Breakfast was usually a grab and go routine for me as a young fella on the islands during the week, as I went to school in the city and it meant leaving our sleepy village very early in the morning. I had to take a 2nd taxi (shared) when I got into San Fernando (2nd largest city in Trinidad) to make it in time for the first bell. So weekends was when mom would go all out with whatever we wanted for breakfast. Now this sort of breakfast was never included as I only developed a liking for many of the ingredients you'll see me use, during my travels across the Caribbean as an adult.
Tehya and I had the pleasure of being hosted by the City and Mayor of Seoul Korea a couple years ago and it was one of the most amazing culinary and cultural experiences we've ever had. You know a trip is starting off on a good note, when on your 14hr flight your first meal comes with a tube of peppersauce (Gochujang)! A rich, deep pepper paste with a hint of fermentation, balanced by the gentle heat of the peppers and an undertone of soy (sauce). This recipe is in memory of the beautiful people f Korea and the way the City of Seoul catered to our many senses and opened the door for my awareness of the rich culinary culture of Asia.
One of the things I looked forward too the entire trip to Jamaica was the FISH. From the jerk, to them being steamed with okra and crackers to my favorite... escovitch! Red Snapper (or Parrot fish) seasoned, perfectly fried, then topped with the spicy pickled dressing known as escovitch sauce. For most the thin slices of Scotch Bonnet were to be avoided, but they were like little prizes between the sweet peppers, scallions, onions and other ingredients in the vinegar based sauce. Any trip to the Caribbean is more than just a homecoming, it's a culinary extravaganza for me and Jamaica did not disappoint!
Rundown is yet another stew type dish where there are several variations as you make your way across the Caribbean. From the ingredients used to the technique, you'll find that as you go from island to island, you'll encounter subtle (delicious) differences. This recipe was shared with me many moons ago when I first came to Canada and I became friends with the only other Caribbean family who lived the the same apartment building we called home the early years in Hamilton. My friend's Jamaican grandmother was a general in the kitchen and from time to time she would share some of her secrets with me... she saw the curiosity in my eyes!
There are several variations to fish soups as you make your way up and down the island chain of the Caribbean, so there's no surprise that I have several recipes in my repertoire. This version is very similar to the fish broff (broth) you'd find in Trinidad and Tobago, which I shared a few years back. Fairly light when compared to the thick stew-like soups we enjoy in the Caribbean, but you can certainly add yams, green cooking bananas, sweet potatoes, dasheen and other ingredients if you like.
At a recent dinner party I was challenged by friends to come up with a firecracker shrimp recipe, but with a Caribbean twist. Being that "challenge" is my second name.. I'm very competitive, a few days later I was in the kitchen loaded with ingredients to take that firecracker shrimp we enjoyed to a whole new level. They were good, but missing were a herbal note and true Caribbean sunshine (heat). Don't call something 'firecracker' when there's no actual heat but the sort of vinegar based hot sauce they market in North America. According to a pardna.."dem thing juss sour!.. no real heat".
When you grow up in the 'country' areas on the islands, you're sure to have a kitchen garden where most of the vegetables, herbs and peppers you use in in the kitchen, comes directly from. My brother and I were gardeners from a very young age (not by choice.. especially when we wanted to run football and not tend to plants). Looking back, it seems we always had some sort of beans planted in that small plot of land at the back of our home. Maybe this is where my love for beans of all types originated? In this recipe we'll use two of my favorite ingredients, string beans and shrimp along with that lovely curry base, this will definitely be delightful.
Immediately after posting the Island Style Chicken Strips Recipe, I started receiving requests for a fish version. A fish nugget recipe which will help encourage kids and picky eaters to give fish a try. When I hear people talk about hating fish and their only experience are those frozen fish sticks heated in an oven or microwave, I'm discouraged as I know that is not a good measuring-stick for fried fish. To achieve what I believe are the ultimate fish sticks or nuggets, we'll start off with a wonderful Caribbean herb marinade, then dip the seasoned pieces of fish in a modified tempura batter, before frying them until they are golden brown.
Island life is closely connected to the ocean as well as the land on so many levels. Like the fresh herbs,vegetables and fruits we're blessed with, the Caribbean Sea is packed with some the most delicious fish and seafood known to man. However when it comes to Salmon, it was more of a Good Friday dish and usually the salmon came in the form of a can (or "tin salmon" as it's known). But if you've ever had stewed or curry salmon (yes the same stuff from the can) done the Caribbean way.. lets just say you'll be amazed! Living in North America means fresh salmon is readily available in most supermarkets, so this is one of my go-to recipes when Tehya (shes the only one who really deals with the fish and seafood) and I get a hankering for baked salmon.
This being the holiday season I thought I'd take a classic recipe for making saltfish buljol and put a little festive spin on it, to serve at your holiday party or to take with you as you visit family this holiday season. We'll follow the same basic rules of making traditional saltfish buljol (basically a fish salad) and add a few other ingredients to help balance and brighten up the overall flavors of this classic dish. You'll notice that I did post this under the gluten free recipe section, but do keep in mind hat you'll need a gluten free bread or cracker to serve these on, to meet with your complete gluten free dietary needs.