Archive for February, 2013

trini choka & sada roti

thcpimentogarlicfimg

Ok, so I’ve been blogging for a bit now and haven’t really showcased any authentic Trini food yet so I thought when better to start than right now?!

My husband is at home these days and that makes me extremely happy!  He loves Indian food (here in Trinidad we have our own brand of Indian food- West Indian- many dishes are derivatives of East Indian dishes brought here by the indentured East Indians and are still vastly popular today.  I can’t say that I know the exact history behind sada roti and choka, but I can certainly use my imagination to come up with a story.

thcdough

Sada roti is very similar to naan if you’ve ever had it.  The difference really is that sada is made in such a way that it ends up being a sort of ‘pocket’, similar to a pita pocket.  I suppose it was made that way in the past so that people could enjoy it as a sandwich, stuffed with a variety of fillings.  Today throughout Trinidad, it serves as a filling breakfast or lunch and is eaten every morning by many West Indians.
Here in Trinidad, when someone claims to be proficient at making sada the first question out of the listener’s mouth is “your sada does swell?” It’s sort of an enigmatic quality for those of us ‘occasional sada makers’.  Getting your sada to swell on the tawah (baking stone) is an accomplishment many fail to achieve- no matter how many years they are attempting! Impressively, my sada did in fact, swell!

thctawah sada on tawah thcsadaswells thcsadarotidetail

Choka is a term used to describe any vegetable that is prepared in a particular way- usually with heated oil, onions, garlic and a variety of spices.  Traditionally, vegetables like okro (okra), karili(bitter gourd), aloo (potato), tomatoes, bhigan/melongene(eggplant) and bodi(Chinese long beans) are used, but many others like saime, green figs and edoes are also very common.  It really depends on what you like and what you have! They are all prepared by either first roasting or sautéing the vegetable and then adding heated oil with garlic/onion.  There are many ways to prepare choka and I would gladly debate that there isn’t just one definitive method. Today I prepared ‘fry aloo and salt fish’

thc-tomatochokaing thcpotatoingredients

potato saltfish details

I would happily post the recipes for the items I cooked today if anyone comments with the desire to learn these Trinidadian dishes, however I felt like using this post as more of a ‘show and tell’ today rather than another recipe post.

thctomatochokadetail thcchokaroti2thcchokaroti1

I just couldn’t resist adding in the photo below; my little sweet baby couldn’t resist messing with my food set up, I found it adorable!

thcbehindtheshotdough


hearty chicken & roasted vegetable soup

soupdetail

Good Saturday morning to all!

Well, as I have said before and I’ll say again, Saturdays here in Trinidad and Tobago represent soups- in fact, maybe I’ll start calling Saturday ‘Soupaday’!

So, good ‘Soupaday’ morning to all!

Today I am posting about a soup I made and tested on Tuesday that I’m making again today.  My husband and little one so enjoyed this simple, rustic, hearty chicken & vegetable soup that I’m compelled to re-test the recipe and share it.  I am certain this one is going to warm up those colder nights or heat up those hot ones!

To start with, I used roasted vegetables- essentially all of the vegetables in my fridge at the time got pulled and used in this soup.  There are a few that I would, only because of my own personal taste preferences, not roast. Mushrooms for one, I’ve never really enjoyed roasted and prefer them raw, sautéed or cooked some other way, aside from roasted.

Ground provisions are best for this recipe and chicken breasts prove to be not only the healthiest option, but also the tastiest.  You can substitute chicken for pork or beef and for a vegetarian or vegan option just omit the chicken bouillon cubes (use garlic/onion/vegetable cubes) and leave out the milk at the end.

Recipe

This recipe calls for homemade chicken stock (recipe follows) and roasted vegetables.  You can use good store bought chicken stock or vegetable stock if you prefer.  The best vegetables to use are those that intensify and sweeten upon roasting- ground provisions are best as well as left over roasted vegetables from the day before. Dumplings can also be added and a split pea base can be used as an alternative to my pumpkin soup base- but this is a nice, lower calorie option to the traditional local sancoche(sancoach).

Roasted vegetables

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
1 large red onion, peeled
1 lb pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

roasted vegetables1

Method

Pre-heat oven at 450F for 15 minutes before roasting vegetables.  Peel potatoes, sweet potato, onion and carrot.  Cut potato, sweet potato and pumpkin into large chunks roughly the same size.  Cut carrots into half at cross-section and into large sticks about 1 inch thick. Place all cut vegetables into roasting pan/tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme leaves.  Toss to distribute. Roast at 400F for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft, but still slightly firm. Use all of the roasted pumpkin and toss into stock (recipe below). For the other roasted vegetables, divide into two- half will go into the stock and the other half will be cut into smaller chunks for the soup towards the end of cooking.

seasonedvegetables

vegetablesforsoup

Homemade chicken stock

Now, I know that the best chefs and recipe books lend a lot of importance to stocks and I really do agree.  I see the value of having a tasty, full bodied stock as a huge asset to any meal, soups included.  I also know that there will be some out there who would scoff at the use of bouillon cubes in a stock, but in the end, for things like soup I just prefer to use them.  Of course, ultimately it is your choice and you can definitely omit them.

chicken stock

Ingredients

1 whole chicken breast
3 stalks celery, washed and leaves included
1 large carrot, peeled and left whole
1 large yellow/white onion, peeled and left whole
6-8 cups water
1/2 cup scallions/chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken bouillon cubes

Method

Wash the chicken breast with water and lime/lemon if you desire.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place seasoned chicken and bouillon cubes in a stock pot with 6-8 cups of water (depending on how much soup you desire). Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to a simmer. After about 20 minutes, add whole carrot, celery and onion. Leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes so that the aromatics can be infused. Remove chicken and let stock simmer for a further hour.  You should get a clear, flavorful broth. Strain vegetables and reserve broth for soup.

clearstock

Putting it all together

Add the 5-10 peeled cloves of roasted garlic to the broth along with the following optional ingredients.

Optional Ingredients

1/2 cup whole/evaporated milk/ heavy cream
Parsley, finely chopped
Creme fraiche
Chili flakes
Croutons
1 can butter beans(drained and rinsed)

butterbeans

Method

Chop or dice the chicken into bite size pieces. With the roasted vegetables reserve half for the soup broth and half as chunky vegetables for the soup. Use all of the pumpkin roasted. Place half the roasted vegetables in the broth, bring to a boil. When very soft use a hand blender to pulse the vegetables and combine it with the broth. The soup should be a smooth with the vegetables well infused about 25 minutes at a low heat.  The remaining diced vegetables and diced chicken as well as 1/2 cup of evaporated/whole milk can be added into the soup about 15 minutes before serving.

soupbowl2

Serving size ~ 4 persons

Suggestions ~ Serve hot with a touch of creme fraiche and toasted croutons. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and add a dash of chili flakes or pepper sauce for an extra bite.

soupfinal


addendum to dream ultra lounge & bar review

Dream Ultra Lounge & Bar: Gulf View, Trinidad
phone: 868-223- CHIC (2442)
dream facebook
Find Dream here on the web

dream mezzanine

This may seem very bizarre in the world of reviews and reviewers and believe me when I say, I have thought about this and tried to reconcile it several times in my head before deciding to post this addendum to the review which I had written a few weeks ago on Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar.

By nature I am very open to learning new things and am extremely eager to get facts straight and this is what has prompted me to make this post today.  If you haven’t read my initial review on Dream, please take the time to read it as I will refer to that post during this addendum so as to clarify my opinions and experiences at Dream.

I decided to take to ‘paper and pen’ today because I feel like I owe everyone reading my blog and especially my reviews, the truth.  I am unbiased in my opinions and serve only to be a vehicle of truth and honesty here at thehiddencook.com and as such feel utterly compelled to make an addendum to my previous review.

I re-visited Dream for dinner a few nights ago with my family and all I can say is that some of my previously noted ‘cons’  have seriously caught up with the people behind Dream.  I’ve also read some comments and other reviews of Dream and have to say that I completely agree with many of the ‘cons’ observed by fellow patrons.  Like some of the other commenters, I too visited Dream at dinner time with my family, including of course my toddler.  To say that I was disappointed would be a euphemism!  After rating Dream’s service, food and decor a high 8.75/10 there was very little that night that garnered that score- in fact, nothing did.

First off, we too were seated in the upper mezzanine- the justification for which is beyond my comprehension- which as one person said and I have to agree, is a ‘death trap for children’. If the owners desire a ‘no children’ policy then I think they would be better off stating that since putting children upstairs is clearly not a feasible idea.  The other issue I had, being a second time diner, is that the portion sizes, tastes and presentation of the food at Dream has been vastly altered.  In my initial post I actually applauded the portion sizes, flavors and prices of the food items, this time…not so much.  The portions have decreased, the items- for instance in the chunky vegetable add-on have changed- broccoli and cauliflower have now mainly been replaced by the more economical carrots and cabbage, and the presentation is appalling.  We too were handed hot plates in our hands, menus were thrown on the table instead of being handed to us, when we asked about non-alcoholic drinks, like juices, one of the waitresses clearly did not know which juices were available, the food arrived in such a haphazard manner that side dishes were brought out long before mains arrived, steak was overcook-waiters never asked how we’d like our steak done- sauces weren’t brought to the table to accompany main dishes.  I mean, this is a place I had been to once before (and on the same day of the week mind you) and I had almost nothing negative to say, this time it was as though I had woken up in some sort of Dream clone-the bad edition!

I am not going to go much further with my qualms about this place.  Suffice it to say I am hoping that management:

  1. Seeks the opinions of their patrons and really listens to constructive criticisms- Dream, your reputation is only as good as your last diner’s experience
  2. Trains their staff to be more formal- your staff simply does not suit your establishment.  If you have a place decked out to look exclusive and expensive (even if you didn’t) you need to train your staff to be more vigilant about their diners.  Orders that take 30 minutes to arrive to the table on a night where tables are virtually empty should at least be RIGHT! You cannot be giving people fish when they ask for beef and vice versa, that is purely unacceptable.
  3. You need to be consistent with your portion sizes and more importantly the taste of your food- there is no good reason to have one meal one week taste superb and then the following week be salty or bland, tough and rubbery.  Where is the consistency?
  4. If your intent is to have an adults only lounge then please, indicate that.  Don’t chuck the children up into an area that isn’t even safe for them and then tack on 10% extra!
  5. If items aren’t available, please inform the wait staff and let them mention that when patrons arrive and are seated- over 3 items weren’t available the night we dined; one of the guests we took actually got do disgruntled he gave up trying to order anything and just left.

In closing, I would like to say that although I was thoroughly aghast at the seeming decline in quality and service in the space of 3 weeks, my motivation for writing this addendum is not to ridicule and criticize Dream, but rather to inform and hopefully uplift it.  I would really like to see this place grow into something better than it is right now so that South patrons could have the variety and option of dining and liming somewhere other than the usual suspects.  I feel that a lot of work needs to be done in order for that to be achieved.

Personal Disclaimer

I trust that anyone reading this will appreciate that I put a lot of energy into writing reviews and getting good, positive information about Trinidad and Tobago-dining, food, entertainment and places of interest- out there.  I take this very seriously since I know that my credibility is all that I can offer using this blog as a forum for information.  That being said, I work to bring the raw truth to anyone reading since I know you may potentially ‘take my word’ and choose to dine/visit somewhere or not.  I will neither review a product or service of someone or something that I am in any way associated since I feel that my opinion may become inadvertently biased nor will I take the opinions of others and use them for my own personal views here at thehiddencook.com.

Ultimately, what I strive to do is present a picture – in an unbiased, objective way to everyone reading this blog.  In the end it is my hope that dining in Trinidad and Tobago becomes on par with that of larger cities like New York, London and Paris and the only way for that to happen is by owners and managers of restaurants listening to their patrons and fixing flaws so that dining can be elevated in our country.  I do not intend to be negative in any way and hope that that is conveyed in my writing, since my desire is to always applaud the positives in any product/service.

This experience has been a learning one for me as it has taught me to visit an establishment a few times well before committing to writing a review; in fact, I will openly state that ‘any restaurant review will only be written after dining/eating at/from said restaurant on at least two occasions.’


david’s tea- a review

thcdavidstea1

Ok, so I was fortunate enough to be given two boxes of David’s tea for my birthday- I am an avid tea drinker, I collect tea pots and all things tea, so this was a great gift!

I had never heard of DAVIDsTEA before, which evidently is a Canadian staple.  The company started up in 2008 and has been enjoying wonderful success since then.  The teas are beautiful and vibrant, mellow and relaxing- all at the same time!  Apparently there are over 150 varieties of tea to be had at David’s tea locations found throughout Canada- I’m thrilled to have 24 in my 2 box sets, plenty for me to get started on!

thcdavidstea2

I’m planning to try one tea each week so that I could fully appreciate the flavor and blends of these beautifully packaged teas, so this is sort of of a ‘part 1 of 24’ series.

What I can say so far is that I simply adore the packaging! The boxes are beautiful and the individual canisters filled with brightly colored, tangibly textured and distinctly perfumed teas are genuine keepsakes.  I immediately thought of brewing the teas, drinking them and saving the canisters for some creative project or the other.  I can’t wait to see what I come up with.  For now though, I’m delighted to savor the flavor of these little unique blends.

With names like ‘forever nuts’, ‘pink flamingo’, ‘saigon chai’ and ‘happy kombucha’ I was enthralled!

My first taste came compliments of ‘saigon chai’ and let me tell you, I was not disappointed! I could smell the cardamom, clove and cinnamon immediately after opening the individually packaged blend, the bright pink peppercorns jumping out at me.  The smell was familiar- those chai spices that I’ve grown to crave from time to time, especially when my mother visits. The saigon chai came in my ‘around the world’ box- an austere black box with beautiful dandelions imprinted in subtle lustre.

thcdavidsteasaigon1

I brewed the recommended amount by the suggested method and time and sat quietly to enjoy the unique fusion of scents and tastes without the addition of milk or sugar- pure, straight, uncorrupted.  The smell permeated our house- warm cinnamon intermingling with the spicy aroma of fiery pink peppercorns and familiar peppery ginger perfectly intertwined with assam tea.  The tea felt rich, yet soothing, hot yet cooling.  Needless to say, my first taste of DavidsTea was a pleasant, comforting and perfectly familiar experience. I look forward to sampling the other blends- don’t know if I’ll be able to try just one each week!

thcdavidsteasetup thcdavidsteasaigondetail thcdavidsteasaigonfinal


back home and happy

THCmonkey

Hello everyone!

I feel like it’s been quite sometime since I’ve been able to post here on thehiddencook and boy did I miss it!

I had a wonderful vacation with my family and returned to a great reception- birthday celebrations and all!  One of my siblings shares a birthday in the same month as me and decided to return home from school to surprise us all!  It was wonderful and continues to be exciting.  I anticipate that since ALMOST everyone is at home now- still missing another sibling and family- we will be venturing into some other areas of Trinidad.  I am really looking forward to seeing some old, familiar places but some new ones too.

I also got my new camera!  This was probably the most exciting part of the trip abroad for me.  I’ve been eyeing new gear for quite some time now, but promised myself 8 years ago that I’d learn my first camera thoroughly before trying out a new one.  So said, so done.  Now that I’ve put my trusty old friend to ‘nap’ I have invested in a new friend whom I am sure will serve me well!  I am learning new things every single day about photography and hope that one day I’d be able to take beautiful photos and touch on mastering some of the tricks and techniques I so desire to.

Anyway, with that little intro into what’s been going on on my end, I’m just going to use this post to put up some of the photos I’ve taken so far.  I hope you all enjoy them!

I encourage comments and constructive criticism so that I could better learn my downfalls and improve upon my techniques.

A review on David’s Tea follows…

THCbattimamzelle THC orchid

 


upcoming weeks

sky

Good night all.

I just got back from an amazing workout session…with myself! Yay for me!  It’s nice sometimes to just ‘catch up with yourself’.  The hours in a day never seem to be enough anymore and sometimes it’s really good to just take a deep breath and get some alone time.  I heard a person once say that ‘if you can’t be by yourself then you must be very boring to be with’.  I think it’s so true.  So, I enjoyed the time I had tonight working up a sweat and getting the heart rate up.

Aside from that I am making plans for my trip abroad with my family.  I am really looking forward to it.  I’ve lived abroad for a long time and traveled to quite a bit of countries but for sometime now I’ve been at home, here in Trinidad and haven’t traveled outside of the region.  So I’m happy and excited to see what our first ‘big’ vacation as a family will be like.  I also imagine that with all the excitement of being abroad, revisiting places and experiencing new things I’d be overflowing with ideas for posts-reviews, travel tips, food and general entertainment, so I’d be sure to post those, time-permitting.

I don’t know if I would be able to be as consistent with the posts- I post daily in case any of you were wondering (save the other day when I missed a posted grrrrr). I will be very busy with work and I’ve been using a small point and shoot camera for the last few posts which I’m not at all happy with.  My camera is on the way and I can’t wait!  I imagine I will be taking a lot more photos in the upcoming weeks.

More than that, thehiddencook, has a few pages that I’d like to update.  The Glossary of Trini Terms for one has to be updated and I try to include new words and phrases every time I make a post and there’s something applicable, but the page just needs to be more comprehensive.  So I am going to be working on that over the upcoming days/weeks so be sure to check it out-who knows you might get a laugh!  I’d also like to make a few more pages that I think would only add to the whole vibe of thehiddencook, so I’ll also be working on those.

For now, I guess shorter posts with limited photos might be in the near future, at least until I get my new gear!

Have a great night everyone…

Here’s to a wonderful, productive, better tomorrow!

Sincerely,

thehiddencook

over the islands


mahi mahi, swiss chard and roasted vegetables

 

cooked mahi mahiHi all!

I hope today is going well and that everyone is being as productive as possible 🙂

I’ve become slightly obsessed with beets lately- I’ve been juicing them, roasting them, boiling them and eating them in raw salads- I’ve pretty much been doing anything I can think of with beets!  They are not grown here in Trinidad (although that’s about to change because I’m planting them to see what happens) so I purchase them at Hilo.  I can’t be totally sure that they aren’t grown here, but from the packaging I can tell you that the ones that I’ve come across don’t.  I love the intense, bright fuchsia color of these delectable vegetables and can’t seem to get enough of them.  I also cooked swiss chard for the first time ever today! I loved the intensity of the colors in the stems and the mildness of its flavor allowing the fish to be the star of my meal.

beautiful beets

Oh fish- getting it, cooking it, eating it…I love it all.  I find fish so delicious and varied.  One fish just never really tastes like another to me (although strangely enough fish can taste like other meats). I purchased mahi mahi recently (unfortunately it was frozen and not fresh, not something I’m particularly happy about, but beggars can’t be choosers) at Seafood Specialists on Royal Road in San Fernando.  I got a filet with skin on- another thing I wasn’t too happy about- I don’t like skin on fish or any other meat unless it’s fried and crispy!

So, I thought to myself ‘what can I make today that lets me use both beets and mahi mahi?  Well, it was pretty easy.  I spoke to my sibling who gives me tons of cooking advice and teaches me a lot about cuisine and techniques- after all that’s what professionals in the industry do- and I was ready to go!  I decided on roasting the vegetables and sautéing the swiss chard.  Then it was time to decide on the fish and I chose to pan sear it.  I hope all of you try this recipe and enjoy it’s down to earth flavorings and no fuss preparations!  You must let me know.

mahi mahi vegetable ingredients

Recipes

Pan- Seared Mahi Mahi Fish

mahi mahi skin seasoned skin removed mahi mahi

Ingredients

8 ozs mahi mahi fish- cut into 2 filets
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 Tsp olive oil
Salt and Black pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 Tbsp white flour

Method

To prepare the fish so as to ‘kill the freshness‘ wash the fish with a mixture of flour and water before seasoning- the fish can be left to soak in the flour/water mixture for about 2 minutes and then rinse with clean water.  The fish is then ready for seasoning.  Squeeze lemon juice over the fish filets and season with salt and black pepper to your desired taste.  Heat olive oil in sauté pan on high heat and toss in sliced garlic, let the edges brown for about 1 minute.  Then add in fish filets skin side down and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. When sufficiently browned off heat and cover fish and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional lemon wedges if desired.

 

Swiss Chard

colorful swiss chard

Ingredients

6 leaves swiss chard, chopped and thick bottom stems removed
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Pat of butter (optional)
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
a pinch of ground nutmeg

Method

Wash and prepare swiss chard leaves.  Heat olive oil in pan at medium heat and brown garlic slightly.  Add chopped swiss chard leaves and sauté until wilted. Add a small dash of salt, a squeeze of lemon/butter and a pinch of ground nutmeg.  Serve hot, immediately.

 

Roasted Vegetables

roasting vegetables

Ingredients

2 beets washed and peeled
1 sweet potato washed and peeled
4 oz. squash, peeled and seeds and core removed
4 thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper as desired

Method

Preheat oven at 450F for about 10 minutes. Cut all of the vegetables to roughly the same size- I find large chunks to be the best- and place in a roasting pan, add salt, black pepper and the leaves of 4 thyme sprigs. Pour over olive oil and mix all of the vegetables so that the oil is evenly dispersed.  Lower oven to 375F and roast uncovered for about 25 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked through. Serve hot.

Serving~ 2 persons

Suggestions~ Prepare and put the vegetables to roast before starting on the fish/swiss chard. When the vegetables are near completion start with the Swiss chard and then cook the fish.  Serve with white wine as a perfect compliment, I prefer Chardonnay.  Try seasonal vegetables or using different flavored olive oils 

mahi mahi, swiss chard & roasted vegetables flakey fish