Food fiesta in the Glebe

Foods

Taste of the Caribbean from a Bajan kitchen

by Marisa Romano

Like many who escape our cold Canadian winters, I too had the opportunity to feel the hot sun on my skin when I visited an Ottawa friend in Barbados this winter. When the plane touched down on the tarmac at Macdonald-Cartier airport a few days later, I had a tan, bones fortified by a full load of vitamin D and a few recipes with the Bajan flavour that I enjoyed while on the island.

Bajan cuisine stems from African and British traditions that echo the history of Barbados. The English claimed the island for the British crown in the early 1600s. The first settlers arrived with a few Africans brought to the island to work as slaves on sugar plantations. Nowadays about 90 per cent of Bajans have an Afro-Caribbean heritage and in 2016 Barbados celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence. “Slavery is a part of our history that we, black Bajans, are told to forget,” says Tamara Taylor, my culinary guide.

Tamara is a young mother of two who works as a nanny, specializing in children with special needs. She loves to cook Bajan food with a modern twist. Her mom makes and sells banana bread and conkies – sweet treats made with corn flower, coconut and raisins, steamed in a banana leaf – at a small farmers’ market. She gave me Tamara’s telephone number when I told her that I was looking for someone who could teach me how to cook a real Bajan meal. A quick phone call later and I knew I was in for something special.

Tamara arrived at our meeting place in her white van at the same time as a swift Caribbean rainstorm and greeted me with a sunny smile. Our first stop was at the fish market in Oistins where Tamara showed me how to choose a large piece of fresh albacore tuna that we later sliced into thick steaks. Her familiarity with fish goes back to her childhood. She recalls the summers spent with her grandmother in the fishing village of Silver Sands. “When the fishing boat came in, the fishermen would blow a conch shell to let the village know of their arrival,” she tells me. “The sound of the shell could be heard from miles away and people from nearby districts, my grandmother included, would make their way to the beach to purchase fresh fish.”

Later in the day we marinated the fish in a traditional Bajan sauce made with herbs and spices. “This seasoning,” Tamara pointed out, “was and is still used to add flavour to meats of all kinds, including fish.” This is the flavour of Bajan cuisine that I brought home.

Bajan seasoning by Tamara Taylor

Ingredients:

1 small onion
1 cup chives
1 small green pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 ½ tbsp fresh marjoram
1 tsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp fresh Thai basil
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Method:
Chop all ingredients in a food processor or blend until nearly smooth. Add some water if the mixture is too thick. It should have the same consistency as chutney. The sauce stores well in the fridge.

We marinated three thick tuna steaks (about 600 gr) in 2 – 3 tablespoons of Bajan seasoning for about three hours and added more seasoning just before cooking the meaty fish in melted butter in a frying pan until the fish was just done. Once on the plate, the fish was drizzled with the pan juices.

We served the fish with vegetables picked up at the market earlier that day. The typical white sweet potatoes were mashed and whipped with butter and apple juice (orange is good too), levelled into an oven dish, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and fresh thyme and briefly broiled in the oven. We prepared a green salad and added finely sliced raw christophine that gave a fresh crunchiness to the dish. Better known as chayote or vegetable pear, christophine is native to Mesoamerica and related to cucumber and squash. It is usually cooked like summer squash, just until tender, to retain its crispy consistency. We also cooked some – peeled, pitted and halved – in coconut milk and seasoned with salt and pepper.

We ate our meal on the terrace. “A beautiful evening,” I remarked. It was pointed out to me that there are no bad evenings in Barbados – the weather is not a topic of conversation.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and former scientist who was a prime instigator of the Glebe Report’s Kitchen-to-Kitchen recipe exchange.

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This Nut and Lentil Roast was prepared for her family by Marisa Romano from the recipe contributed by former Glebite Louise Green, who now lives in the U.K.   Photo: Marisa Romano

This Nut and Lentil Roast was prepared for her family by Marisa Romano from the recipe contributed by former Glebite Louise Green, who now lives in the U.K. Photo: Marisa Romano

Nut 
and Lentil Roast

Contributed by Marisa Romano 
on behalf of Louise Green

This recipe comes from Louise Green, a Glebite since childhood, who has been residing in the town of Milton Keynes, UK for the past couple of years. Despite being somewhat removed from her neighbourhood, Louise follows the happenings of our community through the Glebe Report and sent this recipe in response to the Kitchen-to-Kitchen (K2K) exchange launched by the paper at the beginning of this year.

Health-conscious Louise was inspired by the momentum of the pulse revolution to prepare this dish for her family’s Christmas Eve as an alternative to the classic tourtière or meat pie that many families serve for this occasion, and to balance the rich turkey meal that she was going to serve the following day. The recipe is adapted from one she found on the BBC Good Food website. The website recommends complementing this dish with a favourite chutney. Louise served this lentil roast with cranberry chutney in honour of the holiday season.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200 g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
12 dried apricots, finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
100 g red lentils
2 tsp tomato purée
300 ml vegetable stock
80 g breadcrumbs
100 g walnuts and almonds, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
100 g cheddar cheese, grated
Parsley, chopped

Directions:
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan.  Cook the onion and celery for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 more minutes.
Add red pepper, carrot, apricots, oregano and paprika and cook for 4 more minutes.
Add the red lentils, tomato purée and vegetable stock and simmer until mixture is fairly dry. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Stir in breadcrumbs, nuts, eggs, cheese and parsley.
Spoon the mix into a loaf tin. Cover and bake at 180C for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until the loaf is firm.
I cooked the recipe to take the picture for the Glebe Report and served it for dinner. It received approval from all around the table. Everybody liked the meaty texture, the combination of sweet and savoury flavours and the dollop of tangy chutney that complemented perfectly the flavours of the lentil roast. I was given the green light to add this dish to our family recipe box. Thank you Louise!

Marisa Romano is a foodie and former scientist who promoted the nutritional benefits of pulses (peas, beans, lentils) during the International Year of Pulses. She was a prime instigator of the Glebe Report’s Kitchen-to-Kitchen recipe exchange.

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Carolyn Best’s Transylvanian Mushroom Ragout is an older and wonderful version of a classic dish. Photo: Gwendolyn Best

Carolyn Best’s Transylvanian Mushroom Ragout is an older and wonderful version of a classic dish.
Photo: Gwendolyn Best

Transylvanian Mushroom Ragout

by Carolyn Best

This is an older and wonderful version of a classic dish without the heavy dairy and flour components, yet it is even more fragrant with walnut oil, best-quality paprika and wine.

Mushrooms grow in the crevice between life and death and are the last thing to appear before the rotting log disappears into the forest floor, transmuting the remains of the old vegetation or emerging after the destruction of fire. The peasant populations were accused of burning down forest glades to let their beloved mushrooms spring to life creating a feeling of magical display when they choose to reveal themselves to a forest walker. Or cultivated locally, fresh and beautiful, there they are in our grocery aisle, our sole plant source of Vitamin D.

Ingredients

2 lbs. mushrooms
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups onions, sliced into thin half moons, then sliced once more
1 tsp marjoram
Garlic, one or several cloves
3 tbsp arrowroot
Sweet Hungarian paprika, at least 2 tbsp
Water as needed
Sea salt
Another 1/4 cup walnut oil or clarified butter

Method:
Sauté the onions slowly in a cast iron frying pan until somewhat carmelized, then add garlic and sauté a bit more. Add the paprika and transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté the mushrooms in batches until browning and add to the pot. Add wine and marjoram. Cover and simmer it until the broth becomes a naturally thick gravy (45 minutes). Add water as needed, as liquid reduces. Stir arrowroot into 1/2 cup of water and stir it into the ragout.

The ragout can be ladled over egg noodles or a non-gluten pasta, polenta or rice. Any left over ragout is delicious stirred into a soup for another day’s meal.

Carolyn Best is the former chef and proprietor of The Pantry Vegetarian Tea Shop.

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