Sunday, August 30, 2009
Back in July, I spent some time in Tobago. This post was inspired by my memories of that trip and the taste of a popular Tobagonian treat called, Bene balls.
Bene or Benne is an African word for Sesame seed. I secretly call these Tobago Jawbreakers and they are my guilty pleasure. Considerable effort is required to bite into one; the old and infirm need not apply. Oh, but they are so good. Family and friends upon hearing of your intent to visit the island of Tobago will beleaguer you with requests to bring them some Bene Balls.
My stash from that July trip did not last very long and I decided I should try to make my own. It's super easy to do and I can't imagine why I never thought to make them before.
Trinibagonians abroad who can't get home and need a nostalgia fix. This is the real deal.
I was surprised that not one of my many Caribbean cookbooks had a recipe for this. Maybe it’s a Tobago national secret; a closely guarded formula like Angostura bitters? Never fear I finally wrangled an authentic recipe from a Tobagonian friend.
NB (Nota Bene): I have strayed away from the traditional ball shape and added honey so as to make it softer and more pleasantly crunchy. Your dentist will thank me I’m sure.
1 cup sesame seeds
4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
1. Line a 8 x 8 inch brownie pan with a sheet of waxed paper. Coat the waxed paper with cooking spray. Coat a silicone spatula with cooking oil spray. In a medium skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium-low heat, stirring often, until they're fragrant and golden, 7 minutes to 10 mins
2. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and honey. Cook over low heat, until the sugar is melted and the mixture is thick. No need to sir. Cook until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage. I keep a small bowl of water on the cook top to test the sugar. Use a teaspoon and drop a small amount of sugar in the water. Feel the sugar with your finger you should be able to roll it into a soft ball. At this point add the sesame seeds to the sugar and stir well with a wooden spoon.
3.Use the greased silicone spatula. Scrape the mixture into the brownie pan and onto the paper. Press down and smooth the mixture until it Is evenly spread across the bottom of the pan.
4. Cut the candy into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Let the candy cool completely. Break apart the pieces and store them in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about twelve squares.
TIP: Another way to prepare these squares would be to coat two large sheets of waxed paper with cooking spray. Place one sheet of the waxed paper on a work surface, greased-side up. Scrape the mixture onto the paper and top it with the remaining sheet of waxed paper, greased-side down. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture into a square about 1/4 inch thick.
Posted by Wizzy John at 5:33 PM
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Do your hot dogs need a makeover? Mine did. Honestly I had fallen into a rut. Bun, dog, ketchup, mustard - maybe some slaw at the side - NOT (God forbid) for fear of histrionics and major toddler meltdowns, slaw on the top. Never slaw on the top people!
How many of you are like me in thinking that this is kiddie fare, not suitable for adult tastes? Well think again.....here they are... hot dogs for grown ups! Inspired by my July issue of bon apétit's, Around the world in 80 Hot Dogs'
Topping: caramelized onions, mushrooms, blue cheese
Picture my 4 year old son's face when I said I was making Hot Dogs for lunch. He did a little happy dance/jig. He ran around in a circle singing/screaming HOT DOGS, H - 0 - T Dogzzzzz! We're having HOOOOOOO T DOOOOGS!
Now, imagine the scene when I put these in front of him? Silence. He stared at them for such a long time without saying a word. But his face, oh how his face said it all! Finally, in continued silence he ate. Chew, chew, chew, pause to throw an aggrieved look my way, chew, chew, chew, exaggerated swallow. When he was done he only had one comment " Mom, next time PLEASE don't make 'special' hot dogs for me. Special, said with an inflection that one reserves for the disabled or mentally incapacitated. LOL
Topping: mango chow,Grace mild jerk marinade,Trinidad Seasoning peppers
My friend Thorsten has got me thinking that I should add cucumbers to The Jamaican. Check out his gorgeous photography and his German take on the hot dog here.
Seriously though it's summer time. I don't know about you but I don't like to be in the kitchen much when I am on holiday. You don't need to fire up a grill for these. Boil or fry the hot dogs, toast the buns slightly and you are all set. The more complicated toppings can be prepared in advance.
These were so easy and so good. I want to do more. Do you have any ideas for me to try? Name your hot dog and send your 'special' topping suggestions my way.
Posted by Wizzy John at 6:04 PM
Monday, August 3, 2009
Bake a cheesecake. Put a whole bunch of cherries on top. Serve before delivering the bad news or an awful truth.
Cherries are are an import item to the Caribbean. They come in cans, or as artificially coloured and sweetened maracshino cherries.
I have long been curious as to the taste of imported cherries as compared our local Barbados cherry. When you do see fresh cherries they are just too expensive - beyond the budget of your average person. That is until some weeks ago.
Some nearly heart-shaped cuties winked at me from between the plums and the grapes. They were expensive but not outrageously so and I bought a few, just to satisfy my curiosity. They were delicious but I must admit that I was a a bit disappointed that their taste wasn't wildly exotic and different. They tasted a bit like imported plums.
A later trip to a another grocery and there they were again. This time the price was three times more than the first place that I had shopped! Like a crazed person I sped back to the first supermarket and stared at the price on those cherries. Surely this was some kind of pricing error. I promptly bought ALL that were left on the shelf and approached the cashier, certain that the mistake would be discovered and I would be forced to return them to the display but noooooo.....A few minutes later, I was out the door with my huge bag of cherries, feeling for all the world that I had just won the cherry Lotto.
When I got home - disaster! My attempt at making cherry pie failed. Trying to shortcut things, I used a store bought, frozen, pastry dough. The finished pie dough was doughy and soggy. Ugggh! No way did I intend wasting my cherries, so I rescued the cherry filling. I made a cheesecake instead and covered it in the delicious pie filling.
For all my good luck with the price, the fact remained that these cherries were still an expensive, over the budget item, on my shopping list. There was some concern on my part that Mr. H might not be happy to hear how much I paid for these. So, the following day, I made sure that the 'bad news' about the price was divulged after I had served him a slice of this cheesecake. Mmmmmm......a bargain he agreed and asked for another slice.
Cherries On Top Cheesecake
6 tbs butter
7oz/200g graham crackers
16 oz cream cheese ( 2 pks Philladelpia )
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
16 fl/ 400 ml/ 2 cups sour cream
Melt butter over low heat. Stir in the crackers, then spread in an 8 inch/20cm springform pan (Cheesecake will be higher than mine as I used a 10 inch pan.) Bring ingredients to room temperature. In a food processor or with a hand mixer on low speed blend together the cream cheese, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. Pour over the cracker base. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven, 375 degrees F/ 190degrees C for 20 mins (less time if using a larger pan as I did). Bake until cheesecake is set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes
4 cups sweet cherries (pitted),
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small lemon , zested to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 2 teaspoons juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon brandy
3–4 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water plus 2 tablespoons
Place sugar, lemon juice and zest, spices, almond extract, brandy and 1/4 cup water. in a pan over low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and add the cherries. Cover and cook until they begin to soften. Remove from the heat. Add the tapioca. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed. Return to low heat and cook until the tapioca thickens. Let cool.
Remove cheesecake from the pan 1 hour before serving. Spoon the fruit topping over and let chill until ready to serve.
*This is not actually what I did as the filling was first cooked in my failed pie. However my recipe book, "Perfect desserts" says this is the way to do it if you don't have the benefits of a ruined pie like I did :-)
Posted by Wizzy John at 7:17 PM