Island Store
 
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This is one of those funny old dishes that isn't really what it says it is.  Most of the time, despite its alluring moniker, it is really only a 'Lime Pie' because in truth, Key limes only come from the Florida Keys.  They are a particular breed of lime, specifically 'Citrus aurantifolia ‘Swingle'’ so unless the limes used are actually imported from there, it can only truthfully lay claim to being a humble, unadornded 'Lime Pie', or in our case a ‘Back Garden Lime Pie’. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?  But then again, nor does 'Citrus Aurantifolia Swingle Pie'.  

The other discrepancy is that the original recipe always used, the now redundant, egg whites to make a meringue which then topped the pie, a bit like an English lemon meringue.  Nowadays it is more usually served without,   so in actuality it's a ‘Half Dressed Lime Pie’ - but perhaps at this point, we should stop worrying about what it should or shouldn't be called and simply get on with making it.  Whatever the name, it is truly delicious and a firm favourite.  

Key Lime Pie

1 1/2 cups Graham Crackers, crushed (Plain Digestives)
5 tbs melted, unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 x 14oz can Carnation Condensed Milk
10 tbs fresh lime juice (roughly 6 large limes)
1 tbs lime zest
Whipping cream to decorate if desired.

Preheat Oven to 350f
Mix together the graham crackers and the butter and press into an 8” fluted baking dish.  Bake in the oven for five minutes, then remove.  Whip the eggs and milk until fluffy then whip in the zest and juice.  Pour the mixture onto to the crust and bake for 12 -15 minutes.  Allow to cool and pipe of the whipped cream, if using, just before serving. 

You can happily use one of those tins with the removable bottoms, but we actually use a ceramic quiche dish and serve it straight from that. 

 
 
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Whenever I make this dip, which is often, I always think of Caroline, a great friend and a fabulous cook, who first introduced me to it.  One of those perfect evenings with close friends, a lovely atmosphere and the most amazing aromas coming from the kitchen.  As she sat to join us, this dip appeared, seemingly effortlessly.  

I am not always good with dips, I like to see what I am eating and can be suspicious of what another friend calls 'wet food'.   I think it is a hangover from being raised on English school food, great chaffing dishes full of unidentifiable substances, of which on a Friday there were two and on a Friday only they were awarded names.  One was labelled 'Curry' and the other 'Not Curry'.  We never found out what 'Not Curry' was, but in later years I did discover that those mushy, smelly green platters actually contained brussel sprouts. 

Rest assured that this dip bore no resemblance to either ‘Not Curry’ or brussel sprouts, it had a homey, comfort food appeal, sort of like a big hug and was extremely moreish.   

Mix all of the ingredients, making sure that you break down the artichokes and reserving about a third of the parmesan.  Pour into a ceramic oven proof dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top.  Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling.  Serve immediately with crackers.  (Can be prepared well in advance). 

Preheat oven to 400f. 

1 can of Artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated (real) parmesan
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of one lemon
Salt and black pepper
Dash of Cayenne Pepper

Photo credit to Greg.Turner with thanks. 


 

Hummus

05/08/2013

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Those of you with children won’t need us to tell you about the challenges of school lunch boxes and the battle trying to persuade children to favour the healthy option.  It seems pretty universal, that modern lunch packs all seem to bear a standard format consisting of a processed bread sandwich, a packet of crisps and a sugary snack and, if you’re very lucky, a piece of manky fruit. 

One of the problems is that quality food is expensive, you only need one quick look at those tempting deli items to work this out, but happily, many of those items are not that hard to make and they can be surprisingly cost effective, better still children actually enjoy making them for themselves, if you play your cards right it can be win/win all round.  

In our hemisphere, Hummus has somehow managed to inveigle its way into the teens list of acceptable foods - goodness knows how, but it’s great news.  Those slow release carbs are far more beneficial for concentration and energy and the best news of all is that there are all sorts of variations and whilst the purist can happily soak their chickpeas overnight, those with time constraints can pop open a can with either method achieving equal results.   

The following recipe is certainly not reinventing the wheel but it is healthy, tastes great and children seem to love both making and eating it. 

200g/7oz canned chickpeas 
4 tbsp lemon juice 
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tsp ground cumin
Salt
100ml/31⁄2fl oz tahini 
4 tbsp water (if required)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and rinse until the water runs clear, then put them, together with the remaining ingredients into a food processor, and blend to a creamy purée. 

The quantities for the lemon juice, garlic, cumin and salt are very much a personal thing, we tend to add quite a bit more of both cumin and lemon.  When ready to serve, drizzle a little olive oil over the top with a dash of cayenne pepper and serve with either crudité or warm pita bread. 

 
 
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Recently during a trip to England, we were asked, to give our opinion on a Caribbean restaurant. In all honesty, for any other cuisine we would have been delighted, but when traveling we like to explore uncharted territory and believe me, we will stick to that plan from now on!    

It didn’t start too badly, the menu read well, a general cross section from across the islands, it all seemed fine until it was time for the drinks order....  No Caribbean rum, only Bacardi.  Absolutely no disrespect to Bacardi, it’s a great product, but this was a bit surprising for a Caribbean restaurant.  The second shock was that we were offered ‘Caribbean Table Wine’. We are hardly known as a grape producing region, so, fascinated, we ordered it.  The label bore the ubiquitous palm tree and simply said ‘Caribbean Table Wine’ and looked suspiciously home printed but it turned out to be a reasonably drinkable Sauvignon Blanc (not quite what you would expect to find growing next to sugar cane) but we decided prudence required silence and drank it quietly, grateful that it was at least decent.

We ordered Callaloo Soup, Doubles and Bul Jol to start, as sharers.  It was an absolute catastrophe.  The Callaloo was frozen spinach, insipid with no hot pepper, no crab, no thyme, no okra and not a hint of coconut milk, it was ghastly.  The Bul Jol was not made with salt fish but something that looked and tasted like smoked haddock, it was soggy with what tasted more like lime cordial than fresh, sweet and cloying. As for the Doubles, we were all convinced that they began life as donuts.  

Main courses arrived, Jerk Pork, Jerk Chicken and Pepperpot...  The Pepperpot was certainly not a West Indian affair, there was no heat, no casureep, no oxtail or unctuous glutinous meats, it was simply grey matter in a brown sauce and reminded us immediately of our cats’ favourite tin, although without question, at this,  our esteemed ‘Flossie’ would have turned whisker and flounced away but the Jerk was the icing on the cake, sweet, sticky. cloying BBQ sauce, not a trace of heat or spices.  

We couldn’t help it, we’re human, we called the manager - our final error. Despite our table sporting some strong West Indian accents, he proceeded to tell us that as ‘foreigners’, we had no idea what West Indian cooking tasted like and that these recipes came from his Grandmother.  He claimed that Jerk seasoning is not meant to have heat and argued that there was no such thing as ‘callaloo’ (Taro/Dasheen), it was simply a West Indian patois for frozen spinach.  He went on to say that no real West Indian would ever eat Hot Pepper Sauce, this was simply a myth.  We listened, dumbstruck until the only person capable of speech, asked what island he was from, he proudly told her that he was born in Hounslow - Fifth generation.  

The meal was an utter disaster but happily not the evening. The neighboring cocktail bar produced near perfect mojitos made with authentic Barbadian rum and they very kindly shared their unusual but simple secret.  Tempted? Go on, try one... After all,  as the British empiricals used to say... it’ must be six o’clock somewhere...

Mint Syrup
1 cup Muscovado Sugar
1 cup Water
2 cups Fresh Mint

Add the sugar, mint and water to a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then using a wooden spoon, gently bruise the mint and leave to steep and cool for an hour or so, then strain.   

Mojito
Two fingers of Barbados Golden Rum (approximately 50ml)
Soda Water
3 Tbs fresh lime juice   
1 fresh lime, coarsely chopped in chunks
4-5 Largish fresh mint leaves
4 Tbs Mint Syrup 

Add the rum, lime juice, syrup, leaves and fresh lime, give it a stir, then muddle with a spoon to release the flavours from the mint and lime and simply top up with soda water and ice.  We like ours sour, but for a sweeter version try the old rum punch quantitive measurement of ‘one of sour, two of sweet’,  or half lime to syrup. 

Our suggestion is to keep extra juice on hand as somehow, one never seems to be quite enough (hence the extra mint requirement). and for an extra ‘Island Store’ twist, we should perhaps add that we often make these with vodka instead of rum.  Enjoy x

 
 
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Cooking in the open air lends an indefinable quality to any food and food freshly caught or picked has to be the ultimate.  Chatting recently with a friend, who happens to be a well respected British Chef, we formed a loose plan to get together at the Gower Peninsula to forage for razor clams, (fully equipped with a sauté pan and portable BBQ of course).  It was a great idea, met with much enthusiasm, but sadly, in the absence of razor clams (or chef) due to our being in Barbados, a mere 4000 miles from the Gower, we decided to roast breadfruit instead.  They, we might add, are an awful lot easier to catch.  

Breadfruit trees are abundant throughout the Caribbean. They can be massive, sometimes reaching 85ft and are quite prolific, sometimes bearing up to two hundred fruits a season. The fruit itself resembles a large green football; you certainly want to think twice before parking under a breadfruit tree, these things are weighty.  When mature, a little sap leaks out, giving them a slightly white spotty effect. They are filling and starchy, somewhat potato like, made up of 25% carbohydrate and 70% water.  First introduced to the Caribbean by Captain Bligh as cheap food for slaves, breadfruit remains a good solid staple.

This adventure began, fueled by sun and rum punch.  A lassoo was made from a piece of old rope and a posse was dispatched to liberate the fruit from the tree.  All able bodied children went hunting for kindling whilst the grill dismantled from the barbeque in readiness.  As the foragers returned, a fire was built and shortly after there was the most wonderful smell wafting through the air, a bit like freshly baked bread. 

In the meantime, the domestically inclined headed for the kitchen to make both traditional and impulse based stuffings (likely inspired by the rum punch). The result was a huge success, even the children ate heartily as they believed it to be a fruit and not a dreaded vegetable! 

We have included a guide recipes below, but for those of you that don’t happen to have a Caribbean garden, resplendent with breadfruit tree, a gallon of rum punch and a small posse of children lying around, please adapt accordingly.  

Preheat the oven to 350.  

Remove the stalk from the breadfruit and prick the skin a few times with a fork.  Roast the breadfruit for at least an hour turning occasionally until the flesh is soft and the skin brown. (If you are not sure try sticking a skewer though it and if it comes out clean, it’s done).   Alternatively, if your feeling brave and have a gas hob, you can pretend it’s a BBQ and do it on that. 

However you cook it, when the breadfruit is charred all over and cooked through, slice off the top and scoop out the inner core (which you discard) and fill the cavity with the cooked, seasoned meat.  It is hard to give exact quantities as so many traditional West Indian recipes are cooked by feel and personal taste, plus the quantity of stuffing required will be dependent on the size of your breadfruit, but use the following as a general guide.  

Minced Beef, approx 500g (Or for a true Caribbean flavour, a tin of corned beef). 
1-2 Fresh tomatoes, diced and core removed
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 red pepper, diced small
Handful of chives, green and white parts, chopped (roughly 2/3 cup)
1 Large onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Hot Pepper Sauce, to taste (we use at least 1 tbs, but like ours hot)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Butter, salted.

Pan fry the onion until opaque, then add the garlic and toss for approximately one minute, then add the beef and remaining ingredients.  Stir occasionally until the beef is browned.  Adjust the seasonings and scoop into the breadfruit.  Serve immediately. 

Photography courtesy of the very talented Morgan Street. 












 
 
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Today it was cold.  Now that may not seem like a very grand statement to most of our readers but for us it was quite a shock.  The temperature was 25°c and the wind had a decided nip to it.  By mid morning the phones were buzzing with friends and family calling to grumble that they had to dig out jeans and sweaters in order to be able to work and the internet was zinging with everyone clamoring for weather updates. 

The skies darkened, the day grew still, not a palm tree rustled until the heavens opened.  Huge great drops of rain thundering down causing a cacophony on the roofs and windows in the way that only tropical storms can. The winds were howling and gusting to 48 miles an hour. 

Technically our hurricane season is over, but with the advancement of global warming it seems to get later and later each year and today has been no exception.  An Invest has formed to our right and is becoming worryingly organised.  An ‘invest’ in itself is not normally cause for concern, it is simply an area red flagged for further study.  However, 98L is being monitored closely as it's very slow moving and this is not good, as this gives it time it to intensify and organise into a cyclone.

Living in this part of the world it’s pretty important to be aware of these terms and idiosyncrasies in the vague hope of gauging the seriousness of a threat and preparing accordingly. The guidance provided by 'The Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale' is invaluable and sites such as 'The National Hurricane Centre' and 'Weather Underground' are generally tabbed in most people's favourites.  Having said that, as we all know weather is an unpredictable mistress, so it's really a bit of lottery but nonetheless useful for us to be familiar the terms at least. 

Tropical Depression Winds up to 38 mph
Tropical Storm Winds 39-73 mph

Category 1 Hurricane Winds 74-95 mph
Category 2 Hurricane Winds 96-110 mph 
Category 3 Hurricane Winds 111-129 mph 
Category 4 Hurricane Winds 130-156 mph
Category 5 Hurricane Winds 156 mph +

There is a huge sense of community during Hurricane Season, people come together in a manner hard to describe.  Social media is active with members constantly monitoring the hurricane sites, updates are rapid and filled with speculation, opinions and usually a great deal of humour.  The roads and supermarkets are generally chaos with everyone scrambling to stock up on essentials and texts fly telling you where has the smallest queues.  Luckily for all of us, real threats are few and far between as the devastation caused as a result is unimaginable.  

The old expression, ‘the calm before the storm’ is a great truism, the air goes still, eerily still, there is immense quiet, even our ever present crickets and tree frogs grow silent, the heat intensifies and you wait.  If the threat is serious, authorities will cut the national power and water supplies and you wait in darkness with the oppressive quiet. Entrances are sand bagged and boarded up, windows taped (to prevent flying glass), animals secure, passports and valuables in waterproof bags, medical kit and clean drinking water to hand. It is a humbling experience, knowing how vulnerable you are, yet powerless to do anything. 

Fortunately for us, tonight is nowhere close to that severity, it is a night to snuggle up and enjoy the unaccustomed cold, batten down the hatches and wait for the thunder to begin.  There is an air of excitement, 'Invest 98L' will  almost certainly become 'Tropical Storm Rafael', but we are all prepared, there is a steaming pot of Chili Con Carne on the stove that has simmered happily for the past hour, a large bottle of Merlot open and ready to be devoured and 'X Factor' on the telly.... we’ll check the weather sites again later...
 
 
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Most West Indians will happily tell you that ‘Corn Pudding’ or ‘Corn Pie’ is one of theirs.  (Please don’t tell anyone, but it actually isn’t!  Whilst it is colonial, it is originally a Southern dish, steeped in tradition, from when corn was plentiful and money was not). 

For those that haven’t tried it before, it sets a bit like a soufflé, not quite as light but along those lines, the result is still reasonably fluffy.  It's comfort food, good old fashioned 'home cooking', warm, filling and friendly and a firm favourite in most West Indian households.

Corn Pudding pairs wonderfully with hot fiery dishes as the natural sweetness counteracts the heat.  This makes it great to serve with jerk pork or chicken and it is also a useful side dish for a barbecue supper as it requires no fussing.  Our personal favourite is to serve it with a rum glazed, baked ham and a hot, fiery, heavily spiced, sweet potato pie. 


What we didn’t know until recently, is that sweetcorn boasts significant antioxidants which are actually increased by cooking and processed sweet corn contains the most.  It also contains Ferulic Acid which, several research projects suggest, has protective qualities to help fight diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and Alzheimer’s.  Despite being much maligned in the diet circles, an averaged sized portion, (roughly 125g), contains only 70 calories so all in all, it’s pretty good stuff. 

2 Tins Creamed Corn (Approximately 15oz)
2 Tins Whole Kernel Corn (Approximately 15oz)
4 Tbs Flour
4 Tbs Sugar (We use Barbados Muscovado, of course!)
4 Eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat Oven to 350°F.
Mix the ingredients together thoroughly by hand and pour into a shallow ovenproof ceramic dish.  Bake for approximately 40 minutes until quite firm and slightly brown around the edges.   

Our photograph is courtesy of Mama Gump, who encourages us all to “Live Deliciously” - what a great ethos and so perfect for this dish. 




 
 
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Having spent many years working in the heart of London’s St. John’s Wood district, I was, warmly and enthusiastically, introduced to the joys of traditional Jewish fare in my early twenties.  For the uninitiated, those first tastes of Harry Morgan’s Salt Beef on Rye and Panzer’s chopped herring were nothing short of extraordinary, to say nothing of the Gefilte fish and that wonderful red horseradish...  but the jewel in the crown, has to be, the time honoured ‘Jewish Penicillin’, or simply put, chicken soup, which is recommended as a cure-all for everything from the common cold to a broken heart. 

The one that will always stick in my mind, belongs to a man called Adrian Jacobs, the father of a very old friend.  At the time, I was the only female in a house full of boisterous adolescent males and I clearly recall, retreating to the kitchen for what we would now call a bit of ‘Time Out‘.  I remember watching with fascination as Adrian quietly created this magnificent soup but what impacted more, was the affection and love connected to it.  Whilst working, he regaled me with his childhood memories of this soup, together with its personal meaning, I was enthralled.  As someone, who since, has spent a lifetime in the food industry this was my first real introduction to the love and passion that food can inspire.  It marked me for life and has stuck with me as a turning point, through all the years.  

We recently arrived home from a long trip bringing with us the sneezes, sniffles and aches and pains of every other passenger on the plane.  I was faced with a houseful of grizzly people and no inclination to attempt kitchen miracles.  The flag went up for chicken soup, but we all craved the simplicity and purity of Asian flavours so those sumptuous Kneidlach dumplings were just not going to work in this instance.  Considering the limited energy and ingredients, the meal that followed was such a huge success that it even brought smiles to the faces of jet lagged teenagers.  Perhaps this is Asian ‘Soup for the Soul’. 

Preheat oven to 400f. 
 Six boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 Maggi Chicken Seasoning Cubes
2.5” Fresh Ginger
7 Spring Onions, finely chopped
2 Whole Star Anise
Tin foil. 

Preheat oven to 400f.
Boil a full kettle.  In the meantime put the chicken breasts in an ovenproof ceramic dish and cover with the ginger, star anise and spring onion.  Sprinkle over the Maggi Cubes and then, pour over enough boiling water to comfortably cover everything.  Cover with tin foil and place in the oven for 35 mins.  Remove from the oven and slice the chicken and serve in bowls with the broth.  

It works best if you treat like a Vietnamese Pho - accompany the main dish with small bowls of coriander, chili, bean sprouts, Thai basil (or whatever you chose), allowing everyone to create their own kitchen miracle.  Do try it, it’s quick, healthy and cost effective, perfect for those slightly jaded moments. 

 
 
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The weather in Barbados has suddenly turned extremely hot and the holiday makers are all reveling in the blistering heat as they lie coated in oil on our beaches.  In our homes, the dogs lounge lazily panting in shady corners occasionally casting an indifferent glance at equally languid cats, but those of us who are working and running errands are grumbling bitterly. Not a real grumble, mind you, (we do know how lucky we are to live in paradise) but it’s a sort of hangover from our Colonial days and even though it varies little, commenting on the weather is akin to breathing.  It just pops out along with “How are you?”

It is essential to stay well hydrated in the tropics ~ dehydration can make you feel truly awful ~ but the debate about what to drink is enormous.  To stave off said malady there are vendors on almost every major roadside selling carbonated sweet drinks; coconut water sellers offering the nutrient laden refreshment straight from the nut, and, of course, it almost goes without saying that the ubiquitous ‘Sundowner’ plays an enormous part of our culture.  Whilst there is nothing nicer than sipping on an ice cold rum punch while watching the sun set over the Caribbean, we can’t, in good conscience, be doing that in the daytime.  Cherries and umbrellas in drinks aren’t really acceptable during working hours, unless of course you are lucky enough to ‘have’ to entertain.  

Fresh cold water, and in our case, coconut water, are the obvious choices for everyday thirst quenchers, but sometimes you still crave some sweetness and for those moments there is nothing more tantalizing than home made lemonade.  This cordial is quick and simple to make and you can leave in the fridge, undiluted, for about a week quite happily.  Simply mix it as you would any barley water or squash drink by adding cold water.  Of course, once the sun has begun to set, it is perfectly acceptable to add a shot of rum, a sprig of mint and even an umbrella or two if you want one.


400g/130z Barbados Muscovado Sugar (or Caster)
330ml/11 fl oz lemon juice

Boil the sugar and juice until the sugar melts then once cooled, put into a kilner or similar type of airtight bottle, store in the fridge. Umbrellas and garnish are optional. 



 
 
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For the first time ever, in 1966, England won the World Cup, but for the great empire it was also a year of loss.  After almost 340 years, one of the Caribbean crown jewels slipped from its grasp when Barbados gained independence and ceased to be a British Colony.  HRH Queen Elizabeth II, however, continues to be our sovereign, with the Island based Governor General acting as her vice-regal representative in all matters of State.  She is still ‘our’ Queen and for some reason, being slightly removed from the source seems to bring about magnified patriotism during major events.  This was truly apparent in the recent local Jubilee Celebrations and with the majority of our long stay tourists originating from Britain, missing their celebrations at home, you can only begin to imagine the festive atmosphere. 

Virgin Atlantic’s daily flights, coupled with its reliability and efficiency, makes it the airline of choice for many of these sun-seeking British tourists, but what few perhaps realized was their equal proficiency in throwing one massive rip-roaring party.  

In celebration of the recent Diamond Jubilee they hosted a street party, the likes of which, we doubt the island has ever seen before.   It was quite simply, spectacular.   Stalls lined the side of the road selling Steak and Kidney Pies, Fish and Chips (in newspaper, naturally), Pimms, Scones, Strawberries and Cream, English bangers and even Bacon Sarnies and Chip Butties.  The British newspapers were imported, but the staid garden party type atmosphere was not.  This was no ordinary street party; it contained the perfect marriage of cultures ~ British organisation, pageantry and attention to detail coupled with the inherent friendliness and ability to have a good time anywhere (with anyone), which is such an enormous part of West Indian DNA.  

Wherever you wandered, there was something new and exciting.  Imagine stilt walkers, jugglers, marionettes and two of the funniest comedians imaginable, dressed as British Traffic wardens with a “have double yellow line, will travel” maxim.  The crowd erupted into laughter, when one lady had a ‘Fixed Penalty’ notice slapped on her, and then doubled over as the brave soul who tried to remove it immediatley sported an ‘Out of Order’ ticket.  

The UK band, “Rat in the Kitchen” was jetted in by Virgin Atlantic ‘specially for the event and made a superb showing by playing exhaustively despite the blistering heat.  For a supposedly UB40 tribute band, they generated more ‘Dancing in the Street’ than any Mowtown act. The atmosphere was electric; a plethora of Union Jacks fluttered proudly in the breeze and the street was a seething mass of red, white and blue while the air filled with music and laughter.  It truly was, a right royal knees-up and Virgin flew, both flags proudly.