You’ve probably heard of Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, a national holiday celebrating departed friends and family – but did you know that it’s also celebrated all over Latin America?
Here in Ecuador, families celebrate Día de los Difuntos every year on the 2nd of November by visiting the graves of their loved ones. They also make a traditional drink called colada morada which is usually served with gua-guas (from the Kichwa word for ‘child’) – a light, puffy bread in the form of a baby.
The term colada refers to any drink made by steeping, boiling and blending the main ingredients. The most common variety uses oats; in fact, it’s such a popular drink that it’s colloquially known as just ‘Quaker‘.
However, this particular variety takes several hours and a huge amount of cutting, boiling and blending to prepare properly, and is only ever served around Día de los Difuntos. I prefer it piping hot, but some people like it tepid or even ice cold.
The base flavours come from a mix of cloves, sweet peppercorns, mortiño (the blueberry’s South American cousin), cinnamon, pineapple (flesh, core and even the skin), and monte – a collection of aromatic leaves and branches that you can see in the picture above.
These ingredients are boiled for a couple of hours in a huge saucepan full of water, until the water starts to take on the colour of the herbs and spices. At this point, it smells a lot like mulled wine, and your whole family will start coming into the kitchen, asking what you’re cooking and how much longer until it’s ready!
The top notes of the flavour come from juiced blackberry and naranjilla – the fruit of the deadly nightshade plant, with orange skin and a green, fleshy inside, only found in Ecuador and Colombia.
In a separate saucepan, harina morada (purple flour made from fermented corn) is mixed with water and heated gently until the mixture is warm and smooth. Then the branches, leaves and whole spices are strained out of the big saucepan, and the purple flour mixture is stirred in.
It takes another couple hours of boiling and a healthy dose of panela (sugar cane) before the drink is at its warm, spicy, aromatic best and finally ready to consume. Enjoy!
This recipe was kindly passed on to me by my lovely friend Christian of Mapasingue, Guayaquil.