Food

pineapple black bean salad

sprouts

It’s Saturday night, I hear music blaring in the distance and I’m up, trying my best to post this recipe before Sunday hits.  I’m trying to do this so that it can become a part of your Sunday lunch/bunch/dinner.  It should be.  It’s as delicious as it is vibrant- what its colors will do to your eyes its flavors will do to your taste buds.  You simply MUST try this one.

Pineapples are a part of my life.  They are staples here in our house. I picked up two along the roadside (translation: I purchased them from a roadside vendor-many of whom are scattered along the way to Mayaro) when driving down to Mayaro a few days ago and decided to incorporate it into this lovely salad that I learned to make while I was away at school. 

pineapple bean salad ingredients_1closeup

Down here in Trinidad we have something called ‘chow‘.  Traditionally made using mangoes- the best are greener or at least half-ripe (I actually love sweet, ripe mango chow the best, but most will disagree).  Chow is made using the ubiquitous chadon beni (bandania) herb, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar/lime and a tip of sugar.  It’s sort of a pickled fruit salad? I’m not sure of what’s the best way to describe it, but I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say that Trinidad owns chow!  Ask any Trini about chow and they will begin their description with a nostalgic glean and a mouth ‘full of water’. It’s ours.

before mixing

Pineapple chow has grown in popularity since some genius on the heights of the North coast road en route to Maracas decided to make it.  Since then many have perfected the art of making pineapple chow.  I was lucky enough to have a bit left over and decided to incorporate it in my black bean salad.  I would have to say the decision was a good one! I will definitely be doing a post on pineapple chow in the very near future.

dressing the salad

This served as dinner for me last night and part of lunch today.  I threw in some raw beets because I just love beets.  This salad is filling as a main but works really well as a side too. Of course, since I’m doing the 4 week salad challenge I can’t say I’ve used it as a side…it’s my only focus.  I ate this with grilled chicken breast for dinner and for lunch the next day I had it with a piece of steak.  I’d say the 4 week challenge is in full swing and it’s really causing me to come up with great new salads ūüôā

pineapple bean salad

[yumprint-recipe id=’9′]


citrus guava cake

guava cake:tea:slice

Ok, so I’ve been having dreams about guava.  I mean, literally.  I’ve been thinking about ways to use this delectable fruit, to the point of obsession. 

guava fruit

Guava is just one of those fruits-sweet, tart, soft, firm…a scent that is undeniable and attributable only to itself.  When cooking guava the entire house smells of it. Why isn’t there a guava scented air freshener?  Hmm, maybe one needs to be created?

guava fruit close

Air fresheners aside, I thought about guava and why I had never tasted a guava cake or any such delight.  Sure, in Trinidad we have guava cheese– a sweet, firm treat made from guava syrup infused with various spices- and guava jam/jelly.  These are both staples in Trinidad and in other parts of the region, but guava cake and other guava sweets just aren’t the popular.  If you know of or have made guava flavored sweets please feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about them!

It isn’t guava season here in Trinidad, but my family has a tree and we’re always freezing the ripe fruits in order to make juices, jams and ‘cheese’ so I was in luck when my thoughts happened upon creating a delicious guava cake. 

cooking guava guava puree

At first I wanted to make cupcakes but the lack of cupcake trays sort of ruined that idea!  I searched online for recipes that I could modify to create a guava cake and turned to one of my favorite people- the barefoot contessa-Ina Garten.  I always trust her recipes and never second guess them because they always work.  I chose her strawberry country cake as the jumping off point for my citrus cake.  I swapped the sour cream for Greek yogurt and upped the lemon and added lime instead of orange and never bothered to use vanilla extract.  My cake was a lemon/lime blend which I thought would both balance out as well as enhance the guava frosting.  It worked!
I used 1 8-inch pan to make one cake and 2 12-cup mini cupcake trays to make 24 cute little mini cupcakes.

guava cake w:cupcakes

guava cupcake

For the frosting/filling- really, the star of the cake- I spoke to a couple of professionals to get ideas and ultimately chose to do a sort of mix-up of many different ideas.  I considered a mousse or a custard (which I will definitely try in the near future once the guavas reappear) but opted for a smooth butter cream instead.  I loosely followed this recipe for a berry butter cream frosting and found it was very successful!

To top it off I decided to do some candied lime rind as my topping as the flavors spoke for themselves and really didn’t need any additions that might compete or subtract from their tart crispness.  I didn’t cover my rinds with sugar-a step that is quite popular in many recipes- since I felt that 3/4 of a large bag of sugar was, well, sugar enough. 
(Just as an aside-I can totally understand why many pastry chefs are skinny…after you see what goes into these little treats you might never sanely choose to eat them!)

guava cake w:slice

This cake is perfect with tea/ coffee or on it’s own.  The guava is bold and assertive, timidly supported by the fresh, clean tartness of lemons and limes.  The odd guava seed that has found it’s way into the smooth, buttery frosting is a surprising textural delight. 

guava cake slice with tea-sideguave cake slice with tea

This cake is a must for anyone who loves the taste and smell of guavas!

[yumprint-recipe id=’7′] 


vermicelli soup recipe


My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‘menu’ idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!

thc-vermicellisoup-ingredients

This soup signifies comfort food for me.  It’s not rich or fattening, it’s not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy…but it reminds me of my grandmother.  It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‘feet’ that she’d serve us this in.  I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‘just so’.  Bless her, she was a lovely woman. 

Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good.  Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness.  This soup was no exception.  I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why!  The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!

thc-vemicelli soup-goldenray1I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine.  I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added.  You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great. 

thc-vermicelli soup-garni collage

For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s.  I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all.  I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!
thc-vemicelli soup final

thc-vermicelli soup-close final

[yumprint-recipe id=’6′]thc-vermicellisoup-final


vermicelli soup recipe

My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‚Äėmenu‚Äô idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!

thc-vermicellisoup-ingredients

This soup signifies comfort food for me.¬† It‚Äôs not rich or fattening, it‚Äôs not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy‚Ķbut it reminds me of my grandmother.¬† It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‚Äėfeet‚Äô that she‚Äôd serve us this in.¬† I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‚Äėjust so‚Äô.¬† Bless her, she was a lovely woman.

Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good.  Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness.  This soup was no exception.  I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why!  The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!

thc-vemicelli soup-goldenray1

I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine.  I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added.  You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great.

thc-vermicelli soup-garni collage

For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s.  I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all.  I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!

thc-vermicelli soup final

thc-vermicelli soup-close final

 

find the printable recipe and more photos here


sick & voiceless

Hi all!

It’s been far too long. 
Over the past week I’ve been a bit under the weather.  I’m sick & voiceless.  Losing my voice is better than having to put others through the croaky voice that I had a couple days ago- but it’s also really annoying since I can’t vocalize to my little baby ūüė¶

Anyway, I’ve been busy thinking about, well, really, obsessing about what stuff I’m going to do next on the blog and I’m very excited.  Have a few ideas of recipes I’d like to try out and share so be sure to check back in.

I just need to clear this yucky feeling and get myself back up and running and then all will be well ūüôā

Wishing you all a wonderful week a head!

Made this baked salmon this week- it was delicious!  I used portugal juice to steam the mustard encrusted salmon and complemented it with sauteed spinach and mushrooms. The brightly coloured garlic roasted sweet peppers and capers were both fabulous additions to this simple meal.

thc salmon portugal

 


saltfish accra

scroll down for the printable saltfish accra recipe

Hi everyone!

Today is an extra special day- it’s my father’s birthday!
Happy Birthday to a wonderful father and an inspirational mentor!

I decided to make him a very special treat today- one of his favorites- saltfish accras.  My sibling hosted a decadent breakfast spread for him- eggs, bacon, sausages, homemade waffles and homemade hash-browns; I provided the accras as a little addition to all of the deliciousness!

thc-accra seasoning

Accras are the Caribbean’s answer to crab fritters; traditionally made from saltfish (salted pollock/cod) these golden brown, salty gems have earned their well deserved reputation of being delectable treats all across the Caribbean.  I’ve had them and heard of them on different islands- many times by different names like saltfish patties and fish cakes- but what unifies them no matter the island is their great, unmistakable flavor.

thc-accra-ingredientsThese are by far one of my most favorite foods from the Caribbean region- fried golden parcels of savory richness- perfect as an accompaniment to any breakfast/brunch or as a standalone appetizer with a variety of dips.  These saltfish accras can also be served as an alternative to a fish burger- fry bake providing the best ‘bread’ for these tasty treats- topped with a selection of condiments. 

IMG_2866

Today’s version of accra included shrimp- a wonderful, textural addition to any accra.  Conventionally accras are made using saltfish, but many have perfected shrimp accras, (unsalted) fish accras and any other seafood combination. Unfortunately, I don’t know the history of accras and why they are traditionally made with saltfish (if anyone reading this knows the history of accras please do not hesitate to post it in the comments below!) but I can imagine Trinidad in the older days, friends liming and looking for something to nibble.  I picture one friend offering to whip up something quick and having the cured saltfish on hand, some seasonings and flour and thus was born ‘the accra’. I like doing this- imagining the better, old days.

thc-accra-process

 

 

thc-accra final thc-accra-final detail

thc-accra-breakfast

[yumprint-recipe id=’5′]IMG_2921


chinese choy sum, snow peas & lap chong

Scroll down to the printable recipe

thc-choisum recipe-ingredients2_1

Chinese choy sum (choi sum) is one of my favorite greens; every time we dine at a Chinese restaurant it is seldom left out.  Similar in taste to pak choy (bok choy), this ‘flowering cabbage’ has slightly bitter undertones which are easily complemented by garlic and ginger.  Although I stir-fried mine, you can also steam choy sum or have it soups- which makes it particularly delectable.

Lap chong (lap cheong )-a sweet and savory Chinese sausage can only be described as ambrosial! I am sure to always have some stocked since it’s prep time is so short and it makes any plain rice come to life when you cook them together…plus, it my husband’s favorite!

thc-coisumrecipe-lapcheong_1a

I purchased the lap chong sausages from Sincere’s on Cipero Street here in San Fernando and the choy sum from Hilo supermarket.  I always feel like I’ve won the lotto when I see freshly stocked choy sum in the produce section of Hilo; if you can’t get a hold of fresh choy sum, pak choy can easily be substituted.

Of course when preparing and indulging in delicious Chinese food a great accompaniment is oolong tea- today was no exception.  My husband purchased this wonderfully aromatic monkey-picked oolong from Teavana (yes, the tea is actually picked by monkeys trained to do just that!).

thc-choisum recipe-oolong tea

This meal is a simple, quick one which has become one of my ‘turn to when I need something fast and easy’ meals. It’s not surprising that this meal is one of the favorites in our house- a testament to simple, unpretentious food being the best. 

I am sure that it will become one your favorites just as quickly as it has become one of mine!

thc-choisum recipe-chopped ingredients

thc-choisum recipe-finished_1a thc-choisum recipe-bowl

thc-coisum recipe-bowl close

[yumprint-recipe id=’3′] thc-coisum recipe-final rice_1_1


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 saut√©ing 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, saut√©ed 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


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 ūüôā

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 saut√©ing 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 saut√© 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


pork with plantain compote and mashed potatoes

plantains and pork close

I’ve been thinking about plantains a lot these days- their sweet unique flavor, their bright yellow hues and their ability to make everything taste just a little bit better.I recently spoke about them in my last post entitled market goods 31/01/13¬†and if you haven’t read that post, you might want to take a little look around.

Plantains are one of the things I miss the most when I’m away from home. ¬†I don’t know why, maybe ¬†it has to do with the fact that my grandmother always cooked it. ¬†She loved to make fried ripe plantains with sada roti, plain white kiss bread or hops¬†and pretty much any time we made fry bake or roast bake there would be the ubiquitous fried plantains!

So, today I got to thinking about incorporating them into my meal in a way other than the usual ‘on the side fried plantain’ type thing. ¬†What I came up with actually worked well and I must say that after ‘testing’ the dish on some family and friends, I’m happy to actually post the recipe. ¬†One thing to remember is that plantains have a very unique, particular flavor and if your guests don’t like the flavor, it cannot easily be masked, so you might want to consider substituting the plantains in this recipe for something else- try apples or pears.

Recipe

This recipe can be served for lunch or dinner and is really quite mild in its elements.  If you like the taste of ripe plantains, then this one would be sure to impress your guests.  Green plantains cannot be used as a substitute since the sweetness in the plantain compote is all natural with no sweeteners added.  The plantain compote can be compared to apple sauce which is a popular accompaniment to pork chops. 

Pork chops

Ingredients

4 pork chops
1 Tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 Tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1 Tsp plus 1 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cilantro
2 French thyme sprigs

Method

Preheat oven at 450F. Season pork chops evenly with salt and black pepper on both sides. Combine 1 teaspoon olive oil, paprikas, thyme and cilantro and rub evenly on all sides.  Leave to rest for at least an hour, covered with foil in the the fridge. In the meantime prepare the mashed potatoes and plantain compote (both below). After 1 hour, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan at high heat.  Add sliced garlic cloves and cook until its edges become golden brown-do NOT burn.  Add in pork chops and sear for 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat, reserve garlic juices left after cooking the pork chops. Place chops into oven for a further 5 minutes, when cooked place on a platter and cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes..

paprika pork seasoning the pork pork braising

Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

4 Large Idaho potatoes
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 cups whole milk

Method

Peel potatoes and cut them into small chunks-boils faster! Add them to cold water with 1/2 Tbsp salt.  Bring to a roaring boil. The potatoes are ready to be mashed when a fork can easily pierce them.  Remove from heat, strain and use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in a clean bowl.  While very hot, add butter and 1 cup whole milk.  Continue mashing and combining ingredients adding the other cup of milk slowly.  Set aside in a double boiler to keep potatoes hot while finishing up other dishes.

Plantain Compote

Ingredients

2 ripe plantains
10-15 cloves
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups water

Method

Wash and peel plantains.  Cut into thin 1/4 inch rounds- cross section- slices. Reserve 12 slices for garnish.  With the remaining slices, place in water with cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a roaring boil. Lower heat and simmer until the plantains become very soft and can be blended. If the water is drying down, add more water in small amounts.  When soft, removed from heat.  Remove all cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks and place plantains in pan where the pork chops had been cooked, heat and pulse with hand blender until combined.  Add water if necessary.

plantain compote

Fried plantain slices

Ingredients

1/2 Tbsp salted butter
salt for spinkling
12 Plantain slices

Method

Heat butter in saute pan at medium heat.  Place plantain pieces flat onto heated butter and cook on one side ~about 2 minutes.  Turn and cook on other side lowering heat so as not to burn the plantains. Off heat and sprinkle with a small amount of salt to highlight the sweetness of the plantains.

frying plantains

Plate mashed potatoes with pork chop and compote either to the side or on top of the pork chop.  Garnish with 3 fried plantain slices and fresh chopped parsley.  Serve hot and enjoy!

Serving ~ 4 persons

Suggestions~ Serve hot with a delicious Caribbean cocktail- pina colada, margaritas or a banana smoothie! 

close fried plantains pork plantain dish


market goods 31/01/13

market haul 31113

So today we ventured back to Marabella market to pick up a few essentials. ¬†It’s a bit unusual for us to go during the week since we typically go on Sundays, but I had a craving for some fresh citrus and some sweet, ripe plantains.

plantain

I’m sure there is a lot of information out there about plantains and indeed I’ve come across many people from Europe and the US who enjoy their unique taste especially when fried as many islanders do. ¬†Plantains can really jazz up the most boring dishes by adding that touch of sweetness to counter the savory dishes we prepare, providing a sort of ‘dessert’ like feel to any dish. ¬†It’s particularly good when fried in a small bit of oil and eaten with plain white bread or sada roti. ¬†When we lived abroad and couldn’t always get access to the sweetest kinds I’d have to settle for half ripe ones or try to artificially ‘ripe’ them by leaving them in black plastic bags-sometimes it worked! ¬†But preparation for the ripe vs the green plantains are a bit different. ¬†The ripe ones are easily fried (with or without a batter) while the green ones are preferable when making salted plantain chips – similar to potato chips. It really just depends on what you’d like to try and what you’re feeling for. ¬†Also, one thing to note about plantains is that of the color of their skin: the ripe ones are yellow with black marks- the riper the plantain the darker and more abundant the marks- the green ones are well, just that, green.

red mango red mango and pink grapefruit

The other item in my market haul that may be unfamiliar to non-west Indians is the portugal (puttigal). ¬†It belongs to the citrus family and is eaten in a similar way to oranges and grapefruits- the skin is exceedingly easy to remove and the pegs are removed and enjoyed. ¬†I’m sure at some point I’ll have to do a ‘spotlight’ on the portugal or as we say here in Trinidad- the puttigal. ¬†It’s sweetness and distinct scent and flavor makes it easy to differentiate from grapefruits and oranges and in the US/Europe can be likened to mandarins and tangerines. ¬†We use it to make ‘saga boy’ mojitos down here in Trinidad and believe me when I tell you, it makes the best tasting mojito you will ever have!

puttigal

I also purchased some lemons today since I’m planning on making some more fish this week. ¬†The lemons here are roughed skin and not that typical ‘lemon-y’ color associated with lemons in the US say. ¬†Likewise, oranges in the Caribbean aren’t orange! ¬†Their color is very similar to that of a portugal or even a white grapefruit, but their sweetness isn’t dependent on the color of their skins.

lemon and kymit

The mango is large- as you can see from the photos! ¬†It’s called a ‘red mango’ (not to be confused with one of Trinidad’s many roadside snacks ‘red mango preserve’. This mango is so sweet and tasty, I myself was a bit skeptical since it was quite firm to the touch. ¬†I paid $TT20 for 3 of them- that’s actually a lot in terms of mangos considering half of us on the island have mango trees in our back yards! But I wanted to try it, especially in my smoothies. ¬†I don’t regret it!

orange, sweet potato and pink grapefruit

Of course, my kymit (cayemite) and pawpaw are starring as usual- two of my favorite fruits!

So with some of the market goods I made another detoxifying smoothie- this time with cilantro, parsley, pineapples and chia seeds.  It was really refreshing and I must say I really enjoy the taste of these herbs in a drink form! I find them fresh and clean and the smoothies are always so satisfying- which surprises me!

detox green green goodness

I hope this market haul serves to inform about some of the delicious fruits and vegetables we have here in Trinidad and that when you come to the islands you wouldn’t be hesitant to try any or all of them


coconut ginger maple chicken with sweet potatoes

coconut dish

Today has been a a milestone for me;  I created my very first recipe!

It’s exciting because I never really thought that I’d be able to ever create a recipe from scratch; ¬†I mean, I’ve been cooking since I was about 14 years old, but mainly recipes handed down to me from my parents, grandparents and really anyone else whose food tasted good!

But today I decided to try it all on my own. ¬†I did get inspiration from cookinginsens, a fellow blogger. ¬†I really enjoy reading her recipes and viewing her photos and I feel that inspiration for cooking can come from anywhere. ¬†This particular recipe was posted back in 2011 and it appealed to me because of the use of mustard and sweet potatoes; it also looked delicious! ¬†So I drew from this recipe’s ingredients to create my own dish- Coconut Ginger Maple Chicken. ¬†I hope you try it and I hope you find it as delicious as everyone else who has tried it today does!

Recipe

This recipe uses only fresh ingredients and aims to utilize more natural products than processed,¬†artificial¬†ones. ¬†I’ve chosen to use maple syrup as my sweetener since it’s very mild and effective at balancing the coconut milk, ginger and other spices and herbs. ¬†I’m sure you can just as easily use honey or agave but I haven’t tried those so I can’t say for certain. ¬†I used freshly made coconut milk but it’s easily¬†accessible¬†here in Trinidad, if you can’t get hold of one you can use canned or powdered coconut milk, but fresh is always better! ¬†Although this recipe calls for many different spices and herbs the flavors are very subtle and not at all overwhelming.

Ingredients

2 whole chicken breasts- you can use halved breasts but I think the whole breasts would remain more moist
4 tsp authentic natural maple syrup
4 tsp stone ground mustard
1/2 whole dry coconut(powdered/canned coconut milk can also be used)
3 cups hot water
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 chadon beni leaves (substitute with cilantro/coriander leaves~about 1 Tbsp finely chopped)
1/2 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups natural coconut water
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 thyme sprigs
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp good olive oil

Method

Preheat oven at 400F. ¬†Make a rub of mustard salt and 2 tsp maple syrup and use it to season the chicken breasts; leave to marinate for at least 1 hour. ¬†During this time prepare the other ingredients and make the coconut milk. ¬†Remove coconut flesh from hard shell (you would need to open the shell by throwing it on the ground! Then scoop out the flesh by hitting the shell with the back of a metal spoon or knife to loosen the flesh- it should then be easier to remove). Grate the coconut or if you have a good enough blender, blend it until very fine. ¬†Carefully add in 3 cups of hot water and blend until ‘milk’ becomes visible. ¬†You can blend for sometime to extract most of the flavor. ¬†Press into a fine wire sieve reserving the milk for use in the sauce.

seasoned chickens chadon beni coconut in shell making coconut milk final coconut sauce

At this time put chunks of potatoes and sweet potatoes into a caserole dish and cover with coconut water, cover dish and let cook in oven at high heat. In the meantime as potatoes cook heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the chicken breasts at high heat. ¬†Brown for about 3 minutes on each side lowering heat if necessary so as not to burn the mustard/maple syrup rub. ¬†When nice and caramelized remove from heat and leave the remaining ‘rub’; ¬†To this add coconut milk, ginger and nutmeg and 2 tsp maple syrup. ¬†lower heat so as not to cause the milk to curdle and the sauce to break. Just before completion add in finely chopped chadon beni or cilantro/coriander.

Add chicken and thyme sprigs to potatoes and cover to complete its cooking.  When the chicken is tender and cooked and the potatoes are cooked remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes covered so as to absorb all of the flavors. Cut each breast into half and over it pour the coconut ginger maple sauce- strain if necessary to make a smooth sauce.

Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve hot.

Serving ~ 4 persons

Suggestions~  this would also go really well with mashed potatoes or plain rice.  Serve with chilled coconut water or coconut water/rum (Angostura 1919/Single Barrel/Zacapa Rum) for an extra kick!

final dish2

served coco final close


trini fruit spotlight- kymit (cayemite)

kymit fruitOk so this is the story- in Trinidad and Tobago we speak our own English language and many of our words are derivatives of other words from other country’s languages- French, Spanish, British English, Portuguese, Chinese, Hindi languages etc- hence sometimes we really don’t know the true pronunciation of a word. ¬†It’s really difficult to explain this to people who aren’t Trini/Caribbean but I’m sure if you’re a Trini and reading this you would understand!

close jelly milk fruitSo, today I’m talking about a Trinidadian fruit called kymit (cayemite). ¬†I found some information regarding cayemite which is quite popular and widely eaten in Haiti. ¬†The fruit is also referred to as the ‘milk fruit’ in Asia and is grown in Cambodia and Vietnam. ¬†I don’t know how other Trinis would spell kymit, but I’m spelling it exactly the way we say it down here in Trinidad.

kymit good stuff scooping

If you read one of my entries entitled ‘baked fish platter‘ I spoke about persimmon fruit and it’s similarity to kymit. ¬†For those who have never tasted persimmon fruit (also called Kaki, Sharon fruit or Caqui- native in Japan, China and Burma) I will attempt to describe the taste of kymit without comparing it to persimmon fruit.

kymit

The fruit is usually purple or green in its ripened state. ¬†They are grown on large trees and found in various areas throughout Trinidad. ¬†The ¬†edible portion on the inside is usually composed of alternating layers of a clear gelatinous flesh with a milky cream/white flesh(in the green variety) or purple flesh(purple variety). Both types taste exactly the same. ¬†The gelatinous portions taste very similar to sweet coconut jelly- the ‘younger’ coconuts. The fleshy opaque portions taste sweet and creamy and the fruit itself contains a sort of ‘milk’ that gets stuck to the sides of your mouth and tongue making it feel a bit tangled! ¬†The seeds aren’t edible and are usually found in the fleshy opaque parts of the fruit. When cut in cross section the gelatinous internal aspect of the fruit forms the shape of a 9 pointed star. The fruit is about the size of an average orange and when not fully ripened can be squeezed or rolled on a hard surface to ‘loosen’ the milky juices(similar to how you might roll a lemon on the kitchen counter so that most of it’s juice could be more easily extracted when cut and squeezed).

kymit star cs

kymit cup

The best way to eat a kymit is to use a spoon to scoop out the insides since the skin is thick and the areas closer to the skin aren’t particularly tasty or edible. ¬†If you do get the ‘milk’ stuck to your mouth a quick rub with baby oil does the trick of removing it. ¬†The fruit is best eaten when soft, (easily squeezed) ripe and chilled.

seed

I grew up eating kymit and have it on my list of favorite local fruits. ¬†Every time I spot them being sold at the sides of the road or at the market I simply must indulge. ¬†If ever you’re in Trinidad and see one do not hesitate to try it- chilling it only improves its sweet, jelly-like texture and taste!

look inside an empty kymit


bacco pizzeria italiana review

 

bacco pizzeria

Good day all!

Hope everyone is fine and had a good night’s rest.

Today I am doing my very first food review! I’m pretty excited about this because I’ve been wanting to do one for quite sometime. ¬†So without further delay here is my review on a newly opened Italian pizzeria called Bacco. ¬†You should know that I am in NO WAY affiliated with this restaurant and did NOT inform the owners/staff that I was conducting a review. ¬†I simply went there, dined, took a few photos and left with a heap load of thoughts and ideas.

Bacco is located in Duncan Village in South Trinidad (for those of you who don’t know Trinidad very well, or South Trinidad very well, Duncan Village is located just before Palmiste if you’re going towards Penal/Debe from the flyover intersection by Cross Crossing). ¬†I will try to put in a map if you comment on this post and indicate a need for one.

bacco1bacco2

The owners of Bacco relocated a couple of months ago to Trinidad, their fist pizzeria called ‘La Cantina’ was originally located in Crown Point, Tobago. ¬†The restaurant is extremely no frills. ¬†If you’re looking for a place with fancy tables and place settings, stuffed crusts with dipping sauce, deep pan pizzas, meat lovers, 1000s of toppings, side orders and jungle gyms for the children then Bacco is NOT your place! ¬†If however, you are looking for pizza made with passion and skill, cooked in an open wood fired oven, simple fresh ingredients and a huge variety to choose from, some new to us here in Trinidad, then Bacco is where you need to be!

The selection is seemingly endless- with pizzas consisting of modest single cheeses and marina sauce to ones with anchovies and artichokes, whipping cream and ricotta, buffalo mozzarella and parma ham; you will be very confused the first time you get there.  The doughs are sublimely thin, with a crunchy bite and a floury base.  The pizzas arrive to your table piping hot and sizzling, fresh out of the oven.  The ambience is simple and bright allowing the patrons to view straight to the back where you can witness the whole process from start to finish.  The black boards located at the back showcase fresh cheeses and deli items as well as other Italian delights like eggplant parmigiana.

Bacco menus

Now for my opinion on perhaps the most important thing of all- how does it taste?

Divine!

The first time I tried the pizza I went for simple. ¬†I took the 4 formaggi(cheese)- taleggio, parmesan, mozzarella and gorgonzola. ¬†I wanted to ‘taste’ the pizza- without distraction. ¬†The pizza came sizzling, cheese intimidatingly bubbling atop a visibly thin crust. ¬†I dug in. ¬†The taste was (and I have to say it again) divine! ¬†The sharpness of the gorgonzola was perfectly balanced by the mellowness of the mozzarella, the ‘stretchiness’ of the cheese was fantastic- just what you’d expect from good pizza. ¬†I loved the simplicity of the presentation, no fuss, no frills just good, honest food.

capricciosaLast night we returned for a second round. ¬†This time I ordered a ‘salccia’ pizza- tomato, mozzarella and fresh garlic sausage. ¬†My husband chose the ‘capricciosa’- tomato, mozzarella, Italian ham, olives, artichokes and anchovies. Both were delicious! ¬†I must admit the second night could not surpass the first night for me- I don’t know if it came down to just a preference of taste- the 4 formaggi vs the salccia or if the consistency just wasn’t there. ¬†The crusts seemed slightly thicker this time as opposed to the first (I prefer thin crusts) and the pizzas, though hot, weren’t blistering hot this time. Now, I like hot food HOT. I actually enjoy burning the roof of my mouth- I know it’s weird- but it just signifies a true heat to me. ¬†This time and maybe it also had something to do with the different type of cheeses (?) the pizzas weren’t sizzling like the last time. ¬†The taste was great again but to me, not divine. ¬†I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, because I wasn’t, but it was just, different. ¬†The one thing that is a bit of a disappointment however, was that the mushrooms used aren’t fresh but clearly canned mushrooms. ¬†I would have expected fresh portabella(which we grow locally as well) or fresh button or crimini mushrooms. ¬†I think this could be improved upon- and I’m not the first customer to notice this and wish it were different.

salccia

I like consistency. ¬†I think the mark of a good food establishment- whether it’s your little mom and pop place, a doubles stand, a gyro van or a big fancy fine dining restaurant- is consistency. ¬†In all fairness, I think I would need to try Bacco one more time as a ‘tie breaker’ to see if it’s divine or great. ¬†I would have absolutely no issue with trying it again and would have no reservations about spending another TT$200-TT$500 (that’s about US$35-US$83) on the food- because it was satisfying and does actually make me want more!

The staff is also very friendly and accommodating- especially the owner- a very friendly, warm gentleman willing to explain the menu and make suggestions.  They also make fresh-straight off the fruit- fruit juices with a very very small amount of sugar added, sometimes none if the fruits are very sweet.  We tried pineapple, strawberry/banana and pawpaw.  They were all delicious and reminiscent of the fresh smoothies I make for myself and my family.  We also tried the pies-strawberry and pineapple. The crust was good- could have been a bit flakier in my opinion and the filling was fine- though I thought a tad bit too sweet.

fresh juices

Summary

Bacco is a great place to have a meal if you’re looking for a simple, filling, tasty meal and expecting something a bit different than what you might be accustomed to (Pizza Hut, Papa John’s). It’s also somewhere to get fresh cheeses and other deli items- served with authentic rustic Italian breads- the caprese salad is particularly enjoyable.

I would definitely recommend Bacco!

Noteworthy points

  • The pizzas get cold exceptionally soon after they are taken out of the ovens- so DINE IN!!! You won’t regret it and you’d get a much better appreciation for the high quality and superb taste.
  • There isn’t a linx/credit card machine at the restaurant at the moment- so walk with CASH
  • Closed on Wednesdays- very European!
  • The hours are lunch (12pm-3pm) and dinner from 6pm

Pros

Good location
Good parking- parking extends to the lower level
Great tasting food
Large variety to suit many needs
Delicious deli items, cheeses and breads
Friendly staff
Decent prices

Cons

Closed on Wednesdays
Lack of card machines-maybe they’re just waiting for the machines to be installed?
Lack of fresh mushrooms (don’t know what else might not be fresh)
Can be considered a bit pricey

My overall rating for Bacco Pizzeria Italiana is  9.5/10

 
Bacco pizzeria italiana: 183 S.S. Erin Road, Duncan Village, Trinidad
phone: (868) 653-7261
Bacco facebook

cilantro detoxifying smoothie

smoothie

So today I made a delicious smoothie and wanted to share the recipe with everyone.

It’s very simple and really, you can use whatever ingredients you like. ¬†I’ve been reading a lot about juicing and its benefits and discovered that cilantro/coriander (very similar (although much more muted) to shadon beni/bandania found here in Trinidad) is a really good detoxifying herb. ¬†Apparently many nutritionists use this herb (coupled with parsley) as the base of many of the ‘green smoothies/juices’ that are popular today as detox drinks. ¬†I’m eager to try some smoothies with the shadon beni/bandania and have already thought up one using tomatoes- should taste like seasoned tomato juice!

Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup fresh organic pineapple
1/2 berry mix- blue/black/raspberries
1 ripe starch mango (substitute with any sweet mango)-equals about 1 cup
10 cilantro stalks with leaves attached
1 red apple
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened, unprocessed pomegranate juice- Dewlands brand is good if you have access to it.

Method

Wash and roughly chop all the ingredients removing any seeds as applicable. Place all in the blender and pulse, adding juice as required. Blend or pour over ice if desired. Garnish with a strawberry/pineapple wedge and some cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

Serving- 1 person~ 1 1/2 cups

Suggestion- Make this ahead of time using lots of frozen fruit of your choice and keep chilled. Perfect as an afternoon ‘pick me up from my blood sugar drop’ and perfect as a detoxifying agent.

smoothie detail


multi-use ginger sauce

ginger sauce

In my last post entitled ‘fruits and ginger sauce‘ I spoke about making a traditional Chinese ginger sauce to go with boiled/steamed chicken. ¬†I modified the recipe slightly to incorporate the healthy fat -extra virgin olive oil (also making it a bit of a fusion between Mediterranean and Chinese cuisine). ¬†This recipe is very simple and will make an entree in about 20 minutes- the time is a reflection of the cooking time for the meat of your choice.

step1 2 3 4

This recipe make enough sauce for 1/2-1 whole chicken.

Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh ginger root
2 fresh pimento peppers-preferably red
1 fresh hot pepper- scotch bonnet
3 Tbsp chopped chives
1/2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp extra virgin Olive oil/Canola oil
1 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil

Method

Grate ginger on smallest side of grater.  Slice pimento and hot pepper thinly, add chopped chives and salt.  Heat oil in a ladle until extremely hot. Carefully and slowly pour oil into ginger mixture while stirring.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to suit.

Serving- varies depending on individual portion sizes

Suggestion- serve with bland meats/fish or vegetables- boiled, broiled, roasted or steamed. Add additional Olive oil to use as an Asian inspired salad dressing. The possibilities are endless with this one!

ginger final


fruits and ginger sauce

fruit and oat bowl

Today was a very busy day in our household, well, not so much busy as hectic. ¬†I didn’t get a lot of rest last night, in fact I’d say it reminded me of when my baby was a newborn. ¬†My little one decided to stay up all night until the early hours of this morning and then wake up early! ¬†Needless to say I woke up feeling like a train wreck!

Of course this meant that breakfast, lunch and dinner had to be quick and easy…

Today I had fruits and old-fashion rolled oats for breakfast.  Simple and delicious; I threw in apples, pawpaw, pomegranate, pineapple and strawberries.  That was all there was to it, yet the sweetness of the fruits and knowledge that I was doing something good for myself by having rolled oats was enough for me to feel satisfied until lunch.

fruit/oat breakfastfruit/oat close

For lunch I made Chinese style ginger chicken. ¬†It’s super easy and really quick with very little prep time and cooking is a snap. ¬†I’m focusing¬†on this multi-use ginger sauce because the chicken or meat that accompanies this is really variable since it’s about how you’d like to prepare it. ¬†I do it the traditional way- boiled or steamed because it’s quicker, healthier and no fuss. ¬†But I’ve had it and prepared it roasted and pan fried. ¬†It really doesn’t matter since the motive is the same- to have a bland tasting meat with an explosive sauce!
It works, it really does! ¬†My way of ‘healthyfying’ the traditional recipe is to use extra virgin olive oil- it’s not really a huge adjustment, but it’s something and every little counts for something! ¬†I ate the ginger chicken as a salad- Romaine lettuce, water cress, cilantro, sliced carrots, lemon juice all topped by slices of the steamed chicken and ginger paste- it was clean yet sharp, healthy yet satisfying.

ginger sauceoil being added

ginger sauce

The last thing I made today was a smoothie. ¬†I’ve been trying to find ways to rid myself of all the junk I’ve been putting into my body over the last couple of years and reading a lot about juicing and its benefits. ¬†After my last trip to the market¬†I got some stocks so decided to make myself a refreshing smoothie. ¬†I made mine with fresh strawberries, frozen berry mix(blueberries, raspberries and blackberries), a sweet starch mango,¬†pomegranate juice (all natural, no additives or sugar), cilantro and some raw chia seeds. ¬†It came out remarkably well! ¬†The tanginess or the berries were so well balanced by the unique flavor of the cilantro and the sweetness of the mango was enough to have me wishing I had made more!

smoothie

smoothie detail

The ginger sauce and smoothie recipes are both very simple and can be viewed here.


baked fish platter

enoki

So yesterday I ventured to Othaheite here in Trinidad to purchase my fresh red snapper fish for lunch and today I’m posting the recipe with photos of the delicious lunch I prepared for my family. ¬†For dessert I had a lovely, sweet persimmon fruit- it reminds me of sweet kymit (a Trini fruit, currently out of season; when it’s in season I’ll be sure to post photos).

fish lunch

I actually ‘borrowed’ the idea from my cousin whom I call from time to time when I want to get a different perspective. ¬†I cook 2-3 meals each day and sometimes you want to use the same methods of cooking but you just want a bit of variety in ingredients. ¬†Sometimes it’s about what you have, other times it’s about what you could think up!

fishseasoning

saute

I can say this, the freshness of the fish makes a huge difference in its flavor, so get the fish fresh once you can. ¬†Forget the frozen stuff you find at the supermarket. ¬†I would make just a couple of adjustments to the recipe the next time I make baked fish, so maybe you can try them and let me know how it works out? I found that having the olives and tomatoes in the saut√©ed vegetable mix was a bit too acidic and salty for me. ¬†So next time I think I’ll choose just one or the other. ¬†I chose to add in capers because I think it goes great with fish- it does, but again I thought with the olives the sauce was a bit too tart. ¬†Now, usually I would add a touch of cream to the sauce once it’s done, I’m trying to eat clean so I chose to forego that option this time. ¬†But I think if you had all of these ingredients the cream added at the very end would make the fish all the more tasty! I also took it upon myself to add in coriander and found that this was a great addition; ¬†the sharpness of the coriander really balances out the mild, clean flavor of the red snapper. ¬†All in all, I’d give this lunch an 8/10- not bad for something that too very little preparation and a really short cooking time!

final fish

Recipe

Ingredients

Approximately 1-2 lbs of freshly bought fish- try red snapper, white salmon, tuna or sea bass
10-12 Greek olives cut into halves
2 large tomatoes
1 Tbsp capers
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
5 button mushrooms
1/2 pack enoki mushrooms
Juice of 1 lemon plus a few wedges to serve
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Preheat conventional oven at 450F or convectional oven at 350F. Slice onion and garlic cloves thinly. Cut tomatoes into large chunks- about 4 quarters/tomato. Cut olives into halves and button mushrooms into quarters.  Slice off the bottom of the enoki mushrooms.  Heat oil in flat bottomed pan on high heat and add in the onions and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Lower heat to medium.  Add mushrooms, tomatoes, olive and capers.  When soft, remove from heat.  While cooking the vegetables, cut slits into cleaned fish.  Add salt, black pepper and lemon juice ensuring that they penetrate the slit fish.  Pour vegetable mixture over fish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Serve hot.

Serving- 2 persons

Suggestions- Serve hot with green salad, roasted potatoes or brown rice pilaf.

persimmon


this is pastelle

pastelle

So, as I posted earlier today I ate a really great breakfast; now I want to talk about lunch. ¬†Not my lunch, my husband’s (I ate a really boring salad today, very simple-greens and a couple of vegetables tossed in- this is much more interesting).

pastelle lunch

sparkling water

So what is a pastelle?

Pastelles are a traditional Christmas food of Trinidad and Tobago. ¬†We learned about them from our Venezuelan neighbours and subsequently put our own take on them. ¬†They are essentially ‘meat parcels’. ¬†They are made by encasing a variety of meats in a cornmeal dough, steamed and enjoyed. ¬†That’s the simple definition of a pastelle- the reality is pastelles, like all things worth something, take a great deal of work to prepare. ¬†But they are worth every minute spent in oil and every single of their 400 calories!

IMG_4763 upclose pastelle

How are pastelles made?

I am not including a full recipe on this post now but will definitely put one in the Recipes section as soon as I’m able to. I will however include an outline of the process. ¬†As aforementioned, they are made of meat and cornmeal. ¬†In essence, the meat of your choice is prepared first- popular meats include ground beef(called mince meat in T&T), pork and chicken. ¬†Vegetarian alternatives do exist and include those being made from soya, lentils/legumes, fish, shrimp and vegetables. ¬†Personally, the meat pastelles are my favorite but they are the only ones I’ve ever tried. ¬†After the meat is cooked, olives, capers and raisins are added. The cornmeal is then prepared into a soft dough using butter, oil, water, sugar and salt. ¬†This dough will then be pressed onto a fig leaf using a pastelle press and filled with the prepared meat, folded, wrapped in foil and steamed/boiled.

detail pas

What does it taste like?

Heaven! Ha, no but seriously, I’ve heard comparisons made between pastelles and tamales. ¬†I’ve never tried a tamale so personally can’t make the judgement. ¬†I can tell you this though, no two pastelles taste the same. Everyone has their own special way of making them and sometimes you can come across one that’s terrible- I’ve had a few of them, but thankfully they weren’t many.

berry

If ever you get the opportunity to sample a good Trini pastelle, please do not hesitate to try it. You will be happy you did!

lemon