Posts tagged “trinidad bloggers

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


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


and that’s what’s up…

hot pepper/scotch bonnet

These last couple of days have been hectic.  Yesterday was the first day that I missed a post!  It felt unnatural.  I couldn’t help but miss one yesterday since I was very busy throughout the day and my toddler has been resisting sleep more and more these days.  I’ve been feeling like I’m in a dream all day long.

Trying to get the ‘normal’ running of the house done when you have a toddler is tough, but trying to get it done when that baby refuses to sleep is near impossible.  I had to prioritize and unfortunately, thehiddencook had to take a back seat for the day.

I have all these plans and I obsess about where next I’m going to showcase, which fruits are going to be in the spotlight and what will be my next dish.  For now though I have to settle for them being just ideas, a part of my dreams.  I can’t seem to get it all done in a day!  It’s time consuming-cooking, photographing and writing for my blog (tasks that I thoroughly enjoy) and right now baby takes full priority.

The next couple of weeks are probably going to be much of the same; I’ve started back studying and putting some time into my own personal growth and development and that takes a chunk of time away from my own time now- time I might add that isn’t infinite- I get a couple hours during the day when baby is asleep and a few more at night after bedtime…when it goes smoothly!  So for now, I’m making lists (and checking them twice) and ensuring that all the vital stuff gets done first.

Aside from that I’ve finally purchased my new camera! YAY!!! I’m very excited to get it and can’t wait to start taking photos again- which of course means I’ll be posting like crazy again!  I’m also going on a vacation soon with the family so that might make my posts a bit ‘here and there’. We’ll see.

Anyway for now, that’s what’s been going on…that’s what’s up!


dream ultra lounge & bar review

dream menu closeSo, I’m excited about this one;  Dream ultra lounge and bar has been open for less than one month now and I’m getting the opportunity to do a review!  I’m not in any way, shape or form affiliated with Dream Ultra lounge- again, simply went there, ordered, dined and left (remember Bacco Pizzeria Italiana review?)

My good friend called me up out of the blue and invited me out for lunch, with limited ideas but a plethora of excitement (we hadn’t seen each other for months!), we called up some people and asked them for ideas.  It was my husband who suggested Dream- we’d heard of it but hadn’t gotten the opportunity to dine there since it’s opening- my friend and I were game.

So this is the low down- the location is good, it’s pretty central- I mean everything is central in South- the parking is sufficient and the opening hours acceptable.  The one problem I had right off the bat was the entrance.  There isn’t proper signage and the heavy industrial gates make you question whether you’ve found the right place. There were no directions saying this way or that so it’s just a little bit confusing.

dream lounge entrance

dream wall dream lounge

Once inside you’re greeted by a hostess who shows you to your seats.  The decor is modern and sleek with a very sexy color palette- warm burnt oranges and vibrant cherry reds intertwined with subtle taupes and creams, the smooth jazzy tunes blaring in the background only add to the sultry atmosphere- I mean, it is a lounge!  You immediately notice the ‘lofty’ feel- an open mezzanine with tables and chairs overlooking the open floor space, cable wired stair cases and highly polished tiled floors- you can easily envision a ‘pumping’ Friday/Saturday night after work lime or fete.

The staff are very friendly and somewhat informal- giving patrons a sort of ease of dining if you will.  It took me by surprise since I could very naturally see a more formal type exchange between waiter/waitress and diner in an establishment outfitted to the nines like this one.  Either way, what counts for me is an attentive, clean, well-mannered waiter/waitress- which I had.

Now for the most important thing of all- the food.

menuThe menu is simple offering a few choice items- which in my opinion makes sense for a lounge.  There isn’t much frill or fru-fru  to the menu items- unpretentious and to the point.  It’s almost as though the head chef, when creating his menu was saying “you want Thai red curry?  Well, here it is.  You can get it with shrimp, chicken, fish etc etc.  That’s it. You’re done. Choose and move on.”  I like that.  There aren’t pages upon pages of menu items (in fact, it’s a flat menu card- one for drinks and one for food) and noticeably missing were dessert items.

mojitos at Dream lounge

We weren’t offered or given a ‘soft drink’ menu, which I found a slight bit strange.  Are we meant to have hard liquor only? Well, we did!
We both chose Mojitos- not the hardest hard, but who’s checking?

mojitos

When it came to our choices for food we decided to share everything- there was the Thai coconut mint soup, Emperor wings with sweet/spicy sauce (baked not fried), Chicken alfredo and Thai red curry shrimp.  Everything was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! The tastes were subtle, never intrusive, the spice was perfectly adjusted to suite the discerning Trini palette and the quantity? Nobody could even try to accuse Dream of small portion sizes- I felt like a child at a swinging party- party bag in tow when leaving.  I left with more food in my stomach and doggy bag than I had had when I entered, how could that ever be a bad thing?

Thai coconut mint soup baked wings Thai stir-fry Thai red curry shrimp chicken alfredo Dream lounge chicken alfredo @ dream lounge

As good as the meal was overall, these are the minor adjustments I would make or at least take into consideration:

  • The main Thai meals(and I’m guessing the ‘Western Style side of the menu is the same) don’t come with built in sides so you find yourself ordering a dish and having to ‘add- on’ (aptly named ‘add-ons’ on the menu) rice or vegetables or whatnot.  I find this inconvenient as a diner.  I would prefer to have a complete meal as a main since the brain behind the planning (the chef) will know what goes best with what.
  • Although the items in the stir-fry vegetables were varied and delicious, cooked to perfection, some of them were very salty as though salt was added at the end and not fully incorportated.
  • The presentation could be improved upon.  The soup was brought out with the spoon already submerged- I don’t fancy this- unless it’s some small ‘hole in the wall’ eatery. I’d prefer to have my spoon on the table and as the food is brought to me I’d use it.
  • A ‘soft drink‘ non alcoholic menu should be given to diners.
  • The music could be a bit lower and the lighting a bit brighter.  I’m no authority on ‘good restaurant practices’ but I think it’s safe to say that when one dines, one must be able to visualize one’s food in totality.

In all fairness to Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar however, they are newly opened so these little details might well be fixed in due course and my lists are my own and based on my dining preferences so that’s something to bare in mind.

However this is my verdict…

I would definitely recommend Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar!

Here is the breakdown:

Pros

  • Very clean and furnished to a high standard
  • Very reasonable prices especially for the large portion sizes- Dream, don’t get bright and change this!
  • Very romantic (although I would quicker say, sexy) atmosphere- turn on the charm gentlemen
  • Very tasty, well cooked meals- the chef certainly knows what he/she is doing
  • Affable staff
  • Menu is simple without too many distractions
  • The food was brought to the table very quickly
  • Bathrooms are highly sanitized

Cons

  • Card machine was giving trouble- slight inconvenience but no big deal, I think they’re working on it- the manager was extremely apologetic and I see this as a minor con, for now.
  • Could be a bit brighter during dining hours
  • Music could be a bit lower during dining hours
  • Non-alcoholic menus should be given as well
  • Main dishes should be served with at least one side
  • Entrance should be clearly marked and signed

Overall I would give Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar a rating of  8.75/10

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

start, stop? both or neither?

bouganvilla

Today has been very interesting.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit defeated lately about many aspects of my life and personal journey.  It’s tough sometimes when you’re trying to do something and it just doesn’t seem to be working out.

I exercised today and loved it! I worked hard and got the good ole heart rate up.  The instructor that I work with is extremely patient, he never says anything to make any of us feel guilty or incapable of our abilities or efforts.  I really appreciate his style of teaching.  I feel comfortable and natural around him and he encourages me to do the best that I can, I think that’s so important.

I’ve also acquired a workout partner- this makes me extremely happy.  It’s always nice to have someone to keep you company when you’re  working up a sweat!  I don’t enjoy going to the gym or doing anything indoors- I’m an outdoors kinda girl.  I’ve been trying to walk more and I honestly wish that I had more of a ‘walking’ lifestyle.  You know most of us just didn’t grow up with that kind of ethic.  Trinidad is hot and we all drive!  Personally that’s sad.  I knew girls in school who walked everyday- because they had to- and I always secretly envied them.  I always wished and still do, that I had a more ‘naturally active lifestyle’.  But many of us make excuses; it’s too hot, too many bandits nowadays, I’m tired, nowhere flat enough, cool enough, hilly enough…the list goes on and on.  We have been programmed this way.

I watched a documentary the other day called ‘hungry for change’ in which the documentarians made such salient points.  It occurred to me and has many times before, how programmed we are to eat a certain way and to exercise a certain way.  We believe that if we can’t do something a certain way, it just can’t be done!  I know that’s how I feel; ‘if the conditions aren’t perfect then it just won’t work’.  I admire the people who don’t see life like that.  I would love to learn from them and to embrace another way of viewing the very same picture.

It’s all about starting and stopping, a mixture of both or sometimes neither- sometimes we’re just in limbo.  Sometimes we need a push, sometimes we need a pull…

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fennel pumpkin soup with ciabatta parmesan crostini

parsley, fennel close

Today is Saturday here in sunny Trinidad, the sunny blistering hot and the breezes cool.  Saturdays are for soup.  Traditionally, all across Trinidad and Tobago people are either making or buying soup, either way, we’re eating soup! Normally it’s sancoche (pr.sancoach)– split pea soup with ground provisions, some sort of meat and a variety of herbs and spices- today in our house it’s fennel pumpkin soup with ciabatta parmesan crostini!  fennel soup ingredients

I came up with the recipe while thinking about the fennel I had sitting in my fridge for the last week! I know, it’s terrible, but I never used fennel before and I think I felt just a tad bit intimidated? I bought the fennel at Gourmet Genie in San Fernando, check back soon to see a review.

Anyway, I broke off a small piece and tasted it raw and decided to use it in pumpkin soup.  Now, I love pumpkin soup.  I make it at least once a month if not twice.  My mother taught me how to make pumpkin soup when I was around 19 years old and I’ve loved it and made it ever since.  It’s simple yet satisfying and many ingredients can be added to it to make it more complex or filling.

This is a very easy, quick recipe- come on, Saturdays are for liming, nobody wants to stand around in a hot kitchen all day long cooking!

soup ingredients

Recipe

Fennel pumpkin soup

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb thinly sliced, reserve a few fronds for garnish
3 cloves garlic sliced thinly
1 sweet potato roughly cut into large pieces
1 lb fresh pumpkin roughly chopped into large pieces
10 cups boiled, hot water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3 bunches of fresh parsley, finely chopped
7 chive stalks
2 chadon beni leaves, finely chopped
2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 Tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Tsp saffron powder
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

In a large stock pot heat olive oil at high heat, add fennel and garlic until fennel is properly sweated.  Then add sweet potato and pumpkin chunks.  Cook these for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 10 cups of hot water, chives, 1/2 of chopped parsley, saffron powder and bouillon cubes.  Bring all to a roaring boil. Simmer when all vegetables are soft and tender. Taste for seasoning adding salt and black pepper if desired.  Add red pepper flakes.  Pulse with electric hand blender or swizzle stick until all vegetables are soft and soup becomes smooth. Leave to simmer for and additional 15 minutes so that soup can acquire a full flavor.  In the meantime you can prepare crostini. When the flavor is full enough, add in 2 cups of whole evaporated milk and stir. Off heat.  Add chopped chadon beni(these are always best added at the end of dish preparation so that its flavor can be bolder).

sweating vegetables

chicken cubes

blending soup

Ciabatta parmesan crostini

Ingredients

Ciabatta bread cut into 1/2-1 inch thick slices (see photos)
Olive oil for drizzling
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese, julienned.

Method

Preheat oven at 450F.  Place ciabatta slices on baking trap and assemble julienned parmesan and parsley on top.  Drizzle good extra virgin olive oil,(I use a red pepper infused olive oil, but this isn’t necessary) salt and pepper.  Bake for about 5 minutes until the ciabatta becomes toasted and crispy and the cheese melts.

Serve soup hot with crostini immersed or at the side.

slicing ciabatta crostini in the making

Serving~ 4 persons

Suggestion ~ Top with heavy cream or grated parmesan for that extra flair or use low fat evaporated milk as a substitute for a healthier alternative.  Try Caprese salad crostini or garlic croutons as an alternative.  Enjoy with a crisp glass of Chardonay or white zinfandel. 

fennel pumpkin soup with crostini 1 soup close fennel soup 2I’d love to know if you enjoy this soup as much as I did, so please be sure to leave comments below!

ingredients for fennel pumpkin soup