Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Promises ...

This week dear readers, I come to you with an amuse-bouche. Of sorts. A figurative and literal one. 

Figurative because all I can give you are little nibbles of stories to come because alas, at the most inopportune time (as they always are yes?) my camera has broken down and I am on a quest to retrieve the photos. And literal because I will share with you a recipe I made for our bonfire adapted from an old Bajan grandfather.

So, as part two of my Bajan adventures, I come to you (once camera back in action, pray for me) with promises of stories of tropical forest paths with coral steps leading down to a Robinson Caruso’esque beach with immense coral cliffs and big rolling waves (I have a rant to go with this one which I can’t wait to share with you). Of Rasta’s and solitary bonfires in caves with the grill carved in the sand that roasted fish as we drank rum and listened to the waves crashing.

Of picking up a chef (who just happened to be the owner of one of Barbados best rated Zagat restaurant’s, total fluke!) at the local fish market and trying to negotiate for his fish but hesitantly winding up at his restaurant instead, to one of the most magnificent Bajan meals you can imagine. Of little, black hummingbirds who suckle every morning on the most fertile plants I have ever seen (it loses all its flowers every afternoon and every morning it is in full bloom).

Of roadside, church parking lot spareribs. 

Of exquisite, hot, crunchy, golden flying fish fingers. Heaven.

Of brilliant Ambassadors and glorious Tuscans (and us of course) on the coral sand beach, sipping homemade rum punch while discussing Asian crepes, ancient water mills, lemon trees and where to obtain fresh, unpasteurized goats milk for making cheese (I did it and failed miserably but it was divine) and more typical food obsessed beach conversation.

And of course, of the kind and wonderful people that make Barbados such a unique place to visit.

Now, onto the literal one.

Bajan Grandfather's Salt Fish Cakes ala dish …

What you need:
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter (plus extra for sautéing the onions)
  • 1 small onion finely minced
  • 1 cup flour (plus extra to adjust batter consistency)
  • Salt and pepper to your taste (if you can find Caribbean black pepper, do it)
  • ¼ cup finely diced fresh green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons of Bajan hot sauce
  • 1 ounce of dark rum
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup old cheddar cubed into ¼” cubes
  • ¼ cup mozzarella cubed as the old cheddar
  • 2 cups saltfish, boiled 3 times and flaked
  • Peanut oil for frying
How to make them:
  1. In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in butter until they are translucent an luscious (you’ll know).
  2. Place flour in a big bowl and make a well in center. Pour in eggs, butter and milk. 
  3. Mix together lightly and then add the onions and all other ingredients to the bowl and stir gently until a beautiful batter forms. The consistency should be something between cookie dough and muffin batter.
  4. Once done, drop tablespoon by glorious tablespoon full into the hot oil. Please give them space and do not crowd them in. Fry until they are a beautiful golden color.
  5. Serve hot hot hot! (for the extra heat loving peeps out there,  mix mayonnaise with some of the Bajan hot sauce, add a squirt of fresh lime juice and dip on in)
 Until we meet again ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

13º 10 N 59º 32 W …

No matter where I am in the world (right now it happens to be Barbados) it always comes down to the simple things. The things that make life beautiful to me. Like homemade Bajan hot (insane hot) sauce, sitting on the floor with Axel eating blackened bluefish caught just this morning wrapped in chinese cabbage that was picked, you guessed it, just this morning. Tiny little limes that burst with juice. Bouquets of the local herb mix of thyme, marjoram, chives and hot peppers. All bought from little old ladies selling their food goodies on the street.

It's very hot here. So hot, that it took all my effort to write said paragraph. This being the case dear reader, if you will indulge me, I am going to tell the rest of my story in pictures.

Little things that have captured my heart here so far...

The local reggae blasting Dolmus ...

Beehive glasses ...

This one speaks for itself n'est ce pas ...

Obama nike's on Rasta's ...

Pac   pac    pac  ...
The local Bluefish ... thank you sea ...
People and fish ... and signs ...
Long roads ...

Next week dear readers, if all goes as planned, I hope to come to you with recipes and stories of barbecued pigs tales, macaroni pie, flying fish and a possible petition to keep the hamburger across the street thick. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oh sweet pig ...

Beginning was difficult today. It took me all morning to extract those three tiny, little title words from my over stimulated brain. We (I take liberty, it may just be me) always travel the most complicated paths before coming back to what usually makes the most sense. Simplicity. The path, of least resistance.

I had visions of so mysterious must read titles such as In the strangest places … then, I shifted and went for the one word wonder of Gratitude … then, I went to the possibly poetic Every day at 5am a man wakes up … then, because I was driving myself up the wall, I stopped. I sat quietly for a moment and asked myself a simple question: what do I want to say? Genius, I know.

The answer came back whispering (in an odd Eat Pray Love'ish sort of way): Pig … oh sweet pig … tell them about the beautiful, *fat (see rant later), succulent little breakfast sausage that fed seven hungry soccer players on the weekend. So here I am dear readers, with my story.

It all started last year, with these same seven hungry men, sitting around my breakfast table in silence. Silence.

Now, if you have ever been around a group of men, you know this is a very rare occurrence. So rare in fact, that I can almost picture David Attenborough’s voice (as always he would of course be ever so conveniently placed in the perfect observing position) in the background with “here, we have a group of men participating in a most elusive ritual, silence… watch carefully now and you will witness one of life’s most mysterious states amongst men in their packs

Yes … anyhow, I went outside hoping to witness the cause of this extreme rarity and there it was staring me right in the face. The one thing, the most powerful force, the culinary kryptonite that can render the most verbosely inclined men silent. Meat.

There, in the middle of the mountainous pile of eggs, plates of feta and sweet, fall tomatoes nesting and happily glistening in olive oil and fresh basil, lay a sizzling plate of Soujouk (soujouk dear readers, is a lovely, stinky, gorgeous cured sausage of Armenian origin).

All around me were faces planning their next move. What was the fastest way to the soujouk? How much could be taken without offending the rest of the pack? What was the best strategy for fastest plating to retain maximum heat? Who would have to go down once the last piece battle began? It was awesome. So marked was I by this extraordinary experience that back in present day, with looming breakfast ahead, here I am with another secret to expose (starting to get a liiiittle concerned about this confession theme here …).

I dear reader, am a selfish individual.

There, I’m out. I’ve said it.

There are very few things in life that give me as much pleasure as watching people relish food. Especially when this relishing is collective and it involves food directly from a farm. It literally makes me happy. So selfish as I am, I jumped at the chance to recreate last years meatty joy. But naturally, I could not present the same sausage again (God forbid, I know!). This time I wanted to make the little bundles of meat joy myself.

So naturally, this meant I had to hunt the perfect pig, or at least (let’s be real here) our farmer who reared one. In comes farmer extraordinaire Jean-Pierre who’s farm La Ferme le Crepuscule is responsible for feeding me (you will be hearing more about him). This week, he had the most beautiful ground pork ever (seems I didn’t have to hunt far) and so it was my duty to showcase its pure magnificence with the proper preparation. That said, I am about to share a little gem with you that could not be easier to make and is gorgeously delicious. This is a simple sausage recipe adapted from Alton Brown that will knock your socks off (I dare you to try to figure out where the citrusy hint comes from, because frankly I’m stumped).

Warning: if you do not have a meat grinder, ask your butcher to grind the required fat into the pork. I realized too late that I don’t have one (how could I possibly not know that I do not have a meat grinder for heaven’s sake you ask … I mean really, it’s just one of those things you just know you have or don’t have you say …) so I had to leave out the extra fat (sacrilege - I hate myself - from freaky not knowing no meat grinder incident I know!)

The lesson: please, remember the fat or you will (if you are obsessive like me) wind up making the whole thing again, yes, like I did (the “fat free” version was so flavorful and awesome but a tad, well, sans fat). This second batch resulted in full, plump, bronzed, succulent fatty glorious sausage. Thank you dear pig.

Okay, I’m done. Time to dish.

Here is what you need:

2 pounds pork butt, ground
1/2 pound fat back, ground with the pork
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon organic light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Turkish if you can please)

Special equipment: meat grinder (yeah … I don’t know how I missed that ...)

Here is what to do:

Combine glorious pork with all other ingredients and chill for 1 hour. Form into perfect sausage shapes. Refrigerate and use within 1 week or freeze.
For immediate gobbling, sauté little bundles of sausage joy over medium high heat. Sauté until brown and golden turning on all sides to ensure an even tan (approximately 10 minutes. Keep warm covered in aluminum foil until ready to serve.

Enough for 7 hungry men.

Was meat induced silence achieved you ask? No. This year ravenous bunch diving into everything leaving crumbs in wake was achieved, but very noisily. This year, I had stiff competition that I had not planned for and am convinced I would have persevered given the following elements had been eliminated: Big screen TV, football, soccer and hockey (seriously, how many critical sporting events can be on at the same time!).

Even the most heavenly meat does not render man silent when in his most beloved state, watching sports, with his pack, in front of a big screen TV. David, are you there?

In the end, this is what it’s all for yes?

For those of you curious about the rest of the morning Menu, it was:

Farm eggs (24!) with cream scrambled in organic butter with feta and fresh dill
Pancetta crispy and lovely
Moroccan Olives
Sliced Lebanese cucumbers with lemon zest and sea salt
Creamy, ooozy Bulgarian triple cream feta with drizzled olive oil and Turkish red pepper flakes
Greek, farm extra thick and creamy yogurt
36 hour French baguettes
(Seems like the United Nations here … yes!)
Bagels (Montreal only please if you can, I have to discriminate here, they are the best)
Ferme Reid raspberry jam
And beer

Lots and lots of beer …