Today marks day 1 of my four week salad challenge! I must say it started off really well, since today’s lunch was wonderfully refreshing, clean, simple and oh so delicious! The meal is very simple and like I said, clean but the preparation is the hard part (at least for me since I don’t get a huge amount of time to devote to cutting up things since my baby usually comes into the kitchen after 5 minutes of being away and cries out for me to be close) 🙂 sweetness! Today was different though, I got some extra time to look after our meal since my little one was visiting grans and aunties. So, I basically reverted to the days when I could leisurely prep for the meal and take photos for the blog. Was nice!
This meal sticks very nicely to the rules I made for myself (and I hope you too) in the previous post. The citrus guava cake is gone(I must say I think I’ll have to make this one during guava season since it was a huge hit with the family and friends) and vegetables and fruits have taken it’s place instead. I got inspiration for this meal from my girl Ina (yep, we are good partners taking in the occasional drink and pork sandwich by Kep’s…hmmm, I wish!). Wanted to find another way to make string beans-got an intimidatingly large bag from Pricesmart recently. I love string beans, but sometimes I get a bit tired of the same old ‘steam me and put some garlic on me’ routine. So today I mixed it up a bit.
What is great about this string bean salad is that the string beans really take center stage. I loved the crispness of the beans set against the tart spiciness of the brown spice mustard I used. I also love the sweet warmth of the roasted garlic in there and the crunchy red onions really added that extra punch. Additionally, this string bean salad can be served at room temperature or cold! How wonderfully great is that?
The other dish I prepared to go along with this was a Greek salad- wow 2 salads in one meal? Good stuff. Anyway, I love Greek salads, the salty creaminess of feta cheese set against the sweet mellowness of tomatoes and crunchy morsels of cucumber? Come on, it’s so good. What makes it even better is that it’s so easy! I mean, you can throw it together in five minutes-I know its my go to salad when I’m not in the mood to make an elaborate dressing. Speaking of dressings, that’s the other thing I like about Greek salads, the dressing is ridiculously simple. Now, I don’t know the exact definition of a Greek salad, but I know how I make mine. The only really essential elements for any salad I want to convert to being Greek are cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese. Everything else is fair game.
I ain’t gonna talk too much about the perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned pork chops that went with these salads because, hey, this is about salads, isn’t it? It was good though, real good.
Will definitely be making these again during this 4 week salad challenge 🙂
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.
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!
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’
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.
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!
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Putting it all together
Add the 5-10 peeled cloves of roasted garlic to the broth along with the following optional ingredients.
1/2 cup whole/evaporated milk/ heavy cream
Parsley, finely chopped
1 can butter beans(drained and rinsed)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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..
4 Large Idaho potatoes
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp salted butter
2 cups whole milk
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.
2 ripe plantains
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups water
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.
Fried plantain slices
1/2 Tbsp salted butter
salt for spinkling
12 Plantain slices
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The ginger sauce and smoothie recipes are both very simple and can be viewed here.
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).
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!
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 sautéed 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!
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
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.