This weather has me pining for a Caribbean vacation. Somewhere where the sun is shining and the air is warm, and an ocean's gentle rhythm is playing in the background. I miss the smell of coconut butter and nothing beats the taste of fresh pineapple munched in the heat of the day.
It may be difficult to jump on a jet and just fly away to paradise — but what about taking a bite, instead? Caribbean cuisine is a blend of spice and sensation, flavour and familiarity. It's a scrumptious stew of native Carib Indian and early Spanish-Portuguese influences, and so much more.
Everyone has a favourite go-to Caribbean dish (the traditional jerk chicken comes to mind), and, in the following recipes courtesy of Foodland Ontario, it's also a reflection of our local bounty, blending the best of both worlds.
Hang tight — spring's just around the corner. Pull out your favourite summer clothing and play your favourite raggae — and enjoy the following dishes, guaranteed to put you in a Caribbean state of mind.
Jerk-Style Trout with Apple-Carrot Relish
Sometimes purchased jerk seasoning or marinades (native to Jamaica) can be quite spicy. This recipe allows you to control the spiciness to your taste with the amount of cayenne pepper. Prepare extra spice rub to use on poultry or meat before grilling.
- 2 rainbow trout fillets (about 12 oz/375 g each), halved
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored and finely diced
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) shredded carrot
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) liquid honey
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. (5ml) minced fresh gingerroot
- 1/4 tsp. (1ml) each salt, pepper and cinnamon
- 1 tsp. (5ml) each ground allspice, pepper, dried thyme leaves and packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. (2ml) salt
- 1/4 tsp. (1ml) cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. (0.5ml) cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Apple-Carrot Relish: In medium bowl, toss apple with lime juice to coat. Add carrot, honey, parsley, ginger, salt, pepper and cinnamon; mix well. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Spice Rub: In small bowl, combine allspice, pepper, thyme, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
Place trout pieces, skin side down, in single layer on lightly oiled baking pan. Combine spice rub, oil and garlic; spread evenly over top of fillets. Broil for 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Serve with relish.
Makes 4 servings.
Trinidad Chicken Pelau
This traditional chicken and rice dish gets its colour and characteristic flavour from browning the chicken in caramelized sugar. Serve with a creamy coleslaw to complete the island meal.
- 8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin removed
- 1 Tbsp. (15ml) chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp (5ml) dried
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. (5ml) salt
- 1/2 tsp. (2ml) pepper
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) packed brown sugar
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cups (500ml) sodium-reduced chicken broth
- 2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced diagonally
- 1 cup (250ml) long-grain rice
- 2 Tbsp. (30ml) tomato paste
- 1 can (15 oz/425 mL) green pigeon peas,* drained and rinsed
- 1/2 tsp. (2mL) hot sauce (optional)
In large bowl, combine chicken, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or for up to 4 hours in refrigerator.
In deep, large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add sugar evenly in centre of oil; cook until sugar is bubbly, frothy and dark caramel colour around edges watching closely, 2 to 3 minutes.
Immediately add chicken and stir constantly with wooden spoon until coated; brown for about 3 minutes. Add onion and 1/4 cup (60ml) of broth; cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in carrots, rice and tomato paste. Add remaining broth, peas and hot sauce (if using); bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
*Note: Pigeon peas are available in the international section of the supermarket. Pinto beans can also be substituted.
Ham and Macaroni “Pie”
Baked macaroni, or pie as it’s called in the Caribbean, is standard daily fare. Here ham is added to make this a casserole that can be served as a light meal or side dish.
- 8 oz (250g) elbow pasta (about 1-1/2 cups/375ml)
- 1 Tbsp. (15ml) butter
- 2 cups (500ml) shredded Old Cheddar cheese (about 4 oz/125 g)
- 1-1/2 cups (375ml) cubed ham (about 8 oz/250 g)
- 2 eggs
- 1 can (370ml) 2% evaporated milk
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. (5ml) dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp. (2ml) each salt and pepper
In large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions for 8 minutes. Drain well and return to pot. Stir in butter until melted. Add 1-1/2 cups (375ml) of cheese, a bit at a time and mixing well after each addition. Stir in ham.
In medium bowl, whisk eggs with milk; add onion, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir into pasta mixture. Spread into greased 8-cup (2L) baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake in 350F. (180C.) oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.
Apple Sweet Bread
Coconut bread or sweet bread, as it’s often called in the islands, is a heavy quick bread that can be served at breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The addition of apple makes it moister and replaces the candied fruit.
- 1-1/2 cups (375ml) all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp. (7ml) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. (2ml) salt
- 1/4 tsp. (1ml) each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup (250ml) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (75ml) vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. (5ml) vanilla
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated (about 1 cup/250ml)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup (125ml) raisins
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.
In large bowl, whisk together egg, all but 1 tsp. (5ml) of sugar, oil and vanilla. Add flour mixture; mix well (mixture will be dry). Stir in grated apple, coconut and raisins.
Spread into greased and floured 8- x 4-inch (1.5 L) metal loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
Bake in 350F (180C) oven for about 1 hour or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 1 loaf; serves 12.