Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Caribbean flavoured Weekend

Dee:  “We hadn’t cooked any Caribbean meals for a while, so this weekend decided to revisit our battered copy of ‘Creole Cooking’ by Sue Mullin.  It’s one of our oldest recipe books and we’ve cooked from it quite a bit over the years.  We bought it from a library sale, and it was well thumbed even then.  It includes recipes from all across the Caribbean, with chapters on drinks, soups, fish and seafood and a particularly good one on salads.  The recipes for the main courses are pretty much all meat based, so vegetarians/vegans would need to refer to the chapters on side dishes or salads and adapt the recipes there, although some of the soups are suitable too.  I mentioned the chapter on salads being good but there are also plenty of recipes for sauces and spice mixtures which I always enjoy collecting. 

We prepared these dishes over the course of the weekend, rather than all at once.  The chicken and salad were tea on Friday, wheras the patties were baked on Sunday, for lunches in the week.”

Caribbean Coconut Chicken
Dee:  “We decided to give this recipe a go as we hadn’t cooked it before, and were pleased with how it turned out.  We didn’t adhere one hundred per cent to the recipe, as not all of the ingredients were available, but we were able to use stock-cupboard ingredients to good effect.  The recipe calls for unsweetened coconut flakes, which we couldn’t find, so tried sweetened dessicated coconut instead.  Normally associated with cakes, it actually gave the filling for the chicken a pleasing texture and sweetness which the sauce went well with.  Caribbean food is often thought of as being all barbequed and blow-your-head-off hot, but while these dishes are certainly present in the culinary identity of the region (there’s a chapter on jerked food in this book for example), there are also milder dishes cooked in different ways with different tastes on offer, and so it is with this one.  The tastes here are strong and sweet, perhaps not to everyone’s taste but we enjoyed it.  The dessicated coconut of course made it sweeter than the ‘authentic’ version, but with a sauce that included apricot preserve it was unlikely to have ever been too much of a clash.
The recipe calls for the chicken breast to be flattened, rolled up with the filling inside, secured and baked, with the cooking juices used in the sauce.  In our version we had to improvise with the sauce as there weren’t any cooking juices to use, so we added tomato ketchup instead.  This turned out to be an amazing base for the sauce and may even have inspired us to make up a batch of it to use with other meals.  The chicken rolls should have been served in sliced, but we decided to stick with serving them as they were as they looked a little fragile.
The photograph shows them being served with two sweet potatoes but one turned out to be plenty, so we saved the other to warm up with lunch the next day.  The sweet potatoes were just pricked all over, coated with a little oil and jerk seasoning, then baked for about 35 minutes. 
The chicken would also go well on a bed of rice with some cooked peppers mixed in.”

Creole Spinach Salad
Dee:  “We’ve made this salad several times now and although it takes a bit of preparation, mainly de-stemming the spinach leaves, it remains a favourite.  As with the chicken dish, we had to make a couple of substitutions, but neither changed the salad for the worse.  The first was by using toasted pumpkin seeds instead of pecans, but they were a more than suitable alternative.  The second was by using shop-bought croutons, as we only had flatbreads in the bread bin, and they were earmarked for other meals.  The dressing packed a punch, having mustard and balsamic vinegar added to the yoghurt base, but it worked well with the large amount of spinach.  The occasional taste of the toasted seeds was also very pleasing to taste.”

Vegetable Patties
Dee:  “This recipe isn’t from the book.  It’s by Levi Roots: Recipe Link   
We made a slight change to the published recipe by leaving the butter out of the patty dough.  This made the finish inauthentic but we’re trying to watch the calories so had to compromise somewhere.  The filling included cheese, but this was needed to bind the vegetables together and to add a little saltiness so had to stay.
The patties are intended for lunches during the week, so we made up a quick dipping sauce from yoghurt, chilli sauce and a little jerk seasoning to go with them.

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