Roman Catholics and Dominoes.

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As a child, Easter was a very important date in my Caribbean food diary.

Firstly, I would be on school break. Secondly, it was a time when my mum would make her Heavenly Easter Bun, and thirdly, my dad would have bought some new music which  he would then play – in true Jamaican DJ fashion – very, very loudly. So loud in fact, that the windows would vibrate and dance in time to the beat.

There would be friends round, and  dominos played with  gladitorial intent – my dad and his mates obsessively eyeing their ‘cards’ and then staring intently at each other as if to bore a hole through their opponants’ heads. They would consume large amounts of  bun and cheese together with  fish and bread, washed down with large doses of overproof rum – always with water added of course, no self respecting Caribbean food lover would drink overproof rum neat.

My siblings and I  loved it. We would charge up and down the stairs, chasing each other in whatever world we had just made up, shouting and making strange noises to suit. Occasionally, we would miss our footing and bounce down the stairs like loose bowling balls. This would inevitably drive my mum absolutely mad, so that she would subsequently ban us to the garden, or bedrooms depending on the weather.

Before all this frivolity and fun however, there was Good Friday. Always a solemn day.My mum being a Roman Catholic, meant that we would observe the Roman Catholic tradition of fasting until 12.00 noon and abstaining  from meat. We always had fish.

My  mum would always drag me unceremoniously along with her to the fishmongers one or two days before Good Friday.  After what seemed like hours of regally pointing, haughtily smelling, and tenaciously haggling, we would finally emerge, mum satisfied, me totally bored.

During our Fishmonger visit, Mum  would have picked up a couple of kilo of sprats which she would then deep fry .  They were gorgeous! I could never get enough of them!  I  would guzzle them down with some fragrant Hard dough Bread, layered with butter, and sweet fried onions, the juice would have drizzled down my face and covered my hands, but it was always worth it – My mum is a Caribbean food magician!  She would also perform magic  with our evening meal; serving ambrosial, spicy, red snapper with soft, waxy, green bananas, fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth yellow yams , and satisfyingly gelatinous boiled dumplings.

Perhaps you fancy a change from fried, baked, or poached fish. Why not try my Salt Cod Pate? Absolutely divine with fried plantains.

ANGELI’S  Caribbean Food SALT COD PATE


INGREDIENTS

250g Salt Cod – or any salted white fish

100ml Creme fraiche

2 tablespoons Mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Anchovy paste

1/2 oz chopped and de-seeded scotch bonnet pepper

1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

1 oz chopped coriander leaves

2 cloves of chopped garlic

METHOD

Soak the salted fish for aprox 3hrs, changing the water 3 or 4 times – this will wash out  most of the salt.  Next shred the fish.

Put all the ingredients into a food blender and blitz until fine.

Serve as an appetizer or a starter and enjoy!

Love, Laughter and Food for all

Angeli :)

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Caribbean food king? My dad – ‘Mr T’

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Mr T is in the house - May 2010 in Jamaica My dad recently passed away, he was a fiercely loyal, loving father with a strong family ethic.
I love my dad, and I miss him greatly, I am coming to terms with the fact that he has gone, and I can no longer talk to, or share a joke with him. As a family we are still in  the  grieving process and still trying to get our heads over what has just happened.
Last year he had been diagnosed with asbestos related cancer, and this weakened his immune system greatly. His passing was still a shock because he had been told that the  cancer was stable and was not moving, he had gone to Jamaica in the spring, and came back looking very healthy. However, events took a turn for the worse very quickly, it seemed that he had contracted a chest infection which was complicated by the cancer. One thing led to another and within a week of him being admitted to hospital, he had gone.

My dad grew up on a farm. There were goats, chickens, cows, coffee, chocolate, sugar cane ,star apples ….I could go on. He wasn’t a great caribbean food cook when we were little because my mum was so good, he couldn’t be bothered. Still she had to work, and they were a team so  he persevered, and actually became quite good.He always said that while growing up in Jamaica, when it came to food, he wanted for nothing, because they grew everything they needed to survive. Earlier in the year we were joking about Puri Dahl, which is one of his favourite caribbean food  snacks. I had made them for him but had made them just a bit too hard – the joke was how long it was taking him to eat and digest them.

I didn’t feel that I could carry this blog on , but now I think I owe it to my dad who together with my mum looked after us, and is there for us 1oo% .
Working with asbestos, was the ultimate death sentence as it takes 30-40 years to develop . We knew that he loved us and would have died for anyone of us. In the end he died for all of us thanks to the asbestos he had unwittingly inhaled all those years ago when I was little .

I love you dad.

Angeli xo

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Let me see you ‘stamp and go’

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Patois, or Caribbean Creole is a blend of different languages, each island in the Caribbean posessing it’s own dialect.

I grew up to the sound of Jamaican Patois. At times highly amusing, occasionally very frustrating,  but on the whole  extremely entertaining. Every now and then  I would have no idea what my parents were saying and would have to make an educated guess as to what they wanted me to do. If I were wrong it would be to my disadvantage because then  would come  “a wa mi jus seh?” (what did I say?)  or “Ow com you too ‘ard airse?” (why are you so wayward?).

I remember the first time I went to Jamaica -I was 10yrs old – the people were colourful, gregarious, and affable. However, I had no idea what anyone was saying so my mum had to act as translator.

My grandmother – sister sweetie as she was known, was lovely. She and my grandfather spoilt me rotton. She would say things like “a wat im waant fi eat?” , “ow im pretty soh”  and “leave im alone G”
My Grandfather, not  understanding anything I said, would dispassionately grunt a reply, stare at me uncomprehendingly, or get my mum to translate.
The Jamaican language  is heavily influenced by the West African  dialects brought in by the slaves, I’m no expert, but I do know that  African men and women can have the same name, because in Africa you give your child a name according to the meaning, not the gender. Perhaps that’s why I became a ‘he’ and a ‘him’.

Grandma was also a  wonderful cook when it came to Caribbean food – Her fish fritters were simply gorgeous!  The spicy, spongy interior was beautifully offset by the silky, soft-crisp exterior. They were so moreish that once I started eating them  I couldn’t stop.

Of course there was  a price to pay -  I always ate far too many.
Grandma would always laugh affectionately and one of her sayings was
“Now yu see, yu nyam far too much. Yu eyes far bigga dan yu Mout, yu gwine get bang belly.” (You’ve eaten too much and now you’re going to have a tummy ache).

The fish fritters were worth it though. I loved them :)

Fish fritters have different titles in different caribbean islands – for example  -  Accra(Trinidad),Bacalaitos(Antigua), Saltfish cake(Barbados), Stamp and go(Jamaica).

Why not try these at home, and create a bit of sunshine.

RECIPE

Angeli’s  Caribbean Food Fish Fritters –


150g (5.5 oz)  chopped salt fish (Remember to soak the fish overnight to remove the excess salt. You can then  taste the fish to see if it is at the right saltiness for you – I use the salted fish that has been filleted and de-boned)

250g (1/2 lb) plain flour
1 tablespoon chopped tomato
1 dessert spoon chopped scotch bonnet
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
1 egg
1 teas thyme leaves
Approx 500ml (1pt)  water
Oil
Large deep frying pan, or wok.

Heat oven to 220 degrees centigrade (428 fahrenheit)

Put the fish, flour, tomato, pepper, onion, and thyme leaves in a bowl and  mix together.

Add the water bit by bit until you have a  thick watery dough – you  may not have to use all the water.
Roughly beat the egg and add to the mixture
Now vigorously beat  everything  together with a  hand whisk to incorporate as much air as possible.
Put oil in pan and heat – you want it to be about 4cm (2inches) deep , you will know it is hot enough if you sprinkle a tiny bit of flour in and it sizzles.
Using a dessert spoon, drop in spoonfuls of the mix, and fry on both sides until golden brown.
Take them out and place in an ovenproof dish.
Once all are fried, put in  hot oven for aprox 8-10 mins.

Your fritters are now ready to serve.

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Caribbean Chocolate Tea – Liquid Heaven

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Rich, creamy and spicy. Caribbean Food Chocolate Tea. A Sunday morning treat.

My Dad grew up on a farm, and one of the things they grew was chocolate. His Grandfather planted the cocoa, and the family still harvest it today.

Dad said that when he was a little boy he used to help with the harvesting of the cocoa. One of his delights was to open some of the pods and drink the liquid surrounding the bean.
I was intrigued to find out if the liquid tasted of chocolate, but he said that it tasted syrup-py and sweet,and even though the adults had told him not to drink it, he loved it.

Anyhow, after the fruit ripens – it goes a bright yellow -  the beans are picked out and put into  a container  to ‘ferment’ for about a week. This helps the chocolate flavour and aroma to develop. It is then ‘parched’, meaning roasted. The beans are taken out and ground up, either in a grinder, or using a pestle and morter. The fat in the chocolate is released helping the   mixture  to becomes pliable like plasticine.

Vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg are the magical spices added to the mix which is then made into sausage shapes or small ball shapes. Finally, it is left out in the sun to dry after which it is then ready to use.

My dad reckons that if stored properly in airtight jars, the chocolate will last for years. I can indeed vouch for that because it is not something you could find here in the UK as I was growing up,  yet  I had it every Sunday as a drink.

RECIPE

Angeli’s Caribbean Food Chocolate drink.

To get an idea of  chocolate tea, try making the following drink.

1 or 2 teas very good quality 100% cocoa
Hot water
High quality vanilla essence
finely ground cinnamon
finely ground numeg
tiny pinch of salt.
milk either plain or sweetened (condensed milk) .
Sugar (if required)

In a large mug, place your cocoa and your hot water, add milk  as required.
Add sugar as required
Add a few drops of vanilla essence
Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg. about half of a 1/4 teaspoon.
Add a tiny pinch of salt.

Give everything a good stir, sit and enjoy with a slice of homemade bread and butter. Lovely!

Hope you enjoy my Caribbean Food chocolate tea.

Love, laughter, and food for all.

Angeli x :)

photo courtesy of  www.thechocolatechemist.co.uk

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Caribbean Pie In The Sky

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I love apples, baked, raw, fried, stewed, I could go on, but I think you see the picture.

My mum – caribbean food  home cook extraordinaire – makes a demon apple pie. With a ‘melt in your mouth’ short crust pastry case covering tangy, tart bramley apples which in turn are sweetened with cane sugar, and flavored with essential caribbean spices : cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

The synergy of pastry, apples, and sugar for me is perfect.The smell of the spices divine.  Inevitably I am always sent into a salivating frenzy, and once baked I can never get enough.

No matter where I go to eat, I avidly scan the menu to see if they serve apple pie for dessert. I’m disappointed every time.

Whenever I get the urge I have to make one.  Such a simple recipe, such a wonderful, satisfying taste.

On the 15th January 2010 I tweeted:

‘I have a taste for hot spicy apple crumble, but it must be homemade – so now to the kitchen…ciao everyone.’

One of the replies I received was from Dawn at  @Vanillakitchen
She said simply:

‘spicy apple crumble? you best share that one’

So here it is:

rockaberry2wt7

Recipe

My Caribbean Food Spicy Apple Crumble

For the filling:

1kg Peeled, and sliced cooking apples of your choice(I prefer Bramleys for that wonderful tartness)
60g Brown cane sugar
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
1 tsp Ginger

1 tbl spoon water
2 tbl spoons Ginger Wine (I prefer Stones Ginger Wine)

For the Crumble:

200g Plain Flour
50g Oats
80g Butter (make sure it is at room temperature)
100g Brown Cane  sugar

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade,(around 350 degrees Farenheit)

Method

Place the flour and oats in a large mixing bowl, then roughly chop and add the  butter.
Lightly rub the butter into the flour and oats using your fingertips.
When it has all been incorporated add the sugar and combine with the other ingredients again using your fingertips for best results.

Put aside.

Put the apples, wine, sugar and spices in a large enough pot and cook very gently on a low heat until the apples have cooked down and are soft and translucent.
Spoon the apple mixture into a pie dish.
Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly on top of the apple, lightly spreading it out with your fingers.
Cook for aprox 30mins or until the topping is golden brown.

Serve warm or cold, with cream, or ice cream.

My Caribbean Food Spicy Apple Crumble – Enjoy:)

Love, Laughter, and Food for All
Angeli x

(photo courtesy of Rockaberry)

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Donald – Where’s Yer Troozers?

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This Christmas I have fufilled another of my Caribbean Food culinary dreams  – to make traditional Caribbean sorrel drink the way my mother does. I succeeded.

Sorrel is red, related to the Hibiscus plant, and is used in Caribbean and Asian cooking. It has a sharp pungent taste and smell and is used fresh or dried.

The challenge – to make the traditional festive drink the way my mum does.

I’d watched her make it all thro’ my life – now it was my turn. Using dried Sorrel she had sequested away, I made it exactly to her recipe. First,  putting the dried sharp tasting flower heads into a stainless steel pot, then adding fresh caribbean ginger, ground pimento seeds, and a stick of spicy cinammon. Finally, I poured in some boiled water, and left the mixture to  steep overnight.

I  finished it off on Christmas Eve morning by adding  a thick sugar syrup to the rich, pungent, blood red solution. I then added fragrant lime juice, strained off the flower heads and  added a generous amount of Jamaican overproof rum. Almost a whole  bottle!

My dad had  informed me that back home in the Caribbean, he used to make sorrel juice without the alchohol, sugar and spices. He said it’s very nice, and extremely good for you.  I nodded sympathetically, he seemed to have forgotton that he had given me some as a child.
It tasted like stale, year-old, floor polish then. I’m still not a fan.

The Shrek decided that he would be the official taster, so just after brunch he started to glug in the most unseemly way. “Ooh that’s got a bit of kick” he exclaimed smacking his lips. “Not bad though” he grunted.

A couple of hours later he came back again, and asked me if I had any more of ‘that juice drink’. He took a whole glass of it and disappeared.

The next thing I heard was the ‘quaint’ skirl of Scottish bagpipes in the distance – oh no, he had put his music on.  A few minutes later I heard him bellowing like a foghorn singing one of his traditional Scottish ‘ballads’.

Next thing I know, one of the neighbours began knocking on the door and had come round, concerned at the noise, to see if everything was okay. I had to explain that the noise she could hear was my husband ‘singing’..

A whole bottle  and a half later, he was spinning wildly, arms and legs flaying out at all angles, bellowing, whooping, and yodelling all over the house. “Have you got any more of that sorrel stuff, he growled.
I had managed to produce three wine bottles worth of my mix and half of it was now in his considerable gut!

By now The Shrek was jumping, twirling and roaring at the top of his voice. ‘Donald where’s yer troozers’ he ‘sang’ scooping up our amused daughter, pirouetting her around as if she was a rag doll.  Delightedly She  squealed and giggled, like a wild hyena and when he finally put her down, they were jumping and screeching together, totally out of time to the music.

Around 9pm, he collapsed in an unseemly heap and didn’t wake up again until 11.00am Christmas day. What a hunk!

Of course, the big test for my Caribbean Food Christmas drink, was  my mum and dad. When we finally arrived at their house 3hrs late for our festivities The Shrek was strangely quiet.

I ceremoniously poured some Sorrel for them  into a glass, and they took a sip.  ‘Hmm’ exclaimed my mum in surprise, “that’s lovely!” That was it. To have my mum’s  culinary approval is like gaining a michelin star.

My dad  agreed “very nice – It’s very strong – how much rum did you put in it?” “Oh just enough to give a kick” I replied. “The Shrek really enjoyed it.”

Try my recipe for yourselves my friends. Happy new year!                  Layout1_1_P4VBBSorrelA2AM

ANGELI’S TRADITIONAL  FESTIVE  SORREL JUICE

1.5kg Fresh sorrel petals or  200g dried sorrel
Fresh root ginger  which when chopped weighs approx 100g
3 litres Boiling water
300g Demerara  or raw cane sugar
2 limes
75g Finely chopped Pimento seeds (Allspice)
50g Finely grated cinnamon
200ml Caribbean Overproof rum – or a very good quality dark rum
100ml  Good quality Ginger wine

If you are using dried sorrel it is always a good idea to empty the contents into a dish and sort out the flower heads so that any stones and unwanted gritty bits don’t find there way into your mix.

Put the flower petals all the spices  and all the sugar in a pan – I prefer a steel one.
Pour  in the boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Cover with a well fitting lid or foil and set aside for at least 8hrs.
When the mixture is cold, you are able to add the rum and the ginger wine. Strain and bottle, Now  enjoy.

Love, laughter and food for all
Angeli :)

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Caribbean Food: Why You Must Eat Your Dad’s Trees

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Caribbean food cinnamon. Pale, dusky brown, with a seductive spicy aroma and a sweet woody taste.

Its soft fragrance fills your nostrils caressing your throat with it’s complex ambrosial flavour. Next to nutmeg, this is probably the most frequently utilised caribbean food spice of my cooking-crazed family. Used in cakes, drinks, and savoury dishes, cinnamon evokes in me strong emotional memories of warmth, safety and celebration.

On my dad’s farm in Jamaica, he had a couple of ever-green cinnamon trees. He said they were ancient, almost antique. I remember, he didn’t touch the outer bark as this might cause the tree to become infected which would make it rot, even die! Instead, he only ever used the inner-bark. As it dries out, the sides of the bark curl inwards and are called ‘quills’. This is what you buy in your supermarket.

I remember, my first encounter with caribbean food cinnamon was as a four year old child. It was winter, dark and cold outside and I stumbled downstairs tousled and sleepy-eyed to watch my dad light the fire in the kitchen. Once it was crackling, hissing and spitting, he went to get ready for work. I sat close to the fire feeling safe and warm, watching the fire dance and skip, impatiently awaiting my breakfast.

After my mum had made my dad’s lunch, she began the preparations for our breakfast. Velvety cornmeal porridge with soft, fluffy, fried dumplings, or freshly baked bread and butter, was a favourite in the winter months. My dad claimed it would make our brains grow. The scoundrel could get away with such claims – I was only young and my dad was the font of all knowledge.

As my mum began cooking the porridge, I watched every movement avidly, eagerly anticipating the flavours filling my mouth. She took out an enormous pot and an old wooden spoon, followed by all the ingredients, and lay them down on our scuffed-up old wooden table.

She measured out a tiny handful of golden cornmeal into the pot. Then, filled the pot with what seemed like an ocean of water and placed it onto our beaten-up old stove. When she lit it, it made a loud whooshing noise and then hissed like a witch all the way through the cooking process. Mum began to stir the porridge and then added the magic ingredient – cinnamon. She stirred for what seemed like hours and went into a trance! Mum had a habit of thinking out loud whilst cooking; to a four year old she was chanting a magic spell.

I watched this spell-making in quiet fascination as the ‘brew’ transformed from an odourless, grey, watery mass into a majestic golden elixir. The smell of cinnamon in the porridge was divine. I devoured it.

Hallelujah for Caribbean Food.

Pic by oiseauxbleu

Pic by oiseauxbleu

CORNMEAL PORRIDGE
50g (2oz)  Cornmeal (I prefer coarse)
1/2 teaspoon  vanilla essence
approx 1 teaspoon of  finely grated cinnamon.
300ml (1/3 qt) water.
100ml (4fl oz) skimmed milk
Brown demerra sugar to taste

Small wooden spoon
small/medium pot

Put Cornmeal, milk and Water into a medium sized pot.
Place on cooker on a low heat and begin to stir.
After 5 minutes, add the cinnamon. Keep stirring.
After another 5 minutes, add the vanilla. Keep stirring.
Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent lumps.

Your porridge is now ready for eating. Pour into a bowl, add sugar to taste.

Love, laughter and food for all!

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Caribbean Food: Ackee & Saltfish, Orgasms & Oil Lamps

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Ackee and Saltfish is delicious. Seriously delicious.

It has a light, meltingly-soft texture, an exquisite subtle taste, and is perfect to accompany more robust, strong, flavours. That is, as long as you get the balance right otherwise you can overpower and lose it. I find that the drier you cook it, within reason, the better it tastes. Nowadays it’s available, canned, in many supermarkets around the world.

But, fresh ackee is orgasmic!

My Grandma Liz lived in the hills of Jamaica. Hers was a little house with a verandah situated on a big hill with sheer drops on three sides; you could sit and admire spectacular views. Her yard was full of chickens bullying the cockeral who, in turn, harassed Bingo the guard dog.

The heavy heat in those hills, the animal noises, the smells and the tastes are forever ingrained deeply into my senses. So deep that i’m sure i’ve passed them onto my daughter in her DNA!

She had no electricity and used oil lamps. Liz even used an old victorian iron to press out clothes. Her ‘kitchen’ was a revelation. There was no oven; she cooked by wood fire but it produced the most exquisite food. I remember particularly her cocoa tea, split-pea puri and, of course, roti and curry . In addition, she grew all manner of exotica – breadfruit, jackfruit, cacao, and ackee to name a few.

As a girl I remember tasting, for the first time, her fresh ackee cooked with spices and saltfish. I nearly fainted with pleasure.

I wish I could take you to those hills and the waves of heat and smells. I can’t but I can give you a little taster, by having you try her traditional recipe for ackee and saltfish:

ackeebokeh5

Picture of Ackee by Chris Gordon

1 x 500g (1lb) tin of ackee
200g (6oz) dried salt cod
approx. 2tbs (30ml) sunflower cooking oil
2 medium onions (I prefer Shallots – nice flavour)
1 clove garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1teas dried thyme
2 medium tomatoes
1/4 red scotch bonnet pepper
some crushed black peppercorns
In a jug pour 160ml ,6fl oz water
1tbs (15ml) malt or cider vinegar
pinch of salt

Half fill a large pot – approx. 25cm (10″) width – with water, add all of the vinegar and bring to the boil. Add fish. Boil for approx. 45 minutes changing the water half way through this process in order to remove as much excess salt as possible.

Drain and place in cold water to cool down. Remove bones and skin of the fish breaking it down into small pieces or flakes. Then set aside.

Slice the onions into small, thin, pieces. Crush, peel and slice the garlic clove. Wash and chop tomatoes. Cut the pepper into tiny strips. Set aside.

Carefully empty ackee into a large sieve, pour just boiled water over the ackee, gently giving it a shake as you don’t want it to disintigrate too much, place ackee into a  deep dish sprinkle with a pinch of salt and add  freshly boiled water. Set aside.

Over a med hot flame heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onion. Once softened, add the thyme and lower to a med flame, add the tomatoes, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper, cook for approx. a minute.

Add the fish and 1/2 the water in the jug (approx. 80ml, 3fl oz).Cook down further for approx. 2-3mins,

Lower heat further, drain off ackee and gently add to the pan. Fold ackee into mixture adding the rest of water in the jug ,and heat through for aprox 4 mins.

Finally sprinkle some freshly crushed black peppercorns on top (to taste)  and your dish is ready, it will serve 2 as a main course, or 4 as a starter.

At some point in the future i will make a video of this so you can see how i do it. I will also blog, sometime in the future, on what you can eat with ackee and saltfish. What to drink with it. And, also, different versions of this dish, using alternative ingredients.

My friends, that’s it. My first ever blog. If you like it please tell others about it. I’m new at this and it is only thro’ meeting some wonderful people on the internet asking me to write a blog that I decided to do so.

Love, Laughter & Food

Angeli (*_*)

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