On Curry Tabanca and making Trini Tomato Choka
Every once in a while I miss my Trini curry. I experience serious curry tabanca*. If you know me, my weakness is a good curry chicken dhalpuri roti, or GOAT, yeah curry goat too! Anyway, hubby and I got our hands on some Mauritian dhal puri roti skins. The Mauritian dhalpuri roti skins are much smaller than the Trini ones. Mauritians tend to have roti with a tomato sauce similar to Trini Tomato Chola (also known as choka) called Rougaille, as well as Indian curries, pickles, butter or plain. Recently, while on the school run I spotted some gorgeous ripe tomatoes at my local grocers.
I was inspired to make Trini Tomato Choka. There are slightly different ways of making a Tomato Choka. Some recipes start with roasting the tomatoes and a scotch bonnet pepper, usually on an open flame. We have an electric cooker and taking the little ones into consideration adding a hot pepper was not an option. I realise I’ve not posted a food blog in ages, so below is how I made my Trini Tomato Choka.
5 large tomatoes
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt 1 pinch black pepper
1 tsp fresh finely chopped coriander
Boil tomatoes until skin softens and begins to peel. Remove from water and peel off skin. Crush tomatoes into smooth paste On medium heat add oil, garlic and onions to pot, then, stir frequently.
Oil, Onion, Garlic
When the onions are soft and clear add crushed tomatoes stir well then add the salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat 15-20 minutes if the sauce is too dry add water slowly.
Oil, Onion, Garlic and tomatoes simmering
You want consistency between a soup and relish. Add half the coriander just before turning off heat and the other half for garnish. Serve warm with the dhalpuri roti. You can add chilli sauce when serving to suit individual taste (NB the salt and pepper can be adjusted to personal taste)
Trini Tomato Choka & Mauritian Dhalpuri Roti
* Trini expression for love-sick and longing.
My phunny Pholourie
It’s been a while since I’ve cooked any Trini dishes for Angelo. On Sunday gone, I decided to make pholourie as late afternoon snack for all of us. Sadly dishes don’t always go to plan. In spite of using a prepared powder pholourie mix it came out bent, misshaped and looking like alien life-form.
Pholourie is an Indo-Trinidadian savoury fritter made from seasoned split pea flour and it’s deep fried. It is served at all sorts of occasions: at weddings receptions, house parties, family gatherings and so on. It can be bought on the street from street-food vendors, Indo-Trinidadian fast food cafes or made and served at home. It’s is usually served with in a thin sweet chutney sauce (usually made from mango or tamarind).
I was most embarrassed that my pholourie did look the part, especially since hubby told Angelo “mummy is making you a special snack”. I’m not sure what went wrong, perhaps I added too much water to the mixture or heated my oil too much… as I was in a rush I didn’t make my chutney from scratch. I melted sweet tamarind balls, added more sugar and a bit of water to make it runny. Thankfully, while my toddler has a discerning palate he’s not too fussed… YET … about presentation. He thoroughly enjoyed my funny looking pholourie.
Here’s how pholourie should NOT look (mine)
And here’s some that hit the mark
|Photo via Pinterest from the website Belly in Hand|
On the mention of chutney, another chutney that’s popular in Trinidad is chutney music. It’s a fusion sound that comes from the Indo-Trinidadian community. ‘They speak about life and love for many things, whether for a significant other or for an object of possession. Some chutney songs favor the topic of food or drink; however, like most West Indian music,
there can be a hidden message found in the song if you read between the lines.’ On that note, I leave you with sound of Sundar Popo one of our well known chutney singers to set the mood for this lovely mouth-watering moreish dish.
Alternative Chip: fried breadfruit chips
|Image from Pinterest via JTA|
Admittedly we sometimes have
heavy breakfasts in the West Indies, but then as the most important meal of the
day such a start would really set you up. One of my favourites as a child was fried
breadfruit and salt fish buljol. My personal preference is fried ripe
breadfruit, as I have a bit of a sweet tooth. So what is breadfruit and how is
the chip made?
It’s said that breadfruit originates
from the New Guinea area. Apparently some 3,500 years ago the ancestors of the
Polynesians found the trees growing in
the northwest New Guinea area. They gave
up the rice cultivation they had brought with them from Taiwan and cultivated
the breadfruit instead. It was brought to the West Indies
by the English Captain, Bligh, in the
late 1700’s from Tahiti, as a cheap food for slave labourers (click link to
read more on his mission). The plants were delivered first to St. Vincent
then finally to Jamaica.
As I’ve said before the
maternal side of my family comes from St. Vincent. Some of the dishes I eat as
a child would surly have been influenced by my grandmother’s Vincentian
heritage. So, some time ago I was wandering through Tooting Market and I saw
breadfruit on sale. I decided to try my hand at making the chips I used to love
as a child. I bought half of one breadfruit and as I have no patience for long
cooking processes I boiled it instead of roasting. My mum assured that once
boiled for the correct time the result would be as good as it had be roasted. She was right! I’d bought a ripe piece as I
knew it would be sweet. The starch converts to sugar as the breadfruit ripens,
and that’s how I like it. However, you can select it half ripe or green to suit
- 1 medium breadfruit halved and boiled for 30 mins
- Peel skin and slice to thin
but not too thin, to avoid breakage during frying process
- Fry both sides until crisp
and golden brown, and leave to drain on kitchen towel
|Angelo’s portion unfried accompanied with buljol|
- Serve with salt fish buljol
or tomato salsa or eat on this own.
To be honest I don’t know where the name originates from but
I’ve grown up knowing ‘saltfish fritters’ (as Jamaicans call it) as Accra. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Ghanaian city, Accra, though. I enjoyed it
for dinner as a child, whenever my grandmother made it.
Recently while Hubby was abroad, so, I made Saltfish Accra for my
house-guests and Angelo, of course. Here’s my take on the Salt
Makes 9 – 18 (serves 4 to 9)
1 small onion,
I pack boneless
1 cup water
1 tsp pepper sauce
1¼ plain cup
2 teaspoons baking
2 springs of fine
thyme (leaves only)
1 spring finely
chopped spring onions
Salt to taste
2 springs flat leaf parsley
3 cups oil (for frying
preferable an oil that does not have strong flavour to over-power the Accra’s
- Soak saltfish in hot water for 30 mins to 1 hour, change the water twice
- After soaking time has passed, shred saltfish in cool water and drain
- Mix in a bowl all the green seasoning (herbs), saltfish, along with
flour and baking powder
- Combine mixture into paste the consistency of wallpaper paste, add salt to taste (You can begin to fry or leave mixture to stand for 15 -20 mins)
- Heat the
vegetable oil on a medium/high heat and start adding heaping teaspoon full
amounts into the pan (I was pressed for time with Angelo clinging to my ankles, so, I used a tablespoon, hence the size).
- Leave some
space between the Accras in the frying pan, in order that they don’t stick together
- Fry until golden brown
- When each Accra has been fried leave to drain on paper towel
We usually have ours with home-made bread. However for festive
occasions serve with a sweet chilli sauce, tamarind sauce or whatever you and your guests fancy.
Breakfast and dinner time meals can sometimes get a bit boring,
when you have the same thing too often. It’s times like those when I revert to cooking
something I remember from my West Indian childhood. Today I made Angelo banana fritters
for breakfast, as we had had toast one morning too many.
I’ve said in the past, I can’t say whether or not what I
prepare is authentically West Indian or if it’s been influenced by our
former European colonisers. However, I occasionally prepare meals that I’ve had as a child in Trinidad.
Here’s a poem many West Indian children would have learnt in primary about the life of a banana grower, in Jamaica followed by my own recipe for banana fritters.
Makes 6-8 (serves 3 – 4)
3 fully ripe bananas
2 tbsp brown sugar
¾ tsp cup plain flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
- Mash bananas together with brown sugar
2.Add the spices, and then stir
3.Add the flour, and then stir
4.Mix batter thoroughly
Then heat vegetable oil (or a melt knob of butter if you prefer) in non-stick
frying pan. When the oil is hot; use a table spoon to drop dollops of batter
into oil. Cook until both sides are cooked and golden brown. You can serve with
any topping or dip you would usually use with pancakes. We had ours with cream
Love and comfort in a dish: Macaroni Pie
I’ve travelled a far bit and tried the local cuisine on my
travels but nothing is as near and dear to my heart as good ole macaroni and cheese. The
macaroni pie is just a step above mac and cheese for me, and when I think of
comfort, love and home; out comes the pots, pans and dishes to make my pie.
I wrote a few weeks ago that hubby lost his mom over the
Easter holidays. As you can imagine that is a traumatic life event for anyone. Hubby
wasn’t really eating properly and I was feeling nauseous (due Baby #2) so, out came my pots and pans. I whipped up my family
a nice Sunday lunch. We had red beans and rice (rice and
peas), brown stew chicken AND macaroni pie.
I’m no food historian. I don’t know the origins of the
macaroni pie dish but I am aware that there is a version of it in America and
England too. However, the version I know is the recipe that my grandmother and
mother made. Here’s my take on the recipe:
400 grams of macaroni (your brand of choice)
250 grams mature cheddar cheese (grate)
2 heaped tbsp breadcrumbs
1 ½ tin evaporated milk
2 spring of spring onion
¼ of a medium onion
2 springs of flat leaf parsley
2 springs of fine thyme
¼ tsp black pepper
2 knobs of butter
1 tsp salt
- Boil macaroni in salted water until tender, then drain
- Stir in one knob of butter into macaroni
- Stir some of the grated cheese into macaroni
- Beat eggs into evaporated milk with black pepper and some of
- Use one knob of butter to butter a baking dish, then pour macaroni
into some of macaroni into the buttered dish, then sprinkle some grated cheese and
green seasoning, pour more macaroni, sprinkle more cheese and green seasoning repeat until all the macaroni,
cheese and seasoning has be used up
- Pour milk mixture over the macaroni
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the macaroni mixture
- Bake at gas mark 7 (220 degrees) for 45 mins or until totally
What’s the story behind your macaroni pie recipe?
Nothing in the world sweeter than Saltfish’
While I was born in Trinidad both my maternal grandmother and my mum were both born in St. Vincent, West Indies. Therefore, I can’t claim that all the food I know how to prepare is ‘authentically’ Trini. I reckon the best way to describe it is perhaps, Caribbean fusion. I never spoke to either women about the origin of the dishes they prepared because when I still lived at, home cooking and being a wife was the last thing on my agenda. However, from my regular Sunday chore of cutting up and assisting the preparation of the ingredients for the dishes I knew what went into most dishes, even if I didn’t know how to cook them. I learnt to cook when in I came to England, trying to re-create the dishes I knew and loved. Now I share my love for food with my son, Angelo.
I recently cooked saltfish and rice with ochro for him. He loved it! Here’s my version of the recipe below. And to get you, my readers, into the mood, listen to a classic calypso sung by one of our well know calypsonians the Mighty Sparrow, singing Saltfish. its a bit of a naughty song, but funny.
Saltfish and Rice with Ochro
4 cups of rice
½ lb of pig tail (bite size pieces)
I pack of salffish, (boneless)
8 ochroes1/2 lb pumpkin (diced)1 small carrot (diced)1/2 can garden peas (optional)
4 springs of thyme
½ medium of a sized onion
2 sprigs of spring onions
1 clove garlic
1 knob of butter
½ can coconut milk
2 cups of water
- Soak saltfish for ½ hour, then flake the fish.
- Fry ochroes with all the herbs for 2 minutes in the butter
- Add carrots and pumpkin stir and cook for a further 2 minutes
- Add rice and stir together to mix all ingredients together properly
- Add saltfish, pig tail, water and coconut milk, then bring to a boil
- Cover, lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 – 25mins or until rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Serve and enjoy!
NB no need to add salt as the saltfish would still have some salt in it and pig tail is cured in salt. However you can add chilli to your taste.
* My title is a homage to the Mighty Sparrow’s song Saltfish
The Callalloo Lime
When we use the word ‘lime’ in Trinidad slang, its usually in reference to two or more people gathered together to spend some time together, to ‘hang out’.
I thought Angelo’s play-date would be a great opportunity to have a callaloo ‘lime’. So last Tuesday, Angelo and I went to Tooting Market, in South London to buy our produce. It must have been our lucky day as I found some the freshest veggies I’ve seen for a long time! The pumpkin was a lovely golden yellow and all the herbs were lovely green and aromatic. On Wednesday, I cooked the callaloo soup and brown stew chicken all I needed to prepare was the rice on the Thursday.
Thursday my mate Chelsea came over with her daughter Miss E for the play-date. Now I don’t cook West Indian food every week. Actually cooking with a toddler running around is a challenge, full-stop, I don’t cook every day. So, once the food was prepared, my mouth was watering for it. Truth be known, I served up the food and we all ate the food before I realised that I’d not taken pics of all the festivities! Nothing like good food shared in good company.
I should add that my recipe below was adapted to fit what I was able to source in the market. The recipe should serve 6-8 people.
6 Callaloo Leaves (also known as dasheen bush Trinidad or Patra in Asian shops in London)
1 small pack of pig tail
4 stalks flat leaf parsley
4 sprigs thyme
½ medium onion
2 stems of spring onion
1 tin coconut milk
1 ½ cups hot water
1 lb pumpkin
Strip stalk and midrib from the callaloo leaves, wash and chop into pieces.
Chop ochroes flat leave parsley into small piece and pig tails into bite size pieces.
Dice pumpkin and onions.
De-leaf stalks thyme (I used leaves only).
Add ingredients into pot with coconut milk and with water and coconut milk bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes until everything is soft and cooked. Blitz with a hand blender (or regular blender) stir then it’s ready to serve!
Introduction to Callaloo Cooking
I’m currently working on a logo for this page as well as sourcing ingredients for the first dish to be featured. In the interim, I’ve placed a video below what shows the creativity and ingenuity of one of my country’s most celebrated mas men, Peter Minshall. In 1984 the theme of his mass was Callaloo which was continuation of his River Trilogy band.
Callaloo is not just a dish we have in the Trinidad (usually on Sundays) its a metaphor that best describes how we are racially and/or culturally mixed. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my son’s diverse heritage.
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