Is it truly a sacrifice to refrain from meat if you exchange it for a vegetarian dish this delicious?
Lenten abstinence doesn't have to mean bland food but honestly this feels a little like cheating because it tastes so darn good. One of my favourite things to eat during Lent is doubles. Oh, who am I kidding, like most Trinidadians, I eat this religiously all through the year!
Doubles is the most widely available street food in Trinidad. It is a popular breakfast choice although it is not uncommon to have them for lunch, dinner or even as a snack. Just so you know, in Trinidadian vernacular the name 'doubles' is both singular and plural. That's right, you can have one doubles or two doubles. Yeah, I'll admit that sounds confusing but don't worry, you won't care to argue the semantics once you've tasted them. Trust me, you will be too busy stuffing your face.
Trinidadians eat a lot of doubles. Perish the thought that you should find yourself in some remote corner of the island without access to a doubles vendor. We are so dedicated to getting our doubles fix that someone actually created an app to help satisfy our mad craving for this food. Using this app you can quickly locate the nearest doubles vendor no matter where in the country you might happen to be. I kid you not.
So what the heck is a doubles? Essentially, it is an adaptation of India's chole bhatura. Originally the channa filling (chole) used to be served with a single round soft bread (bhatura) at the side. Trinidadians call this soft, spongy textured bread bara. Over time, descendants of Indian immigrants made adaptations to the traditional chole bhatura, turning it into something that is distinctly Trinidadian. The chole or channa (chickpea) filling is topped with various condiments and served between not one but two bara (bhatura), hence the name doubles. Think of it as a spicy, vegetarian sloppy joe.
On its own, the bara and channa can be somewhat bland and underwhelming. However the wizardry of doubles resides in the various chutneys and sauces which are added to the mix. Each vendor has his own signature blend of spicy condiments and it is these robust and piquant sauces which transform a cheap meal into a national addiction.
Doubles isn't something that is often made at home. They are inexpensive and readily available everywhere so it is much easier to buy them than to prepare it yourself. Although it is fairly simple to make, it does but require a bit of advance planning to allow for the dough to rise and rest.
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric powder
1/4 tsp ground geera (cumin)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
approx 1 cup lukewarm water ( or 1/4 cup more if needed)
oil for frying
Combine flour, salt, tumeric, geera, sugar and instant yeast in a large bowl.
Add enough lukewarm water to make a soft dough. Mix by hand knead a few times to form a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Brush the top of dough with 1 tsp oil. Cover and let rise for 1/2hrs
Punch down the dough. Knead it into a ball. Cover and let rest for 10-15mins. Shape dough into 8 balls. This dough tends to be soft and sticky. Moisten your hands with a little water or oil as you work the dough to prevent it from sticking your hands. Divide and shape into 8 round balls.
Flatten and stretch dough into a 4" or 5" circle. Use water or oil to on your fingers to moisten to prevent dough from sticking.
Heat oil in a large deep pot and fry bara a few minutes on each side on medium high heat.
2 tins channa
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons Chief Brand curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
Drain and rinse channa. Put channa in a large pot add water until barely covered and boil for about 10mins. Drain water from channa and set aside.
In a large heavy pot, heat oil. Add garlic and onion to the oil and fry until fragrant. Mix curry with about 1/8 cup of water and add it to the oil. Cook for a few minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Add channa and stir to coat well with curry. Use back of a large spoon to smash some of the channa. Add more water to barely cover the channa. Lower heat and simmer until channa is mushy with a thick sauce. Taste and add more salt if needed.
2 large cucumbers
10 chardon béni leaves, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp lime juice ( or more to taste)
1/8 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt (or salt to taste)
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, minced (optional)
Wash and coarsely grate cucumber. It doesn't need to be peeled but you can peel it first if you prefer. Place grated cucumber in a strainer and squeeze off as much of the water as you can. Place in a small bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix.
Assemble the doubles by placing a spoonful of channa on a bara. Top with cucumber or other chutney, your favourite West Indian pepper sauce and cover with another bara.
COOK'S TIP: Other popular toppings for doubles are mango chutney, chardon béni chutney, mango kuchela, tamarind sauce, and roasted coconut chutney.