Sunday, March 31, 2013

Badusha treats for Phagwah (Holi)

What a weekend!

We are fortunate to have two public holidays and an extra long weekend to celebrate. This year we have a bit of an unusual situation as other holidays also fall within this Easter weekend so let me say Happy Easter,  Happy Shouter/Liberation Baptist Day and Happy Holi!

Before I continue I must say thank you to my friend Gareth Leigh for very kindly allowing me the use of his images of Phagwah.

In Trinidad the festival of Holi is called Phagwah. We don't have any sweets as such that are associated with it however I discovered that in India sweets made with bhang are popular at this time. Bhang, by the way, is cannabis.


Right, so in lieu of that I bring you something a little less exciting, the consumption of which is not likely to land you in jail.

I loved these Indian treats. They were quite reminiscent of  Trinidadian fat kurma. It takes a little effort to make the pleats but if you are not so inclined to go through the trouble, just shape them as flattened balls with a slight indentation at the top.



Makes 8 - 10

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup ghee or butter at room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water ( or more- adjust accordingly)

Oil for deep frying

Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
pinch of cardamon
2 strands saffron*optioanal
1/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp of lemon juice

Melt the butter/ghee. In a mixing bowl add melted butter, yogurt, oil, baking soda, and sugar.

Add the flour and mix well with a whisk. It should look crumbly like bread crumbs. Add water a little at a time to form a soft dough. Knead for 10 mins. Divide into lemon sized balls. Cover and set aside. Let rest for 10 mins.

Shape the badushas with decorative edged swirls or flatten the balls slightly and make a dent in the top with your thumb.

Here is a video to illustrate how the swirls are done.

Heat oil (medium high heat) in a frying pan. Check oil by adding a pinch of batter. If the batter rises quickly then it is the correct temperature. Fry the badushas 3 at a time, turning the heat down occasionally so that they do not burn and are cooked through the middle.

Line a tray with foil. Grease the foil with butter and set aside.
Add sugar, cardamon, ginger and water in a pan to make the sugar syrup. Cook on medium-high heat until the syrup makes a long, slow, string when your spoon is lifted. Quickly add the lemon juice ( to avoid crystallization).

Dip the badushas in the sugar syrup turning until coated on both sides. Transfer to the tray with the buttered foil. Once the glaze has dried you can store them in an airtight container for a few days.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jamaican Red Snapper Stew - Photo Update

Fish becomes the star ingredient in many Trinidadian homes during the season of Lent. Tomorrow being Good Friday we will be having Fish Broth. While planning for that I was reminded of the meal in the picture below. I was never satisfied with my initial images of this dish so I retook the photo. As you can see from the date I forgot all about posting it. Better late than never, I guess. The recipe can be found here

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Trinidad Green seasoning

The foundation of cooking meat the Trinidadian way is all about the seasoning. All meat (beef, chicken pork and fish) is marinated in a seasoning mix of crushed herbs, onions, garlic and peppers. This blend of herbs and aromatics is called 'green seasoning'. It is incredibly versatile and is good in soups, stews, rice, and bean dishes. Many Trinidadians whip up a batch of this stuff on a weekly basis. The blend of seasoning is based on personal preference and varies across households. Traditionally some or all of the following ingredients are used: 

There are three kinds of celery that are grown for cooking purposes.
Stalk celery is imported into this country from America and it is grown for its crunchy stalks which can be eaten raw. 

Leaf celery (pictured above) or Chinese celery is grown primarily for its leaves which are used as a herb. The stem is also edible raw but much more pungent than stalk celery. The stalks of leaf celery taste better cooked. This type of celery is a key ingredient in Trinidad green seasoning and both leaf and stalks are used.

Root Celery also called celeriac is grown for its bulbous root. It is not available in Trinidad.

The Trinidadian name for culantro (Eryngium foetidum) comes from french settlers to the island during colonial rule. Chardon béni which Trinis pronounce as shadow benny means blessed thistle. Although not the same plant it's appearance is somewhat remniscent of the blessed thistle plant (Cnicus benedictus) that is native to southern France. 

Bhandhania is the other local name for culantro and it comes from the large East Indian descended population. Dhania comes from the Hindi word for coriander seed. It must be noted that culantro is not related to the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum). Interestingly, both plants have the same smell and taste with culantro being the more intensely flavoured of the two. Use twice as much cilantro if substituting it for chardon béni in your recipe. 

Across the Caribbean it is also known as Chardron benee (Dominica), coulante (Haiti), recao (Puerto Rico) and fit weed Guyana).

Portuguese Thyme

I expect that I might be the last remaining Trinidadian who remembers that this was once called Portuguese thyme, so called because this is used in Garlic Pork (the local version of Carne de Vinagre e Alhos). Garlic Pork is a traditional Portuguese West-Indian Christmas dish.  Over the years Trinidadians started calling this Spanish Thyme which is very confusing because there is another herb that is also called Spanish thyme. 

I remember consulting my grandparents the very first time I made garlic pork. I have fond memories of my 2nd generation Portuguese grandparents guiding me through the process and instructing me that I was to use Portuguese thyme. It is also called by this name in the first locally published cookbook, Sylvia Hunt's cooking: Proud Legacy of our people. Whatever the correct name might be, I will continue calling this herb Portuguese thyme if only for sentimental reasons and remembrances of my grandparents. 

So that there can be no confusion, its botanical name is Lippia micromera and it also goes by the name of False Oregano. In the United States it's called Mexican Oregano. Even thought it smells and tastes very similar to true oregano, the plant is actually more closely related to lemon verbana. The flavour is a little more intense than true oregano so a little goes a long way. 

French Thyme (thymus vulgaris) 

Spanish Thyme (Big Leaf Thyme)

The final variety of thyme that Trinidadians love to throw into this mix is Spanish Thyme (Plectranthus amboinicus). Yet another thyme that is not a thyme but we call it thyme anyway. Yikes!  It's other local name is big leaf thyme because of its broad leaves. I don't often include this one in my green seasoning mix. 

Still confused by the various types of thyme. Here is a photo taken from the blog of my good friend Cynthia and used with her kind permission. This should make it easier for you to identify the different varieties.

Spanish thyme is another herb with an oregano-like flavour. It is even more strongly flavoured than Portuguese thyme and because of the similarities I find it unnecessary to use both at the same time. It can overpower if used too liberally. When I do use it, it's never more than a leaf or two as it has the tendency to darken the seasoning mix and turn dark green to black. I prefer to see a brighter green mix.

In Trinidad no distinction is made between Green onions or scallions and chives. They are all called chives (local pronunciation Sigh-ve ) and are used interchangeable in the making of green seasoning. My preference is for  the slightly more onion flavour of the scallions for my marinade. 

Trinidad pimento peppers 
Trinidad pimento peppers are also known as seasoning peppers. I would have to say that pepper is adored by Trinidadians and is easily the most popular cooking pepper in our country. Unfortunately it is little known outside of the Caribbean or places that have a large West Indian population. The flavour is really impossible to describe. When you cut it it smells like its going to be hot and I suppose it can be said to have the flavour of a hot pepper but without the heat if that makes sense. It is most definitely not a sweet tasting pepper like a bell pepper. Some people will also use scotch bonnet peppers. 

Before I begin, let me assure you that there are no standard amounts for this recipe. I usually judge if it is right by smell not taste. After awhile you will develop a sense of what is right for you. 

Trinidad Green Seasoning
Yeild 9 ( approx 2 cups)

4 bunches leaf celery
2 bundles culantro ( or 4 bunches cilantro)
1 bundle Portuguese thyme - 12 stalks or so ( or substitute with oregano )
2 bundles French thyme
3 bundles of scallions (or chives)
10-12 Trinidad Pimento peppers ( substitute banana peppers)
2 leaves of big leaf thyme (optional)
1 head of garlic ( about 10 cloves)
1/8 - 1/4 cup water or *vinegar  (*optional-  this preserves the seasoning mix if it is to be kept in the fridge longer than a week) 

Wash the herbs and de-seed the pimento peppers.
Rough chop all ingredients and put into a food processor or blender.  Puree the herbs adding a small amount of water, vinegar or lime juice so that mixture can turn easily in the processor. The consistency should be that of a chunky pesto. Some people prefer a more watery blend it's up to you. 

Green seasoning can also be frozen in an ice tray. You pop out a cube or two when needed. If freezing you can omit the vinegar. You will find that over time the colour darkens in the fridge. This is normal and it is perfectly fine.