Archive for the ‘Caribbean style’ Category

Chinese cuisine, as a rule, is not known for having an extensive dessert repertoire.  I remember one of my first visits to a Chinese restaurant where there was a choice of pineapple or banana fritters, sticky stem ginger with vanilla ice cream or ‘chow chow’, a mixture of candied fruits in ginger syrup.  It is a long time since I have seen any of those on the menu.  Whatever happened to chow chow – can anyone shed any light?  (I mean the dessert of candied fruits in ginger syrup that used to be part of the dessert menu in UK Chinese restaurants 30 or so years ago – not the mixed pickled vegetable or the Chinese dog!)  It was one of my favourites but it has completely disappeared with just one reference to it on the web, also by a puzzled enquirer.  These days mostly there is a selection of ice creams and sorbets that have been bought in ready made: my favourites are the hollowed half coconut shell filled with coconut ice cream or the similar pineapple version.  One other dessert I remember from days gone by is a simple bowl of lychees, probably ready stoned and tinned in syrup. Light and fragrant, lychees are a perfect fruit to end a chinese meal so when I came across this recipe it seemed to fit the bill very well.  This sorbet would also be refreshing served after a spicy curry.

The original recipe for lychee sorbet came from food writer Nigel Slater, published in the food and drink pages of the Guardian Newspaper online.  I used fresh lychees from our market, which are readily available in the Autumn and around Christmas.  Tinned lychees are available as well and Nigel Slater suggests substituting a 400g tin, using both fruit syrup.  The result will be good but the flavour less delicate than if you use fresh lychees.  On the plus side, you will avoid having to peel the fruit, but it is not much of a hardship.   This is a delicious and simple recipe with the lime juice a necessary addition as it cuts through the extreme sweetness of the lychees.  Be sure to liquidise the lychees thoroughly.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Lychee Sorbet
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb 1oz lychees (unpeeled & unstoned weight – see note on using tinned fruit)
100g/30zs sugar, granulated or caster
400ml/14fl ozs water
2 tbsp lime juice
To serve:
250g/8ozs lychees, peeled & stoned

1.  Peel the lychees and count them.  Without removing the stones put them in a pan with the sugar and water.

2.  Add the sugar and water.  Bring to the boil.  Once the liquid is boiling and the sugar has all dissolved, turn off the heat and leave to cool.

3.  When it is cool enough remove the stones from of the fruit and discard them.  Reserve the syrup.

4.  Return the lychee flesh to the syrup and add the lime juice. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

5.  Liquidise in a blender or food processor until smooth.

6.  Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and process until it starts to freeze.  Transfer to a box and place in the freezer.  (Alternatively the mixture can be placed straight into the freezer, removed once or twice and stirred well as it starts to freeze, until it has set properly.)

7.  Peel and stone some of the reserved lychees.  Serve alongside scoops of the soft-frozen sorbet.


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Salt has been used as a method of preserving fish for centuries, prolonging its life and thus ensuring a ready supply.  It is widely used in warmer countries where it would otherwise deteriorate very quickly.  Nowadays fish is more commonly preserved by freezing, but the traditional dry salt method is still popular for the distinctive flavour it gives.  Salted fish is not commonly used in traditional British cooking but is widely used across the world, especially in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Caribbean so it is readily available in ethnic food shops, plus it can now often be found in the ethnic aisles of large supermarkets.  I regularly buy blocks of salted skinned boneless pollack for using in recipes such as Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes from the Caribbean or Spanish/Basque Style Salt Cod (Bacalao) in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Providing it is thoroughly soaked (overnight) and rinsed in two or three changes of water I find this purchased ready salted fish easy to use.  Providing the expiry date on the pack is observed, it does not need refrigeration.  (It can eventually be frozen too if it looks as if it might go out of date before use.)

When my mother in law gave me her copy of Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein I was surprised to see just how easily fish, particularly white fish, can be salted at home.  I experimented with reasonable success with some thawed frozen skinless pollack fillets, just enough for one meal. The instructions are not clear on how salted fish should be kept for long term use, (the recipe suggested it could be stored for up to week but I was nervous about keeping it for that long) so I used the fish just two days into the salting process.  (I also assumed that it needed to be refrigerated until use, even though I store purchased fish in the cupboard.)  It was lightly cured and soft to the touch with a mildly salted flavour but did not have a dried texture (this might have happened with longer salting). This method of salting is simple, but I feel it is worth noting here that it should probably be called lightly salted fish. After some research I discovered a helpful article at Downhomelife  which started with a warning:

Proper salting is a lengthy, fairly complicated process and special equipment or controlled conditions are needed to dry the fish thoroughly and safely.

Which is worth bearing in mind, though these words have now been removed from the article.  However the warning is about drying the fish to avoid poor results.  On the plus side the site also mentions the simple shortened method I had tried:

…the fish is cured in salt in what’s called a “pound” – a square bin where you let the fish soak in salt for about 21 days. If you want a less salty version called “shore fish,” you lightly sprinkle the fish with salt and let it cure for only a couple days.

I would certainly not re-freeze fish salted by this method as I am not sure enough that this can be done safely.   If salting fresh fish, rather than frozen, it could be frozen once salted.  Below is my version of salted fish.  My picture was taken 24hrs after salting.  In the end I consider this a simple way of lightly salting fish, providing the process takes place two days ahead of the date the fish is required.   It is a method I would be happy to use again, especially as I prefer the milder flavour, but I will probably also continue to buy the blocks of salted fish as they are so convenient.  Other useful links are this overview of  Salt fish giving a helpful list of types and names around the world, this article at ehow with a similar method to that given by Rick Stein and this enlightening Ezine Article.  I would be interested to hear from any readers who have successfully tried salting fish at home by the Rick Stein method, or similar.

If you have not smelled salt fish then you would be advised to do so before you make your own to give a guideline.  Salt fish has a different, much stronger, aroma from fresh fish but if really unpleasant then discard the fish and do not take the risk. Often purchased salt fish smells particularly strong but we have never suffered ill effects.   

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Salted Fish

Fillets of White Fish (Cod, Haddock, Pollack, Coley or similar)
Salt (Type not specified in the original – I used Rock Salt)
A large plastic container big enough to hold the fish without overlapping

1.  If using frozen fish then it should be thoroughly defrosted before salting and should not be re-frozen.

2.  Pat the fish fillets dry with kitchen paper and put them in the plastic container in a single layer without overlapping.

3.  Completely cover the fish with a thick layer of salt.

4.  Put a cover on the container and refrigerate for 24hours.

5.  After 24hours most of the salt will have turned to brine with the water drawn out of the fish.

6.  This fish will now be sufficiently preserved to keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.  The recipe does not say what to do with the brine but I poured away the excess liquid, leaving the patches of undissolved salt to continue the process.


To prepare salt fish for cooking it should be soaked in plenty of cold water.  If it is lightly salted this will take just an hour or two but fish that is more dried out should be soaked for up to 24hours. I usually give it a second quick rinse in cold water before use.

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This dessert is relatively uncomplicated and can be usefully cooked alongside an oven baked main course, especially as it does not take too long to make or cook.   It is ideal when you have a glut of bananas, especially as it needs ones that are slightly over rather than under ripe. 

The recipe is my own and it resulted from an experiment.  We love baked banana, Marmalade (the type made from bitter Seville oranges rather than orange jam) and ginger so I felt as if they might be a dessert match made in heaven: and I was right!   I have found, by experience, that bananas should not be cooked for too long so that they keep their shape and stay reasonably pale coloured.   The dessert can be eaten hot, warm or cold, although it should not be left to stand for too long as the bananas can start to darken and look very unattractive.  Yoghurt, soured cream or crème fraîche provide a good contrast to the sweetness of the fruit mixture, although it would be equally delicious served with cream or ice cream.  A sprinkling of dessicated coconut adds an additional tropical touch adding to the flavours of the Caribbean.

100_4257 Marmalade & Ginger Baked Bananas with Gk yog & dess coconut

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Marmalade & Ginger Baked Bananas
(Serves 4)

4-8 ripe bananas, sliced (1cm/½inch pieces) – 1-2 per person, depending on size
1-2 tbsp citrus juice, lemon or orange, squeezed from fresh fruit
4tbsp Seville Orange Marmalade, preferably with chunky shreds
2 pieces chopped stem ginger
2 tsp stem ginger syrup
5-6tbsp ginger marmalade (omit stem ginger and syrup if using this)
4tsp dessicated coconut, to serve (optional)

If using a microwave oven, this dish can be cooked in individual bowls.  Divide ingredients between bowls (apart from yoghurt, soured cream, crème fraîche, cream and dessicated coconut) and cook for around 5 minutes on a medium heat (consult your microwave manual for details). 

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.

2.  Thin down the marmalade a little using 1-2 tbsp citrus juice, so it can be poured.  Chop the pieces of stem ginger and stir into the marmalade sauce, along with the ginger syrup.  (If using ginger marmalade  this last step should be omitted and the amount of ginger marmalade increased by 1-2 tbsp.)

3.  Slice the bananas and place into a shallow serving dish.

4.  Pour the sauce over the bananas.

5.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  The bananas should be slightly soft, but still retain their shape and colour and the sauce should still be liquid.

6.  Serve either hot, warm or cold with yoghurt, soured cream, crème fraîche, cream or ice cream, topped with dessicated coconut.

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This recipe evolved from some experimentation when I wanted to make some corn fritters to serve with Chicken Gumbo, although it was not difficult to work out a satisfactory recipe.  I wanted a fritter that involved shallow frying using a minimum of oil, rather than a calorie laden deep fried version.  (I do not own a deep fat fryer.)  After a little experimentation, this is the recipe I came up with, using my basic batter recipe as used for Yorkshire puddings.  It is very simple to make and can be eaten in place of, or as well as, rice.  Cayenne pepper, adjusted to suit your taste, gives a spicy ‘kick’ to the fritter.  If you want something hotter, try using de-seeded and finely diced chilli peppers in place of the Cayenne.

Sweetcorn pancakes/fritters can be found in both Caribbean and Southern USA cuisine, so I often serve the pancake fritters as a side dish with Chicken Gumbo or Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes and alongside Fried Plantain, which is added towards the end of the cooking time using the same pan. Alternatively the plantain could be diced and added to the fritter mixture. More ideas on how to vary the dish to eat at other meals are given after the recipe. 

100_4136 Sweetcorn Pancake Fritters

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Sweetcorn Pancake Fritters
(Makes 8-12 fritters, depending on size)

A 1 egg quantity of batter mixture, as used for Yorkshire pudding
1 or 2 finely chopped spring onions, both white and green parts
1 400g tin of sweetcorn, drained
Salt, black pepper & cayenne pepper to taste
Sunflower oil to shallow fry

1.  Make the batter mixture and beat well.  If made ahead of time store in the fridge without adding the other ingredients.

2.  When you are ready to cook the fritters, beat the mixture well again and add the spring onions, corn and seasonings.

3.  Heat the oil and spoon in 1½ to 2 tbsp per fritter, cooking several fritters at one time, depending on the size of your pan. It is better to have thinner smaller fritters which cook through to the centre. Use a medium heat, flattening each with a spatula. Avoid turning the fritters over too quickly, but when a fritter is golden on one side flip it and brown the second side. Watch carefully as they can burn quickly.

4. Absorb excess oil by placing each batch between layers of kitchen paper and keep warm until needed.

5. Serve as an accompaniment to a Southern USA or Caribbean Style dish, alongside rice and shallow fried plantain, or with a boiled ham or gammon joint. 

They would also be good served alongside some crispy bacon and/or eggs and grilled tomato as part of a brunch breakfast. 

Vegetarian Variation: Add grated cheese and pre-cooked potato, parsnip or sweet potato and eat these fritters as part of a vegetarian lunch.

They could also be eaten cold as part of a picnic in the original or cheesy vegetarian version.

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I learned how to make fried plantain by following instructions given by a friend from the Caribbean.  It’s such an easy recipe you might wonder why it is here, nevertheless I think it is worth recording.  Plantain is still fairly new and may be unfamiliar to some people: I had to find out how to cook it!  Although they are the same family, Plantain differ from the yellow dessert bananas usually found in the fruit bowl.  

Plantain can be bought from Caribbean food stockists and can also be found in larger supermarkets.  They are usually best bought while still green, without too many brown spots, so they can be stored in the fridge for a few days if necessary.  The skins can be a little difficult to remove. When you are about to cook them, using a sharp knife carefull slit the skin lengthwise and then carefully peel away the skin.

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Fried Plantain
(Serves 4)

2 large plantain
A knob of butter
Sunflower oil

1. Cut the plantain into 1cm/½ inch pieces, either straight or diagonally.

2. Heat the butter and oil together in a frying pan.

3. Reduce temperature and gently cook pieces of plantain in batches, turning as necessary until golden brown on both sides. Be careful as the sugar content will make the plantain pieces caramelise and burn quickly.

4. As each piece is browned lift out and place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Keep warm until all pieces are cooked.

5. Serve as a side dish for Caribbean dishes.  A parsley garnish looks pretty!

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I have eaten lots of Caribbean Salt Fish Cakes but my friend Hyacinth, originally from Jamaica, definitely makes the very best Salt Fish Cakes in E17!  They always ‘go like hot (fish) cakes’ when she brings them to church shared lunches.  One thing that makes them particularly good are that they are crispy outside, soft inside and most importantly, unlike some I have tried, they are never ever greasy!  I managed to get her recipe and I share it with you here…

The quantities given on the original recipe were approximate, so could be slightly increased to feed another person by adding a little more flour and another egg.  The original recipe called for 8ozs flour and 2 eggs.  I misread the original hand written recipe and I added finely chopped green pepper, but we liked the flavour and colour so I decided to keep it in.  I also decided to slightly pre-cook and cool the onion and pepper, so it is properly cooked, as the eventual cooking time for the dish is not long.  A squeeze of lemon juice, if you wish, helps enhance the flavour.  Do not be tempted to add any more salt!

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Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes
(Serves 2-3 or 4+ as a starter)

5ozs/150g pack of boneless, skinless salt fish pieces (usually Pollack or Cod)
4ozs/125g Self Raising Flour
1 egg
1 small onion, very finely chopped
½ green pepper, very finely chopped (optional)
1tbsp tomato purée
Black pepper
1tsp lemon juice (optional)
Oil for frying

1.  At least 1hour before you are going to make the fish cakes, place the salt fish in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Change the water immediately and cover fish again with water.  Leave for about one hour, changing the water once more. 

2.  If you have a microwave oven then place the finely chopped onion and green pepper together in a small bowl and cook, covered, for 1minute.  Alternatively, cook together in a small saucepan with a little water over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.  Do not let the onion and pepper start to colour.  Put to one side and do not use until it has cooled – it can go in the fridge once it is no longer hot.

3.  Drain the fish in a colander or sieve. As much water as possible should be squeezed out before the fish is used.  Chop the fish as finely as possible, checking that there are no bones and removing them if necessary.

4.  Break the egg into a large bowl and whip.  Mix in the flour.  Stir in the fish, tomato purée, onion, pepper, plus lemon juice if using, until well mixed.  Draw the mixture together into a ball.  If it is a little sticky then add some more flour if needed. 

5.  Form the mixture into 8 or 9 equal sized flattened cakes: 2 or 3 per person – depends on how many people you are feeding.  If serving as a starter then divide mixture into smaller cakes.

6.  Place in the fridge for 10 minutes or until ready to cook. 

7.  Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the cakes very gently until golden brown on both sides.  Each cake will stick slightly but once it is set it can be turned easily.  Allow the cakes to seal on one side before you turn them to avoid them breaking up.  Keep warm under a gentle grill until needed.

8.  Serve with Rice & Peas and Fried Plantain and a few green peas or some salad leaves.

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This traditional dish from the Caribbean is a combination of rice and red kidney beans, which are are usually called peas, rather than green peas.  The mixture is cooked in coconut milk making it slightly sweet and fragrant.  It is lovely served with any foods from the Caribbean.  I always serve it with Salt Fish Cakes, which I make using a recipe given by our friend Hyacinth, Fried Plantain and a few green peas or some salad leaves. 

The original recipe, which was very successful but results in a dish with a fairly sticky consistency, comes from A Sainsbury Cookbook: The Cooking of the Caribbean by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz.  The only ingredient changes I made were to substitute a tin of red kidney beans in place of dried beans, to use creamed coconut (readily available in block form) dissolved in water in place of coconut milk and some adjustments to the ingredient proportions.  After making Rice and Peas in a pan using the original recipe I successfully adapted the recipe for my rice cooker, using the same ingredients.  The resulting rice was much less sticky.  Try it both ways if you have access to a rice cooker and see which you prefer: both methods are given below.

Stove top method - 'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Rice Cooker Method - 'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Rice & Peas
(Serves 6)

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped or ½tsp chilli powder
50g/2ozs creamed coconut
400ml/14fl ozs hot water
½ tsp dried thyme
350g/12ozs long grain white rice
1 x 400g/14oz tin Red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste

Stove top method:
1.  Heat the oil and gently fry the onion until golden.  Stir in the chilli, thyme and rice.

2.  Thoroughly dissolve the creamed coconut in the hot water and mix in.  Bring to the boil and cook over a very gentle heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to check that it is not sticking.  Before the liquid is completely dissolved stir in the drained and rinsed kidney beans, adding a small amount of additional water if necessary.  Continue to cook until the rice and peas are tender, the liquid is absorbed and the beans are heated through.

3.  Stir occasionally to make sure the mixture does not stick to the pan.  As the higher sugar content of the mixture means it could stick and burn it should be served almost immediately.   Rice and peas can be kept warm for a short time, but cooked rice should not be stored at room temperature for a prolonged period.

Rice cooker method:
1.  Place the rice, onion, chilli, thyme and oil in the cooker pan.  Thoroughly dissolve the creamed coconut in the hot water and pour over the rice. 

2.  Set to rice cooker to cook.  Before the liquid is completely dissolved stir in the drained and rinsed kidney beans, adding a small amount of additional water if necessary which will give a stickier consistency to the finished dish.  Stir occasionally to make sure the rice and peas do not begin to stick to the pan. Continue to cook until the rice and peas are tender, the liquid is absorbed and the beans are heated through. 

3.  It is not possible to use the usual keep warm facility in the rice cooker, apart for a very short period.  As the higher sugar content of the mixture means it could stick to the bottom of the pan and burn it should be served almost immediately.  Rice and peas can be kept warm for a short time, but cooked rice should not be stored at room temperature for a prolonged period.

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I have finally finished watching Gary Rhodes’ series of programmes exploring the food of the Caribbean. This dish, from Barbados, tasted as good as it looked on television and it was not too difficult to make.  I have cooked with beetroot as a vegetable in a stew with success and found some lovely lamb fillet in the supermarket.  The recipe needed the Bajan green seasoning (otherwise it would not be Bajan style) but it was not too difficult to make.  I made a half quantity and as I was trying just a small quantity of stew have frozen half for another occasion.  Another time I would make the full quantity but would recommend storing the remainder in the freezer, unless it will be used very quickly.  The recipe required green bananas, which are always available in specialist food shops but sometimes they can be found in the supermarket or even on the local street market, especially in the colder months.  Both the Bajan Seasoning and the Banana added a distinctive flavour to the dish that I would definitely not want to omit.

Here is a link to the original recipe for Gary Rhodes’ dish, called Blackbelly Lamb Stew and also the recipe for Bajan Seasoning.  The recipes come from Rhodes around the Caribbean, which was first shown on the UKTV Good Food Channel.

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Bajan Style Lamb Stew
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb Lamb, from the shoulder, cut into 4cm pieces (I used lamb fillet)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
sprig Thyme, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
sprig Marjoram, leaves picked (or ½ tsp dried marjoram)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 sticks Celery, finely sliced
1 tbsp Bajan Seasoning, (see separate recipe below)
dash of pepper sauce, or Tabasco (I used ½tsp chilli powder)
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
25g/1oz Butter
½ tbsp Plain Flour
1 Carrot, peeled and diced
1 large raw Beetroot, peeled and diced
3 small green Bananas, cut into 3cm chunks
1 Bouquet Garni, (Bay Leaf, Thyme, Marjoram)
½ Oxo Beef Stock cube (used on television, but not online ingredient list)

1.  Wash and dry the lamb.  Toss with the garlic, herbs, crumbled half stock cube, onion, celery, Bajun seasoning and pepper sauce.

2.  Heat a dry pan and add the sugar. Cook briefly and when it caramelises, add the lamb mixture, stir and fry very gently for a few minutes.  (The cooking of the sugar should be very brief and it needs to darken but must not burn, otherwise the dish will have a bitter flavour.)

3.  Add the butter and flour into the pan and mix in well. Add the carrot, beetroot, green bananas and bouquet garni (or bay leaf and a teaspoon each of dried thyme and marjoram).

4.  Pour over enough boiling water to cover all the ingredients and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until meat is tender, topping up the pan with a little more water during cooking if necessary.

5.   Serve with rice.  Sprinkle with a little parsley if you wish.

Bajan Green Seasoning

1 Onion, chopped
small bunch Spring onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 red Chilli, seeds and stem removed (Scotch Bonnet/Habanero if available)
1 tbsp Thyme, leaves
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
1 tbsp chopped Marjoram
100ml/4 fl ozs White Wine Vinegar
1 Lime, juice only
1 tsp Curry powder
pinch ground Allspice
pinch ground Black Pepper
1 tbsp Salt

1.  Chop the onion, spring onions, garlic and chilli together finely.  Use a food processor if available.

2.  Add the herbs, vinegar and lime juice and mix in very well. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

3.  Cover and store.  Ideally Bajan seasoning should be stored in the fridge for a week before use so that the flavours can mature.  It will keep in the refrigerator for six months or can be frozen in a plastic lined ice cube tray and stored in the freezer.

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