From salty to sweet: Caymanian custard-topped cornbread

And boy, do we mean sweet…

Other than it being a tax haven and therefore the home of potentially dodgy offshore bank accounts, we don’t know much about the Cayman Islands. After some Googling, we don’t know much about its national dish either, because it doesn’t seem to have one. Popular foods are conch, whelks, coconut, plantain, breadfruit, yams, cassava, rice and beans, but there isn’t one specific dish that is considered native to the group of three islands. This left our options open.

Pretty quickly, we found a recipe combining two wonderful things (custard and cornbread), and when we saw that, we knew there was no point in looking for anything else! The introduction to the recipe said that ‘you won’t find the recipe anywhere other than the Cayman Islands’ so it ticked the ‘delicious’ and ‘authentic’ boxes for us. Continue reading

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It’s called saltfish for a reason: Jamaican ackee and saltfish

After a long stretch of cooking dishes from countries we’ve never been to, we’re finally back to one that we have . Well, one of us (Ash) has, and certainly got the benefit of the full hospitality offered by the locals to their guests when attending a wedding back in 2004. As one of very few Brits in attendance at the wedding of a Jamaican bride and English groom, he was treated like a VIP and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

When it comes to refreshments, his overriding memories are primarily of Appleton’s rum, rum punch (one sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak – or forget the weak if you’re that way inclined) and fantastic jerk BBQ. The tales of Uncle John spit roasting a cow on a telegraph pole for one of his birthday parties were all too believable from a man who was larger than life and not without wealth!

On one visit to the less salubrious parts of downtown Kingston, Ash and his companions received a real eye opener at the famous market. Locals with a sense of humour offered the group bags of fish heads (for stewing?) whilst they kept a close eye on their wallets. The sights and sounds of the market – including loudly played dominoes – were not to be forgotten.

1142a Ash and dolphin

Today’s recipe comes from a book called The Real Taste of Jamaica, which Ash bought on his travels. A combination of his food memories and the knowledge of Jamaican cuisine that Miranda could bring to the table led us to expect to be making jerk chicken; however, with the national dish of Jamaica officially being ackee and saltfish, we had to move in that direction instead. Continue reading

A celebration of onions: Haitian griot and and pikliz

Haiti is an island in the Caribbean. Therefore, as seems to be the case for most of the islands in the Caribbean, its national dish is a version of rice and peas. We didn’t want to make that again, having already made it for Anguilla, so we dug a little deeper and eventually found a recipe for griot and pikliz that was accompanied by a video of a woman (Joyce Louis-Jean) who was so enthusiastic about the dish that we figured it must have something going for it – even if griot is deep-fried pork (which Miranda didn’t expect to like) and pikliz is very vinegary pickles (which Ash didn’t expect to like).

This is a multi-stage dish, so you want to make sure you’ve planned ahead before you start making it. The pikliz needs to mature for at least 12 hours, but a few days is even better. The pork needs to marinate overnight (although if you get home late the night before you make it, you could do our trick of getting up early on the day of cooking and quickly organise it then…). The pork then needs to braise for a couple of hours before eventually being deep-fried. The aforementioned enthusiastic Haitian woman assured us that all of this effort was worth it, though, so four days before we planned to cook this dish, the pikliz process began… Continue reading

Fridge raiding: Turks and Caicos Island rasta pasta

You know it’s been a busy summer when you’ve only managed to cook one dish for this blog in two months! With life set to get even busier, we thought we’d better squeeze in one more before Miranda ‘creeps like snail unwillingly’ back to work.

At first, however, this was easier said than done. The next country on our list was the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory made up of 40 coral islands in the Atlantic. Its national dish is conch fritters. Other than in Lord of the Flies, we’ve never come across conch, and it certainly wasn’t an ingredient we could easily lay our hands on. With a population of only around 35,000, the Turks and Caicos Islands aren’t exactly swimming in alternative national dishes, so the search for something we could make proved a little elusive.

Eventually, we found a website that promised to teach us ‘how to cook like a Turks Islander’, and its recipe for rasta pasta listed ingredients that we could easily obtain. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to what we often decide to make for dinner when we only have random bits and pieces of food in the house. So whilst we’re not entirely sure of rasta pasta’s authenticity, it was a meal that we could actually make! Continue reading