Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Caribbean Vegan

©Jacky Gotin

Taymer Mason believes strongly in the ethics and the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.

I don’t.

Seriously if it’s not threatened or endangered at no time would I ever consider completely eliminating animal products from my diet.


So, why then would I be interested in owning a copy of Taymer’s book Caribbean Vegan? Well Taymer ( such a cool name:-) and I do have something in common. We share a love for fabulous tasting food and in her book she will prove to you that going meat and dairy free doesn’t mean bland and tasteless.

Best of all I love that Taymer’s book introduces vegan food with a Caribbean sensibility. Many vegan recipes that I encounter are heavily focused on the nutritional benefits of the meals often to the detriment of taste. Not so Caribbean Vegan. In authentic Caribbean style Taymer 'seasons’ her meals as carefully as one would a meat dish.

Long before this book was published Taymer kindly shared with me her recipe for creole ratatouille (it’s in the book). A foreigner not accustomed to the subtleties of flavours imparted by the copious use of herbs and spices might find the ingredient list somewhat long and maybe even unnecessary. However the moment I read the recipe I smiled. I recognized it. I got it. The layering of flavours becomes even more important when a dish lacks a meaty stock as it’s base.

Taymer’s book came out and I was intrigued as to how she would ‘veganise’ certain traditional Caribbean comfort foods. I absolutely could not wait to try her version of saltfish accras ( a kind of fish fritter).  The use of fire roasted seaweed to substitute for the fish flavour was genius but would it pass the taste test of a non-vegan? Fear not, I put that recipe to the ultimate taste test and offered them to my daughter’s teen study group.
Nom. Nom, nom.
More please!

Want more of Taymer’s vegan delights? You don't have to be a vegan to appreciate it and many of the recipes would work just as well as a perfect side to any meat main dish. This book is available in book stores in  Trinidad and online at Amazon. You can also visit and chat with Taymer over at her blog Vegan in the Sun.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Green Eggs and Ham moment...Anchovies and Pissaladière

anchovy tin

I know right. Last week surely you thought I was nuts to stand in front of a stove for an hour sweating onions. Here I am this week extolling the flavour of fish and onions on pizza.

Pissaladière is a wonderful pizza-like dish from the south of France. I don't caramelize onions often, once maybe twice a year but when I do I go all out and do a huge batch. So yeah it was a lot of work but it means that I can come home from work, spread my onions on a pita base and in the 5 minutes that it takes to heat this in the oven, dinner is done. The onions go just as well on a traditional pizza dough base and are just sublime on a pastry base. Whatever. Knock yourself out.

I know for some of you the the idea of fish on a pizza seems strange. Let me tell you that there was a time I thought so too. I hated anchovies which was strange because when I was growing up I never actually saw or even tasted an anchovy. It wasn't something that was available in the stores here. In fact, I've been searching my memory to figure out where I got the idea that anchovies were hateful when truth be told I wasn't sure what anchovies even looked like. Stranger even since I totally love these gruesome looking fry-dry.

My opinion of this much maligned fish changed when my favourite brand of Worcestershire sauce was off the market for a while. I tried other brands and they just couldn't measure up. It was only when I read and compared labels that I discovered that the secret ingredient which distinguished my preferred Worcester from it's failing competitors was non other than the 'dreaded' anchovy!

So last year when tinned anchovies and anchovy paste turned up at my supermarket, I decided to try them. To my very great surprise I found that I was already familiar with the flavour of anchovies since they taste exactly like smoked herring albeit much saltier. However the intense brine of these little fish used sparingly goes perfectly with  those melted sweet onions.

To those who say they do not like anchovies permit me to borrow from the character in Dr. Suess' Green Eggs and Ham and encourage you all to try it in the hopes that you discover that you actually like it. Try it, try it and you may. You may I say!

Right so clearly Seuss says it better. No worries I'll not be quitting my day job any time soon:-)

Fear of anchovies conquered. Next up the pound of black, scary, viscous looking eggplant jam I bought at an Arabic shop.  Tell me is there any food you have a pre-conceived hatred of even though you've never actually tried it?


Serving Size: 1 person

1/4 cup caramelized onions
1 pita bread (white or whole wheat)
4 olives (cut up)
1 or two anchovy fillets ( torn into small pieces. Very intensely salty so you don't need a lot)
1 or 2 ozs crumble feta (not traditional to pissaladière but a great add in)

Spread onions on the pita base. Sprinkle cheese, onions, and anchovies. Heat in a 350°F oven for 5 mins or under your broiler on low until it's warmed through. That's it. You're done.