Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Passion for Fruits

Passion flower, Passiflora

Unripe passionfruit.

The essence of the sun, Starfruit and pineapple.

Some of the ways we enjoy the tropical fruits of the Caribbean aboard Bristol Rose.

Fruit salad featuring passionfruit and wax apple.

Banana and starfruit with pineapple and passionfruit.

Paw paw (papaya) with a squeeze of lime, perfect for breakfast.

We try all the different varieties of the fruits we can find. This small, round papaya was fantastic.
Yellow ones, green ones, and.... red ones?

An embarrassment of mangoes in St. Martin.

Meat Pies, Big in Puerto Rico

These fast-food-fried pastries can be addictive. Empanadilla consist of a round of pastry filled with minced meat or seafood, folded and fried till crisp. They’re something like an Aussie meat pie.

In Puerto Rico we set out to do an extensive taste testing of empanadilla from lobster and shrimp to beef. The difference is in the seasonings used. We can honestly say we never had a bad one. Empanadilla are a favorite lunch time food and freshness is always assured as they are prepared when ordered - no reheating required.

We found our favourites at a little roadside stand in La Paguera and at the La Barkita restaurant in Salinas. The best cook’s offer their homemade spicy sauce as a finishing touch. A dash of La Barkita’s sauce creates a magical mix of flavors.

Pumpkin is for Cows

Barely enough pumpkin.

Even though we found ourselves in the possession of a massive Puerto Rican pumpkin courtesy of our mates Sunny and Blake aboard Slow Mocean, we had barely enough of the gorgeous orange stuff to make all the recipes we were drooling over. It’s hard to imagine any group of people more accustomed to eating pumpkin than Australians. We love it and cook it in so many ways, least of all as pumpkin pie which is essential to a Thanksgiving meal in the States. In fact after 13 years in the States, I still can’t get my taste buds around a sweet pumpkin pie served with cream or ice cream. My loss, no doubt.

I grew up with the good old “meat and three veg” diet of so many Aussies, thanks to the dominantly British and Irish heritage of most of us back then (The Brits never called themselves European in those days!). We might have starved if it weren’t for sausages, lamb chops, mashed potato and pumpkin and green beans or peas! These still represent comfort food for me. My favorite is roast pumpkin, preferably Queensland Blue variety, a must along with roast potato and sweet potato cooked in the same roasting pan with chicken, beef or lamb. Oddly, when I travelled through the UK in 1981, I did not often see pumpkin for sale and was told that was because they only fed it to cows! Mooo, don't call cows silly!

Seasoning Peppers

As a result of immigration from Southern Europe after WWII, Aussie tastes eventually changed and matured. The types of vegetables commonly available to us became more interesting. We can thank the Australian Women’s Weekly for introducing wonderful collections of recipes, Italian, Chinese, etc. and encouraging Aussie Mum’s to try them.

Soon my Mum was cooking stuffed zucchini, canneloni and lasagne like we imagined Italians would. Chinese take-away was always available (the Chinese came initially with the Australian Gold Rush of the 1800’s) but with the influence of immigrants from a list of Asian countries, especially Vietnam and Thailand, food tastes changed some more, to the point where Australians seem to have the best of all worlds. The variety of fresh fruits and vegetables just can’t be beat.

Never known to bow to authority or tradition, Aussie chefs over the past 30 years have been the most innovative, courageously ignoring culinary “norms” in favour of combining ingredients that rarely share the same plate. I recall a Peter Howard recipe of the early 80’s; roast pork with puree of kiwi fruit and onion. Now that’s a taste sensation. As for fusion, heck, Aussie chefs should have taken out a copyright on the word when they introduced the concept!

Coconut is perfect with pumpkin.

What has all this to do with pumpkin? Nothing, except to say that the humble pumpkin has never gone out of fashion! Here are some of the ways we used that Puerto Rican pumpkin, as pictured above.

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup
I adapted the recipe of Chef Christopher Walker of Villa Monzon in Montego Bay, Jamaica (Morgan Freeman & Friends Caribbean Cooking for a Cause). The beauty of this soup is that vegetables can be left out or substituted depending on what is available and so the finished flavour is often a surprise even to the cook!

250 grams potato
500 grams sweet potato
500 grams of pumpkin
250 grams yams or dasheen
2 carrots (peeled and sliced)
1 Chayote (choko) squash (peel, remove seed and cut into 1” pieces)
2 medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 spring onions or green shallots
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 hot chili pepper
1 can coconut milk
6 cups vegetable broth or stock
Tablespoon of butter or oil
Red pepper for garnish (very finely sliced)

You’ll need a stockpot. Peel and cut the potato, sweet potato, yams and pumpkin into 2” pieces.

Gently warm the butter and garlic in the pot. Add the root vegetables, pumpkin and carrots along with the coconut milk and broth. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the chayote, tomatoes, spring onions, cabbage and chili pepper to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender.

Season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Serve garnished with finely sliced sweet red pepper. Serves 6.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Curry
Our 1982 reprint of “Caribbean Cookery” by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, originally published in 1973 as “The Complete Book of Caribbean Cookery” by M. Evans and Co. Inc., is positively indispensible as we sail the islands of the Caribbean. Ms. Ortiz attributes the following “colombo de giraumon” to the region Martinique - Guadeloupe. Here is her recipe.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1oz. unsalted butter
1/4 lb. bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, choped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1lb West Indian pumpkin (calabaza), peeled and cut into 1” cubes
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large clove garlic, crushed

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy saucepan, add bacon, onion and pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is tender but not browned.

Add the curry powder and cook, stirring for a minute or two. Add cloves, tomatoes, pumpkin, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on the lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning.

When pumpkin is very tender and almost reduced to a puree, mix in the garlic and cook, uncovered for a minute or so longer.

This dish is a perfect accompaniment to plainly cooked meat, fish or poultry.

Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz died on Oct 27, 2003 at the age of 88. To say she was extremely talented would be a gross understatement. Again we turned to her “Caribbean Cookery” book for inspiration.

Rooting Out Rotis

The real purpose of quitting my job and sailing 3,500 miles in a 43' boat is to find a good roti.

Many years ago my Fijian friends, Roger Clarke and Peter Moorse, introduced me to the Dee Why Roti Hut in Sydney. At the time I did not have a taste for hot food and the experience of eating a blistering hot roti for the first time was a life altering one.

Both Trish and I became regular customers of the Dee Why Roti Hut travelling across the city to get our roti fix when the need arose. On our last visit to the Roti Hut, sometime in the mid 80's, we were shocked to find it closed for good. Since that day we have searched far and wide for rotis.

Turns out that the roti we so fondly remember in Sydney comes from the West Indies; the closer we get to Trinidad & Tobago the more rotis we find.

First we found them in US virgin Islands at US$15. This price did not seem right as I recalled paying all of A$0.40, but that was a while back. Then in St Kitts we found them on the restaurant menus. Still not quite right as I recall eating them out of a paper bag and washed down with a banana smoothy.

We get to the Grenadines and voila, rotis at $8EC (US$3) complete with paper bag and tasting just as I remembered after a heavy handed application of local hot sauce.

Eating roti on the beach in Bequia.

Now in Grenada no trip to St Georges is complete without a Roti and yes we have found banana smoothies. Real roti is Carribean fast food, found in small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants or street stalls, served in a paper bag and if you're lucky, accompanied by a banana smoothy. Heaven!

Trish's Chicken Salad

A real favourite aboard Bristol Rose

  • Canned Chicken
  • Mayonaise
  • Celery
  • Ground black pepper

Mix together and serve in a lettuce leaf or on a sandwich with dill pickle

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To Market To Market .....

Market day in the Caribbean is always a great day. We have really enjoyed re-acquainting ourselves with tropical fruits and discovering new ones.

all in a day's shopping

Cashew, who would have ever thought they look like this?

Like markets all over the world, interacting with the vendors is half the fun.

Fresh Spices from the Caribbean for sale in Guadeloupe

Spices in St. Martin

Mahi Mahi

Caught a Mahi Mahi and just dont know what to do with it?

  • Fillet and skin fish, remove dark meet, cut into serving size pieces
  • Rub with Olive oil and season with a seafood rub (try Chef Paul Prudhommes Seafood Magic)
  • Grill fish on bar-b-que
  • Top with a fruity salsa
  • serve with lettuce and tomato

Hot Chocolate Caribbean style

Discovered in the markets of Basse Terre.

Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon Stick, Bay Leaves, Nutmeg, Unsweetened Chocolate
3 cups of water, 3/4 cup evaporated milk
Sugar to taste

  1. In a saucepan, bring water to boil with vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, bay leave, grated nutmeg.
  2. Add the chocolate and return to boil
  3. Reduce heat and simmer until chocolate melts
  4. add evaporated milk
  5. remove leaves, cinnamon, vanilla bean
  6. add sugar to taste
On reflection we should have added a dash of rum!

Colombo de poulet

The Colombo was introduced into Martinique and Guadeloupe around the middle of the 1800's by migrant Hindu workers. We found freshly mixed Colombo powder and all the ingredients needed to make our own Colombo on board Bristol Rose.

This recipe is based on one we found in Caribbean Cookery by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz.
3 lb of chicken 1/2 lb, aubergine, peeled and sliced
4 tbl spoons oil, 1 christophene (choko)
2 onions, finely chopped, 1 lb dasheen (taro)
2 cloves of garlic, 1 can of coconut milk
1/3 cup Colombo, 1 cup chicken stock
1 tbl spoon tamarind pulp, 3 seasoning peppers (use hot peppers if desired)
1 green mango, lime juice
1/2 lb pumpkin, 2 tbl spoons rum
1/2 lb green papaya, bundle of thyme, green onions, bay leave
  • I used a pressure cooker for this dish
  • Saute chicken pieces lightly on both sides in oil, remove from pressure cooker
  • saute onions until golden
  • add garlic and Colombo and cook for 3 minutes
  • return chicken to pressure cooker and other ingredients except for lime juice and rum
  • Cover pressure cooker and cook for 30 minutes
  • add salt to taste, add lime juice and rum
  • serve with rice