27 February 2011

Rice 'n' Peas vs Peas 'n' Rice!

~  Menu  ~

Rice ‘n’ Peas with Hot Sauce
A little Salad
Amstel Light

We spent an hour or two at the airport the other day which is much more pleasant than it sounds. A cool airy building with huge fans, chickens and cats about to talk to, a good chance of bumping into people we know and good local food to eat as we waited to see our friends off. 


Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, Beef Island, B.V.I. – to give it its full moniker

After they left I bought a portion of rice ‘n’ peas for my lunch – really good with just salad and hot sauce.

Living here I learned to love Rice ‘n’ Peas, a seemingly simple dish of long grain rice cooked with coconut, seasoning and peas, pigeon peas are nicest.  Now, it’s a funny thing, on many islands they don’t have rice ‘n’ peas but they do a similar dish called Peas ‘n’ Rice although I don’t know if I‘d like it – fancy foreign muck! 



Here is a simple and possibly not quite authentic recipe that works for me when I’m not near the airport!

Rice ‘n’ Peas

½ tsp minced garlic
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small red chilli – deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
400g Gungo or Pigeon Peas (or, to be frank, any dried pea or bean you fancy – Kidney Beans are often used) - drained
180 ml unsweetened coconut milk
A sprig or two of fresh thyme, if poss, or dried, if not
550g leftover rice, although it is OK to cook it specially
Salt and pepper to taste – my Caribbean Sea Salt is lovely in this


~   Cook the onion in the oil, stirring, till starting to turn golden then add the garlic and chilli and cook a few seconds more.
~   Add all the other ingredients except the cooked rice and salt & pepper.
~   Bring to a boil and simmer till the coconut milk has reduced by half.
~   Remove from the heat, stir in the rice, cover and set aside for a few minutes so that the rice can absorb the coconut milk.
~   Taste and season.

NOTE – Whilst being inauthentic I like to add half a veg Oxo to the mix

Tweetables ...

I do like, as I have said, to drink fabulous Spicy Hot V8 with lunch but I don’t have it with spicy food’- then I like something cool and refreshing, like this …


Cheers!

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25 February 2011

Who needs David Attenborough? (answer below) Also Caribbean Sugar Cakes.

~  Menu  ~

Penne Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Boursin
Glass of Red Wine
Coffee and a Sugar Cake


Exciting time in the cockpit this morning!



Firstly near the shore we saw a leaping of tiny silver fish. This always looks so lovely but it isn’t!  Soon whatever was chasing them (death in the shape of a larger fish) starting jumping from the sea, landing in the midst of the sparkling little fish and trying to eating them. 

A group of pelicans had assembled on the beach and they suddenly all flew up at once and dived (dove?) into the affray grabbing whatever breakfast they could.  Boobies, attracted by the fracas, joined in and then a frigate bird swept down from the heights to try his luck. He was chased off by the boobies, one of whom made a surprisingly un-booby like noise; a menacing growl.

All of this right by our boat as we were drinking our honey and lemon. (Aside – many years ago whilst sharing a cold we had a honey and lemon drink for breakfast and it was so delicious we have never looked back, this is now our morning drink of choice. Just half a lemon and 2 heaped teaspoons of honey per cup, topped up with boiling water, it is even better than coffee!  Although I do then follow it up with a coffee, just to be on the safe side!)

We have been buying some tiny sweet grape tomatoes but they don’t last long in our less than perfect refrigeration. Today it was a case of use ‘em or lose ‘em so I used them.  I cooked them in some olive oil together with a little finely chopped red onion and then tossed the resulting rustically textured sauce into some penne pasta and Fanny’s my aunt, so to speak.  I could have done with a parmesan sprinkle but c’est la vie.



I displayed the dish on the cabin sole which, for you land lubbers, means floor to us sailing type chaps. The floor looks, and is, great but the picture doesn’t do the meal credit.


For dessert I had a sugar cake, something I have become quite partial to out here which is a shame as they are seriously unhealthy.  Basically sugar cakes are made by melting brown sugar and stirring in coconut and/or nuts (often large pieces of almond) and they are usually flavoured with ginger.

Caribbean Sugar Cake

225 ml water
900g light brown sugar
900g freshly grated coconut (but if fresh not available use my recipe here)
1 tsp ground ginger,
½ tsp of cream of tartar
coarsely chopped almonds (or other nuts of choice)

~   Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then simmer to a light syrup.

~   Add the coconut, the ginger and the cream of tarter cook till the mixture easily leaves the side of the pan.

~   Remove from the heat and beat with a spoon for 5 minutes!
~   Add chopped nuts and mix in thoroughly.
~   Drop tablespoonfully onto a greased baking sheet and leave to harden.
~   Have a lie down till your arm stops hurting.
~   When the cakes are dried out store in an airtight container.



I think we all need Sir David Attenborough who, for anyone who hasn’t heard of him, is a hugely respected naturalist (I think that’s the right word, I don’t mean he spends a lot of time in the nude) and broadcaster who has, for over fifty years been showing us the wonders of the natural world, for which I thank him.






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23 February 2011

Fire Balls, Fungi Music, Moko Jumbies ~ Full Moon Party!

West Indies

I REALLY DO APOLOGISE FOR MY TARDINESS IN POSTING ~ NO INTERNET IN THE BAY (where our boat is parked) FOR AGES!

~  Menu  ~

Mozzarella stuffed Fungi Cakes
Spicy Tomato Salsa
Glass of Amstel Light

Friday night was full moon and what a beauty it was.  We sat in the pointy end romantically eating our leftover pizza dinner and watching her rise and form a silver path across the sea straight to us.  Great, but …

The bay was heaving with boats, overloaded rubber dinghies full of white people whooping Americanly (no offence, Americans, but many of you are a bit on the whoopy side!) criss-crossing in front of us, almost hitting each other.  Long term liveaboards like us scurrying home to their boats, hoping not to get run down.  “It’s gonna be a rough night” they say, scowling (many liveaboards are middle aged).  

Every month Trellis Bay holds a Full Moon Party and it’s pretty good, actually.  Great if you are a visitor with all sorts of interesting delights; limbo dancers, fire jugglers, live music, mocko jumbies * – I do like a nice moko jumbie, me! – and large sculptured metal balls in the sea filled with fire.

Aragorn's fire ball

The live music can also be both pleasant and interesting especially if a fungi ** band is performing.  Unfortunately for grumpy people such as us the recorded music which fills in between live acts can be, to our old ears, crap (to use a musical term).  That rhythmic beat with indecipherable talking over it, interspersed with the relaxing sound of sirens or, possible, a guy going “Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaah” does nothing for us so after the best bit of the show we batten down the hatches and try to get engrossed in a good book.

Still, mustn’t grumble – it’s a great evening, well worth a visit you happen to be in the area.

Moko Jumbies


Jumbies are spirits and moko jumbies are human beings dressed up and dancing (brilliantly) on high, high stilts with the purpose of mocking the spirits although I’m not sure why!

Caribbean moko jumbies

Fungi Music


** Nothing to do with mushrooms this is traditional British Virgin Island Music, sort of skiffley, using homemade instruments such as gourds, bottles, washboards etc. and usually telling a story either from folklore or real life; maybe a bit of gossip.  It is apparently a “mix up” of African and European music; the beat of Africa combined with the Waltz, 2-step etc. as overheard by slaves!!  Strange but true.

The music is, apparently, named after the traditional island dish of fungi which also has nothing to do with mushrooms and is also a “mix up”; cornmeal mush with vegetables, usually including okra, mixed into it.  Cornmeal mush (variously called polenta, fungi, milho, etc.) is a staple dish all over the world.  Down island it is called coo-coo which makes B.V. Islanders snigger as this means poo here!  On that unappetizing note here is a recipe for a particularly delicious fungi …

Fungi Recipe


4 spring onions or a small red onion
½ a red or yellow pepper
6-8 pieces of okra
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp vegetable oil
750ml water
125ml milk
170g coarse cornmeal
40g butter
salt and white pepper

~   Coarsely chop the vegetables and sauté in a saucepan in the oil till softening and browning. 
~   Remove and set aside.
~   Use a little of the water to moisten the cornmeal so that it resembled wet sand. 
~   Put the rest of the water and the milk in the pan and bring to a boil.
~   Add the cornmeal, in as much of a slow stream as you can manage with wet sand, to the pan and return to a boil, whisking. The mixture will thicken considerably, but …
~   Turn the heat down and simmer and stir constantly for about 10 minutes till thick and creamy.
~   Taste and season and stir in the cooked vegetables. 
~   Simmer for a few minutes more and serve as a side dish to something tropical – grilled fish or jerk chicken, for instance.


how to make polenta

3 Notes on Making Polenta ...


~   I am inclined to use stock instead of water but this isn't traditional.

~   If you just want to make polenta leave out the vegetables and instead stir in a knob of butter and 30g finely grated Parmesan.
~   The moistening of the cornmeal is handy hint, told to me by a fine cook who worked with me; Cardella.  It stops the cornmeal clumping and makes for a smooth polenta/fungi/coo-coo or whatever.

And so to lunch …


Cold leftover fungi is delicious fried – for lunch I rolled cold fungi into balls and stuffed them with a nugget of mozzarella.  Flattened into cakes, coated in cornmeal and fried to crisp they made a fine lunch together with some spicy tomato salsa and a refreshing glass of beer

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Please bear with me!

Here I am sat sitting in the Internet Cafe in Trellis Bay trying to post a blog about last Friday's Full Moon party but it's just not happening.  So, just wanted to say I'll keep trying over the next few days!


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15 February 2011

Toasted Coconut & the Meaning of Life

THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN POSTED YESTERDAY BUT I COULDN'T GET ONLINE

~  Menu  ~

Spicy Tuna & Mango Koftas
Bit of Salad and Mayonnaise
Amstel Light
Coffee
2 squares from our Cadbury Stash

Yesterday my friend Clarky and I held a bit of a do for Roberta’s birthday – here is a picture of the table laid for dinner, nice setting or what!



We ate Seafood Mixed Grill (swordfish, fresh tuna, wonderful big juicy shrimp and red snapper), roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Salad, Spicy Mayonnaise and Crusty Bread followed by Homemade Toasted Coconut Ice Cream Birthday Cake and Fresh Fruit Salad spiked with rum and fresh lime. 

The mixed grill is something I started doing when I worked at the Tamarind Club; a selection of fish and shell fish marinated in olive oil and lemon and then chargrilled.  I used to serve it with grilled lemon halves but last night, for a change, we grilled sliced of fresh mango which worked really well with the fish. 

I bought the bread in the supermarket; it looked great but was so, so stale – Lawd a Massy!– so I ran it under the tap and then re-baked it alongside the fingerling potatoes and it came up a treat.

Toasted Coconut No-Churn Ice Cream 

This ice cream used to be a staple on my menus out here, using sweetened shredded coconut imported from AmericaIt is difficult to find in the UK but worth seeking out, desiccated coconut just isn't the same BUT it’s OK, don’t worry, just see the note below. ***

no-churn-coconut-ice-cream-recipe-suzy-bowler
500ml double cream
50ml rum or coconut rum such as Malibu
200g condensed milk
200g sweetened shredded coconut or see below

~  Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C. 
~   Spread the coconut in a shallow pan or tray and bake for about 10 minutes, checking and stirring often till a lot of it is golden brown.    The sugar in the coconut will make it burn easily so be astute.
~   Cool.
~   Whisk together the cream and the rum till thick. 
~   Fold in the condensed milk together with almost all the toasted coconut – keep a little back to sprinkle on when serving. 
~   Freeze.
Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine Genius Recipe




For lots of easy, no-churn ice cream recipes, information, tips, ideas, serving suggestions and accoutrements see my Genius Ice Cream Recipe book here.






*** How to Make Desiccated Coconut much Nicer …

200g sugar
120ml water
200g desiccated coconut

~   Stir the sugar and water together over low heat till the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.
~   Add the desiccated coconut and stir all together – the coconut will absorb the syrup.
~   Spread the moist coconut in a shallow lower on a sheet pan and set aside to dry, which will take all day or overnight, depending when you do it.  It can be stored in the fridge for several days or frozen at this stage.

Spicy Tuna & Mango Koftas

Today’s lunch was made from last night’s remains, of course.  I coarsely chopped about 3-4 oz leftover fish which was mainly tuna – cooked pink to please everyone, and it did – and the one leftover slice of grilled mango.  To this I added about 1 tbsp mayo and a few drips of West Indian Hot sauce and mixed in enough fresh breadcrumbs to bind the mixture.  I made little balls with the resulting goo and fried them till crisp in a little olive oil.  I was not disappointed and the sudden sweet tastes of mango were excellent.

tuna-and-mango-koftas-recipe

Whilst eating lunch I listened to a nearby parrot pretend to be a telephone, watched pelicans splooshing into the sea and noticed a boat parked father out than us that put everything into perspective …

catamaran-tortola-bvi



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11 February 2011

3 Sudden Breakfasts in a Row

Day 1 – Porridge Pancakes


My man likes a wee bit o’porridge for his breakfast and I don’t; I like its taste but not its texture.  It is a hard thing to do but the other day I managed to persuade him to make a double batch of porridge for me to experiment with – I had an idea (2 actually but I’m trying the other one later this afternoon).  What I had in mind was porridge pancakes – good idea as it turned out. 

½ cup/ freshly cooked porridge
1 tbsp flour mixed with ½ tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt
a little milk

~   Mix together the porridge and the dry ingredients.
~   Add enough milk to make a dropping consistency.
~   Dollop into a hot greased (bacon fat?) pan and cook, turning once, till crisp and golden on each side.
~   Serve with honey or maple syrup.

Don’t worry – any inherent goodness in the pancake is utterly offset by the butter, syrup, honey or whatever that you add to it.
oaty-panckes

Day 2 – Mangoes on Toast


We had a ripe mango laying about the place getting a bit anxious to be eaten so I made myself some toast, buttered it, topped with sliced mango, sprinkled with sugar and grilled till heated through.  With a dollop of cream cheese I found in the fridge this was even more delicious that I had anticipated.  Might do it again.
fruit-on-toast

Day 3 (today) - Bacon Singin’ Hinnies


pan-fried-scones
Why not pin this for later?
Singin’ Hinnies are a kind of pan baked scone like creature from Up North – they usually contain fruit and are often cooked in animal far, usually (oddly enough) lamb fat.  The sound of the fat melting on the griddle made a singing sound.  “Hinnie” is a Northumbrian term of endearment as, apparently, is “fatty”, “poopants” and “you big woofus”.
  
We often have them for breakfast, fruitless and cooked in olive oil, none of that namby pamby healthiness for us today though.  As you may know I have a supply of very nice bacon fat so it suddenly occurred to me to us some of it as the fat in my singin’ hinny dough.

225 g self raising flour OR plain flour and 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
a pinch or two of salt
50 g cold butter or margarine OR BACON FAT!
80 ml milk


~   Stir together the flour and salt and baking powder, if using.
~   Add the fat and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved. 
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, till you have a soft dough. 
~   Add a little more milk if too dry or a little more flour if too wet – you need a soft but not sticky dough. 
~   Lightly knead just a few times to bring the dough together.
~   Roll out to about 1 cm thick and cut into rounds or wedges (traditional hinny shape) or anything else you fancy.
~   Grease a frying pan which has a lid and heat on the stove. 
~   Lay the hinnies in the pan, turn down the heat and put on the lid.
~   Cook for a few minutes till the dough has risen and the bottom of the hinnies is golden.
~   Turn and cook without the lid (thus avoiding condensation dripping onto the hinnies and making them soggy) till cooked and golden on both sides.
~   Eat warm, split and buttered with whatever you fancy.

I took the liberty when making my Bacon Hinnies, of frying up one rasher of bacon till really crisp and crumbling it into the dough for lovely salty crunchy bits.

the-secret-life-of-scones-suzy-bowler


Genius Scone Recipe


Variations of this recipe can be used to make a surprising variety of things from traditional scones to cobblers, slumps, dumplings and doughnuts so I have written a book about it; The Secret Life of Scones.





Eating breakfast in our cockpit is a lovely way to start the day.  We watch the pelicans diving in their ungainly manner, our neighbour the turtle doing his thing and there are a couple of puffer fish who have lived under the boat for years.  I think they are married and, so far as we can tell they are still happy together – always kissing. 

For the past few days there have been some people camping in Hobie Cats (small catamarans) on the beach and sailing about the bay with their pretty sails up.

hobie-cats-in-Tortola-BVI

Hobie Cats


Non-Hobie Cat





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7 February 2011

The Sociable Way to make Pasta

~   Menu  ~


 (Leftover) Panko Crusted Basa on Toast
Spicy Hot V8

Such a wild night last night – wind gusting to over 50 mph.  The boat was heeling and veering about and the wind generator was humming like a bastard – it does that if it has to work hard.  Despite this I slept reasonably well – I am always surprised waking up after a windy night to find I have slept well whilst being rocked (to say the least) violently from side to side. 

Breakfast was a little strange, unintentionally; Curried Marmite on Toast.  Usually I do “toast” in a pan on the stove to avoid having to light the grill.  (American ovens often have their grill at floor level.  I once asked an American why this is and he told me it is because they like to watch their wives bend over in the morning!)  Unfortunately the pan had not been adequately washed and infused the toast with a curry aroma.  Nevertheless I continued with the marmite plan and it was fine, just unusual.

Today’s lunch was yesterday’s Panko Crusted Basa which I had leftover from brunch.  Simply broken into pieces and fried up in a little (you guessed it) bacon fat and served  on toast with a touch of salad and a spoonful of chilli mayonnaise.  Still too much and I still couldn’t finish it.  I am pathetic but economical.  



I spent most of yesterday making pasta with my friend Lynne and going out for brunch was part of the process.  Here is the recipe together with the most complicated and time consuming instructions given in italics …

Fresh Pasta

230g plain flour
1 heaped tsp salt
1 large egg
1 (heaped according to Lynne) tablespoon olive oil
Water

~   Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl.
~   Make a well in the middle and break the egg into it,
~   Add the heaped tablespoon of oil.
~   Using a fork or a small whisk break the egg yolk and whisk the oil and egg together gradually working in the flour from the edge until it starts to hold together, adding a little more water now and then as necessary to form a soft sticky ball of dough.
~   Knead the dough for ages, 10 minutes minimum, adding a touch more flour now and then till the dough is smooth and elastic.
~   Cover the bowl (with the dough still in it, of course!) and set aside whilst you enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee.
~   Return to the dough and knead for quite a while more, then set aside again and go out for brunch.
~   After several hours but whilst still relatively sober return once more to the dough.
~   Divide the ball into three for easy maneuvering and, one a time, roll the dough out very thinly.
~   Form into whatever shapes you like and then hang up to dry somewhere!
~   Drink cocktails till the pasta feels crusty to the touch.
~   Place gently in a container and keep in the refrigerator till needed.




Whilst waiting for the pasta to dry and drinking cocktails we also tasted a couple of Lynne’s nasturtiums; fiery hot and horseradishy.  They’d be great in a rare beef salad but I didn’t have one about me at the time.



…  just before I ate it!

On Saturday I went to the annual Farmers Week show.  Unfortunately, despite considerable faffing about including eating a lovely cake for breakfast and going to a yard sale we were too early for it to be in full swing. No local food cooked up for us to sample but there were quite a few stalls selling local produce and a lot of animals to talk to.



Clockwise - Sugar cane, cacao, mango, papaya and (the tops of) pineapples, bananas, dwarf and normal coconuts.

I’d not seen the pretty golden coconuts before and learned that they are from dwarf coconut trees.   Lo and behold, shortly after leaving the show I saw some growing.  Pretty, convenient and safe in that they are not so likely to fall on your hear unless you are particularly stubborn.  I don't know if they taste any different but will let you know if I find out.




Two final points ..

  1. Sorry to all BVI friends who inform me that Cadbury's chocolate here is now sourced from UK.  Now they tell me!  Also I am told it is possible to get Belgian chocolate in some places.   
  2. I hear from England that my article “10 Delicious Ways with Polenta” is out in the March edition of Vegetarian Living.  Caloo Calllay, I am a writer! 
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