Doce de Papaya
Growing up in the oral culture of the Cape Verde Islands, recipes were never written. Recipes were translated orally, learned through observation and absorbed through the senses. Much of the very same way I cook today and before I transfer recipes stored in my cellular memory onto paper. This recipe honors the women that came before me, who lived both the art and science of intuitive and vibrational cooking.
As the contemplative practice that cooking is and in alignment with our food philosophy, I moved beyond space and time to reach deeply, into my ancestral DNA to access the food memories of my experience with the decant doce de papaya to recreate this recipe using ingredients that are true to the Cape Verde culture, as well as the American, being a product of the two. The only major change in the traditional recipe is the choice of sweetener. Typically doce de papaya is made with cane sugar, which is then turned into a simple syrup by adding water. For this recipe, I opted for agave instead of simple syrup. If you want to go traditional, it’s as simple as replacing the ½ cup of agave with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. I’ve also innovated the recipe by adding ¼ whole nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract, both of which are optional, but definitely adds more depth of flavor.
Doce de papaya was not an everyday desert. Traditionally, sweets were not a part of every meal, as a dessert after a meal was optional, given the circumstances. Traditionally, sweets like doce de papaya were enjoyed during times we collectively gathered to rejoice or mourn. Like in many other cultures, sweets were/are for celebrations, like family parties, and during the passing of a family or community member, which were and are also food ritual centered.
Even though coconuts are native to the islands, as are papayas, doce de papaya is not traditionally eaten with coconut, but it can be, as it adds a level of depth and texture that compliments cooked fruit quite well. Now on to the recipe…
Recipe for Doce de Papaya
- 1 small papaya
- ½ cup agave (or simple syrup: 1 cup of raw cane sugar and ½ cup of water)
- ½ cup water (if using agave)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- ¼ whole nutmeg (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- Cut papaya in half, deseed and peel
- Thinly slice or cube papaya
- In a medium sauce pan, add agave and water (or sugar and water for simple syrup)
- Add papaya, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and lemon zest
- Simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes
- Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl or container.
- Let cool and set in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours for later use.
Recipe for crème de coco (coconut cream)
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 4 tablespoons of agave
- 1 tablespoon of agar-agar
- ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- In a small mixing bowl, add coconut cream, agave, vanilla extract and agar-agar and whisk.
- Place in refrigerator for a few hours to set.
- Remove papaya from fridge; serve in a small bowl with a dollop of coconut cream or by layering the fruit with the cream in between (optional).