Here's another dish I enjoy making when we have leftover jerk chicken (something not too common in this house). From the flavors of the residual jerk marinade on the chicken to texture of the slightly cooked vegetables, this is an ideal one-pot dish. As I've mentioned in the past, after slavery was abolished on the islands, many indentured laborers from China and India were brought in to facilitate the shortage of labor. So you'll find that our culinary culture reflect this infusion of Asian flavors and techniques in cooking. This dish is the perfect example of how the Caribbean and Asia comes together for something absolutely mouthwatering.
I still recall mom always asking me to go get a piece of fever grass (lemon grass) from the old wash-tub she converted into a gardening pot, where we had a huge patch of lemon grass growing for as long as I could remember. In the dry season they would dry-down with a mound of dirt where the roots were , but with the first drizzle of the rainy season they would be back with vigorous life. It was my job whenever someone had the onset of a fever (high temperature) to go harvest the 'fever grass' so mom could make a pot of tea. Yes, lemongrass tea is used as a remedy for fevers in most of the Caribbean... and it works.
That bone chilling cold is back and with a vengeance. Over the Christmas holidays it was relatively mild by Canadian standards, but this morning the mercury dropped to -28 C (-18.4 F). Like a true son of the Caribbean soil, I'm battling back with a hearty beef with sweet potato and pumpkin soup to warm up the mind, soul and body! We'll start off by roasting the pieces of beef (with bones) in the oven, something which is not traditional in Caribbean soup making, but that roasted flavor will elevate this soup to a HIGHER level! Then we go in with pieces of pumpkin and sweet potato, followed by fresh herbs and other flavor ingredients.
Most people who are new to Caribbean cuisine at one point or the other, always end up trying to make Jamaican style rice and peas (peas and rice?). Sadly if you're not seasoned at making rice and peas, it can be a bit challenging. You always risk ending up with rice which is overcooked and soggy. With this in mind, I decided to share a fool-proof way of cooking Jamaican rice and peas, with the same flavors and texture you'd get from the conventional method of cooking this dish. However we'll employ the use of a rice cooker!
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.
When you hear a Guyanese person speak about Christmas the conversation always heads in the direction of Pepperpot. You have to love the passionate manner in which my fellow Caribbean people speak about this lovely meat stew most Guyanese serve on Christmas morning with a thick slice of their traditional plait bread. The tender pieces of meat falling of the bones and the rich gravy.... oh that rich gravy! You'd rip a piece of the bread and dunk in into that lovely gravy, spiced with cinnamon, herbs and cassareep (a thick molasses like reduction made from cassava). Other that what goes into making the pepperpot, patience is key... low and slow and you'll be rewarded.
Bring drinks! The holiday season in the Caribbean is all about music, food, family and drinks. Not in that order but you get the picture - fun and merriment! As a kid I looked forward to a chilled glass of sorrel, made from the fresh harvested petals of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant which we usually had planted in our kitchen garden. Living in North America means that sourcing fresh sorrel is almost impossible and when you can, it's insanely expensive. However we're very lucky in Southern Ontario to have well stocked stores with the dried sorrel petals. Personally I much prefer using the dried stuff now.
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.
I was recently challenged to put together a coconut rice recipe, however the recipe must be foolproof. According to the person who emailed me, they have a difficult time cooking rice as it usually ends up a messy mush in the pot or under-cooked. They were looking for perfectly cooked coconut rice, grainy in texture and rich in Caribbean coconut flavors. Being a rice dish I thought it would be a good time to also have it appeal to vegetarians and friends on a gluten free diet at the same time.
This recipe takes me back to my childhood days when my brother and I would go scavenging for conch (small and large black snails) in the rivers and ravines surrounding our small village. So to be clear, these are not the ocean conch that's turned into salads, soups and stews, especially in the Bahamas. It was like a treasure hunt for us, looking between roots, rocks and all the debris in the water to find these. Good Times!