozy kitchen even when traveling? Most hotels don’t welcome kitchen visitors. But at Rancho Las Cascadas, guests are always invited into the heart of our home.
Kenya and Juanita arrive to the kitchen first at seven o’clock. Their main priority is to start making the coffee – a Mexican brew typical of cooler and rural parts of the country called cafe de olla. It is made from a series of comfort ingredients including coffee, cinnamon, aniseed and piloncillo. (Piloncillo is the rich, slightly citrussy, unrefined sugar made after sugar cane juice is boiled to form a crystalline solid and pressed into a cone shape.) All of these ingredients are cooked up in an earthenware pot to give the cafe a musky aroma and a wake-up call guaranteed to get your heart racing!
With that essential task complete, the more prosaic staples of the breakfast table get underway; sweet refreshing oranges need squeezing; golden eggs are prepared; rich dark standard coffee begins brewing; ripe fragrant fruit is sliced and arranged in jeweled array. Crunchy cereals are added as well as bread ready to toast or buttery croissants to smother with something jammy or marmaladey. All in all, the start of the day happens in style. Before guests have even finished with breakfast, the next meal is being planned and prepped.
Menus are normally the result of collaboration between the experts, Uschi and Valentine. Uschi is the owner and visionary who first thought up the concept of Rancho Las Cascadas. She brings her formidable international experience and knowledge of worldwide tastes and palates. Valentine has equally formidable talents and has been in charge of the kitchen for the last eight years.
The staff makes two to four visits to the market every week. This means the fruit and vegetables are tasty, fresh, and a good value; perfect for showing off the culinary delights of a well-run kitchen. Vale and Uschi take the best of the in-season produce and formulate their delicious, nutritious and pleasing menus accordingly. Vale tries to come up with a new dish at least once a week. Recently a piña colada mousse underwent a zealous taste test…yummm!
As the weather is normally kind, lunch takes place outside. A dining table sits under a majestic oak tree situated between the infinity swimming pool and barbecue area. The tree provides shade during the hottest months and it is an idyllic spot to take the midday meal. Almost as if planned when the weather is cooler, the leaves fall from the oak and allow most of the sun’s warmth onto the table.
At two in the afternoon, Mayte and Estella join Kenya and Juanita on the catering front. The early pair stay until five whilst Mayte and Estella carry on until ten in the evening, thus ensuring maximum coverage during the busy afternoon and evening period. Like the early morning coffee, afternoon cake is a priority for Mayte. Baked fresh every day, all of the guests look forward to it. Mexican corn cake is a favorite that is featured regularly and appears when most guests are thinking of a cheeky sundowner cocktail. It’s a perfect accompaniment. Taking a seat around the swimming pool with cake and cocktail during the fiery finale to the day is a special way to prepare for dinner!
Dinner is a four-course luxury served with red or white wine and a side of new friends. Evening dining isn’t like eating at a restaurant; it is treated as a family affair. Everyone sits together and eats together. Conversations cover some amazing topics. Surely all of the world’s problems have been solved several times over to the accompaniment of sumptuous soup, succulent steak and delightful desserts.
For those who are homesick for this home away from home (or for those who have yet to visit), a recipe for Mexican corn cake will remind or prepare you for afternoon sundowners at the Rancho.
PAN DE ELOTE (Corn Cake)
1 can of sweet corn (about 420g)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cooking oil
Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly.
Prepare a cake tray (about 25cm diameter) by rubbnig in butter and sprinkling flour to prevent sticking.
Pour the mixture into the cake tray and bake for approx.40 mins on 260°
When ready, allow to cool and serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar for decoration