It's kinda funny that in the Caribbean we quickly reach of a can of sardines more often than taking advantage of the abundance of fresh sardines from the Caribbean sea. It's probably a convenience thing, plus if you ever had to clean sardines you'd know that it's a bit time consuming (and smelly). Admittedly I'm a HUGE fan of tin sardines.. done with thinly sliced onion, tomato and scotch bonnet peppers.. with a bit of freshly ground black pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
Doh try that! I can hear my Caribbean people screaming "that is not we kinda soup"! As we've discussed in the past, soups on the islands are tick, heavy and generally full of body (like what most non-Caribbean consider to be hearty stews). But let me assume you that this soup is quite filling and very comforting. You'll notice that the ingredients are what we use daily throughout the Caribbean and yuh know we love ah coconut milk! Tip: If you roast the vegetables on a grill or open fire, you'll get a lovely overall flavor.
One of the most popular recipes I've shared to date is a version of the chicken strips mom would make for us as kids, but I was asked recently via FaceBook if there was a gluten free version I had, that I'd be willing to share. With the Super Bowl just days away, I though it would be a great time to share this recipe as it's a great party food idea. This coconut chicken tenders recipe is not only gluten free, super simple to make and quite tasty, it works well for people who are not fans of shrimp (similar to coconut shrimp).
I may have mentioned before that while growing up on the islands mom never made any sort of curry dishes with pork, so I credit my aunt Victoria (I speak about her in my book) for passing the basics of this recipe on to me, when I lived with her during my early years in Canada. Her version included a bit more cooking (I like my beans with a slight crunch) and a little heavier on the curry, so this version of curry pork with green beans is personalized to my liking.
Here's another one of those spicy condiments I grew up enjoying with many of the street food sold outside the gates of my secondary school in San Fernando, Trinidad at recess and lunch time. Usually used a a dipping sauce for Pholourie and Saheena... and as a topping for doubles and aloo pies. But I think we most enjoyed it on it's own as a thick savory sauce when our taste buds craved something exciting (especially when we didn't have enough money for the pholourie). You'll find that I did stray a bit from the traditional type recipes, however you'll enjoy the subtle complex flavors.
One of the things my parents instilled in us from an early age, was to NEVER waste food, so growing up you'd always find containers (usually old margarine containers) with leftover food in the fridge. I love rice (brown parboiled) in just about any way it can be cooked, so having leftover rice in the fridge is like seeing the pieces of puzzle waiting to be put together. Said puzzle does not have an after picture to follow, so it's rare that my final fried rice is ever the same. This time I'm using some fresh Jamaican callaloo (called chorai bhagi or spinach in the rest of the Caribbean) from my garden.
If you grew up on the islands you'd have at least one experience with cheese paste sandwiches... the go-to snack at many kids birthday parties. A zesty cheese spread made with grated cheddar, spiced with mustard and usually done in different colors so you get that sort of rainbow effect when you look at a cross-section of a sandwich. This recipe is the gown-up version of said cheese paste as we'll add some fresh vegetables to the mix and instead or grated cheese, we'll employ the use of cream cheese.
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.
When some of your youngest fans get their mom to contact you "mom can you contact Chris to see if he can do a Caribbean taco recipe for us?" you know you have to jump into action. So the first thing I cranked out was the topping for said taco. During the summer months this also works as a great topping for grilled burgers and hot dogs. And when those cold wintry weekends kicks in and I want to brighten up my mood... I put a side of this with my eggs at breakfast! Versatile indeed!
Understandably we don't automatically associate chili with the Caribbean when we envision the meals being prepared in homes across the islands. However, times are indeed changing and we're experimenting with different recipes, ingredients and flavors. Just take a peek at the many international restaurants you'll find in any capital city of any island in the Caribbean and you'll see that our dining habits are changing. Some may argue that it's a bad thing as our culinary culture is quickly losing out to these outside influences. Topic for another day!