East Timor or Timor-Leste is in South East Asia, located approximately 640 km northwest of Darwin, Australia. It was a Portuguese colony until 1975, when it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It gained independence in 1999 and became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century. Despite internal tensions and rebel attacks in 2006 and 2008, the UN peacekeeping mission departed in 2012 and the government are intent on sustaining peace and stability.
East Timor’s highest point is Tatamailau at 9,721ft. Much of the country is mountainous and the Paitchau Mountain Range is located in East Timor’s first national park – the Nino Konis Santana National Park, named after a former commander of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN).
After petroleum, the second largest export is coffee, which generates about $10 million a year. Starbucks is a major purchaser of East Timorese coffee. The agriculture sector employs 80% of the active population, with 67,000 households growing coffee and 11,000 growing mungbeans. According to a 2010 census, only 38.2% of households have electricity.
Relatively unexplored, East Timor offers a wealth of natural wonders for the adventurous visitor – don’t expect five star resorts or even decent roads! However what you can find are white sand beaches, mist shrouded mountains and historical landmarks.
The cuisine of East Timor has influences from Portugal and Southeast Asia. Staple foods include pork, fish, sweet potato, taro, cassava, rice and tropical fruit. A few dishes I came across were Batar Da’an (corn stew), Pepes Ikan (steamed fish in spices), K’u Yuk (steamed meat) and Tapai (fermented rice). I wasn’t overly taken by those options, so opted for a dessert (not my strong point I’ll hasten to add) – Pudim de Coco (Coconut Pudding). It was a disaster! The cream didn’t set and the caramel stuck to the bottom of the dish with all it’s might. All I can say is that desserts continue to elude me.
Serves: 6 (arguably nobody if it’s inedible!)
Cook time: 30 minutes + 3 hours cooling time
1 can of coconut milk
1 can of milk (use the can from the coconut milk to measure the milk)
3 cups caster sugar
3 tbsp of cornflour
3 tbsp of coconut flakes
Heat 1 cup of sugar, slowly, in a heavy skillet until sugar melts
When the sugar turns a caramel colour, remove it from the heat and pour it into 6 ramekins and set aside
Put all the remaining ingredients in a pan and mix well
Let the mixture cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring it constantly until the mixture loosens from the bottom of the pan and it is thick like cream
Pour the cream in to each ramekin on top of the caramel and allow them to cool for 10 minutes
Put the ramekins in the fridge for a few hours
Once chilled place each ramekin upside down on to a plate (Good luck with this! We ended up trying to scrape the hardened caramel with teaspoons very little joy!)