Sunday, March 16, 2014

Moorish Salad

In Trinidad when something tastes good, we say that it is moorish because you want more of it.  Chef Jamie Oliver may have been thinking along the lines of a Middle Eastern influenced salad but I find the Trini meaning to be very applicable as well. 

Moorish Salad
Serves 4


1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
4 apples, sliced thinly 
juice of  1 lime or  1/2 lemon
1 large carrot, matchstick slices
4 radishes, sliced thinly
1 handful fresh parsley and
or 1 handful fresh mint
1/4 cup raisins

salt ( to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons tahini paste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Use a large frying pan. Heat the sesame seeds in the frying pan on medium high heat. Shake the pan and turn the seeds with a spoon occasionally. Remove from the heat when the seeds darken and are fragrant. Set aside to cool. 

Quarter your apples, remove the cores and thinly slice. Put the apple slices to soak in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lime. I do this to keep the apples from turning brown quickly. Slice carrot into very thin sticks. Slice your radishes thinly. Rough chop the parsley and or the mint.

Drain the water from the apples and combine in a large bowl with the carrots, radishes, raisins, parsley and or the mint. Toss the salad with the sesame seeds. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with a spoonful of tahini paste at the side or on top.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Is it truly a sacrifice to refrain from meat if you exchange it for a vegetarian dish this delicious?

Probably not. 

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. 

8 bara 
Serves 4

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.

Channa Filling
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.

Cucumber Chutney
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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trinidad Fish Stew

I haven't been on this blog for a long while and I am almost but not quite sorry. I always miss blogging when I have been away from it but at times it is important to show up in other places of my life where I am needed a bit more. One of those places has been my garden. Long time visitors to this site may remember this dream of mine. I am happy to report that my journey to producing some of my own food is becoming more real. Perhaps one day soon some of the dishes on this blog might even showcase produce that I actually grew myself. 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and after today's Carnival celebration many Trinidadians will be headed to mass to receive ashes. In keeping with Lenten tradition, many homes will prepare a meal of fish.  

This stewed fish recipe is a favourite of mine and in many homes it is often served with cou cou. Trinidadians usually fry the fish first before adding it to a tomato based stew. When this done, it is called by the odd name of Stew Fry Fish to distinguish it from the version where the fish is not fried but added directly the sauce. My preference is to fry first.

Trini Stew Fry Fish
1lb fish (bangamarie)
* other fish like flying fish, king fish, carite, carvali, tilapia can be used

4 tablespoons green seasonings
1 tsp salt
juice of one lime
1  cup flour
oil for frying

Golden Ray cooking margerine or butter
4 goves garlic minced
2 large onions, sliced
3 medium tomatoes sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon West Indian pepper sauce (optional)
8-10 Trinidad pimento peppers seeded and finely sliced

Season fish with salt, lime juice,  and green seasoning. Leave in fridge to marinate for 30 minutes. Mostly I do this the night before so that when I get home from work the fish is ready to be cooked. If seasoning the fish overnight I will omit the lime until just ready to cook.

Heat enough oil for deep frying the fish in a large pot on medium high heat. Fry the fish and set aside on paper towels.

Once all the fish has been fried, melt the butter  in a large and fairly deep skillet with a tight fitting lid..

To the butter,  add the curry, garlic, onions, tomatoes, celery, and cook until nicely fragrant. Add the ketchup, mustard, sugar, water, bay leaf and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a simmer.

Add the fish and pimento peppers to the sauce, cover and simmer about 5 minutes just until the fish is warmed through. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.