Félix Monteiro, an eminent Cape Verdean ethnologist has observed that grinding cornmeal with a mortar and pestle is a simple household chore that can become spectacular when accompanied by rhythmic work songs. Women sing these songs particularly when preparing cornmeal for such occasions as the celebration in honor of Saint Sebastian and Saint John as well as for wedding feasts.

Normally, an older woman distributes the kernels of corn to the individual mortars. This matriarch then leads the women in song as they wield their pestles while others clap hands or play tambourines. At each mortar there are 3 women or girls who pound the corn to the beat of the tambourines. For every 3 hits of the pestle, there is a beat of the tambourine, accompanied by the hand clapping.

When the last of the cornmeal is retrieved from the mortars, the ceremony comes to an end.


4 cups corn

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

¼ cup whipped cream


Place corn in a food processor and buzz off and on for about 30 seconds or until the kernels are broken to almost a purée. Bring 8 cups water to a boil with the salt and bay leaf. Add corn, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until mixture is thick (about 20 minutes). When ready to serve, remove bay leaf and fold in the whipped cream.

Cook’s Notes: On the island of Santiago coconut milk is used instead of water. The cream used is called Manteiga da Terra, literally meaning “Butter from the Land”. It is made from goat’s milk cream that has been allowed to ferment, which gives it a unique smell. Some cooks even add sausages, pork, barnacles, or hot peppers to the corn.


Makes about 6 cups.


country : Cape Verde

course : vegetable dish


source : Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters / Cherie Y. Hamilton


Kaapverdië Home