Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Having the opportunity to study the module Literature of food at university has encouraged me to pay closer attention to the different types of food I eat, its origin, ingredients, spices, nutritional value of  the foods, flavours and more. 
I have always been a lover of food and enjoy tasting the variety but acknowledging exactly how it made me feel was never something I would pay close attention to, until now. Considering I have specifically concentrated on the foods of Dominica I have gained a better understanding and knowledge of the cultural origin of the variety of dishes. 
I was always aware that Dominican cuisine is influenced by the French culture, indigenous Caribs and the African culture. However, after carrying out more research I found out that Caribbean cuisine is further influenced by Spain, East India, Chinese, Lebanese and Syrian.
I was not able to include the abundance of fruits I enjoyed growing up as a child in Dominica. To name a few, Guava, Papaya, Kenips (my favorite fruit of them all), Mango's, Passion fruit, Pomme cette (Golden apple), star fruit and many many more. I would pick these fruits off of the trees and would eat as many as my stomach desired.
Food holds a significant importance in my culture and it triggers memories; for me specifically, childhood memories as I would remember what I disliked eating the most as my mum would try to encourage me to eat because I didn't like food. Studying the module has made me realise how much my eating habits have changed from childhood (my diet consisted of mostly fruits and dairy products), entering my teens (I developed a love for junk food i.e. cakes, fast food) and finally, adulthood (I now have a more balanced diet). It has also made me appreciate the fact that I have always been lucky enough to have freshly cooked evening meals.
How to cook Broiler Chicken

Broiler Chicken is a meat that is cooked quite often in my household by both my parents and myself.  This particular breed of chicken must be broiled which is meat or fish that is cooked to direct heat.  It can not be baked like normal chicken due to its tougher texture.  

 Below is a picture of the chicken covered with basic seasoning such as the curry powder, cut onions and garlic.  It is entirely up to the cook how big or small they want their onions and garlic to be.
If the cook/chef wanted to season the chicken further they could add the following ingredients including the ones that have already been mentioned above the previous picture.                                                                                                                            
                                                     1. Curry Powder
                                                     2. Onion (half or whole)
                                                     3. Garlic (4/6 cloves)
                                                     4. Thyme
                                                     5. Rosemary
                                                     6. Dark Soy Sauce
                                                     7. Chicken cube
                                                     8. Gourmet sauce (very small amount)

Whilst adding all the ingredients to the chicken it is important to have your Stainless steel pot on the fire with the highest heat and some oil at the base of the pot.  Once the oil begins to bubble the chicken is ready to be put into the pot to stew.

                                 All the ingredients have been added and is ready to be mixed.

The chicken stewing.

The chicken requires stirring every 15-20 minutes to ensure that all areas of the chicken is being cooked. The chicken will take two to three hours to cook in order for it to be cooked thoroughly.

The broiler can be cooked with anything you desire but my dad and I chose to cook it with freshly grown spinach that my father grows in his allotment.  It is very healthy, crunchy and filling.

Fresh spinach washed and cut into small pieces.  To give the spinach some flavour my dad put it into the bowl that was used to season the chicken and added a teaspoon of both soy sauce and brown sauce with garlic and coconut cream before frying it lightly.

The spinach cooking.

This particular meal is healthy, light and enjoyable and allows my family to enjoy a more simplistic meal; one that is not completely consumed by Caribbean ground provisions, ingredients and spices.  We often enjoy other foods like Chinese, Italian, French and many more.

Tamarind Balls & Coconut Tablets

The Caribbean is not only good at producing flavoursome, mouth-watering and delicious food; they also have snacks and sweets that will make your taste buds scream for more.  The many textures and flavours is what make them so gratifying.  

                                      One of my favourite sweets is the Tamarind balls.

It has a sweet and sour taste to it.  The texture at first is rough but becomes smooth once all the sugar has been sucked off of it.  Although it's popular in the Caribbean the Tamarind tree/plant originated in Africa.

Coconut Tablet (sugar cake)
It does not look very attractive but I can assure you it tastes fantastic! If you are a coconut lover like myself and have a sweet tooth you will love it just as much as I do.  Well I hope so.  I first discovered the tablet when I was 4 years old living in Dominica.  My grandmother and I or my aunt and I would go to town and they would by me treats now and again, the tablet being one of my favourite choices.
The tablet is made using:
Grated coconut
Brown sugar
Vanilla extract
Cinnamon powder
Baking powder

Tablet photo: google images

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

This is what my sister had to say about Caribbean food...

I see my sister once a week and we quite often engage in interesting conversations every time we see one another but on that particular visit I decided to ask her about her favourite Caribbean food. She responded with complete and utter enthusiasm as she began talking about Dominica, her brief experience and her love for the food.

This i what she said "Caribbean breakfasts are varied but my favourite breakfast consists of a chocolate drink called “Cocoa Tea” which is cocoa in its purest form, grinded through a mill it’s rolled into sticks and leave to dry out.  It can either be grated into a powder or just dropped into a bowl of water and flavoured by almond essence, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.  To enhance the taste coconut milk is added and thickened lightly with flour, however, this is dependent on personal taste, and then allowed to simmer until it comes to a boil.

Cocoa naturally tastes bitter and thought it can be drunk without sugar, sugar greatly enhances the flavour.  Some people drink it without milk, which in Dominica is referred to “cocoa a l'eaut”  but to be honest, cocoa is only drunk like this when there is no milk available, preferably evaporated or condensed milk.

I tend to drink cocoa tea with bread, typically a French stick or “bakes or sometimes referred to as jonny cakes” a dough fried instead of boiled (in Jamaica it is referred to as fried dumpling) , it can be sweet or savoury, rolled flat or small and round.   Typically in the Caribbean one would also have cucumber, salt fish, tomato or smoked hearing prepared with garlic and onions and lightly fried, yum yum.  Because it is high in fat, in the UK cocoa is a Sunday breakfast treat, in the Caribbean it was a daily breakfast.

Caribbean foods tend to be spicy and flavoursome, with fresh herbs being commonly used.  My family’s two main ingredients in cooking are garlic and onion, but garlic is a must followed by fresh thyme, spring onions and other fresh herbs, depending on the dish, bay leaf, fresh ginger, coconut cream and seasoning peppers received from the Caribbean.  Dominica enjoys foods from the Indigenous people, the Caribs, cassava bread made from manioc or cassava from which farine is made.  The starchy extract from the arrowroot plant is used as a thickening agent and to feed babies from three months up wards.

Caribbean food is my favourite because although we do eat a variety of foods, it is our main food and I grew up eating and enjoying the flavours.

I was born in Dominica and left the Island aged 6 years old and at my leaving party my grandmother made dumplings soup with kidney beans and a selection of meats, to this day I reminisce about that meal and my departure from Dominica to London.

Another favourite of mine is curry goat; I enjoy this because of the intensity of the curry against the distinct goat meat.  This dish is especially delicious when potato chunks and coconut milk are added". 

Cocoa image:
My favourite food

Saltfish and Dumplings

As long as I can remember my favourite Caribbean food has always been ‘Saltfish and boiled Dumplings’.  If I was having a bad day or not in much of a good mood this dish would surely make me feel a lot better, full, sometimes even bloated; that’s because I was being greedy.  Something we've all done before obviously.  Nonetheless, my dad Curwin is what I would call a Master Chef as he would cook it to absolute perfection every time.  I can’t say the same about my mum, her way of cooking it just wasn't as flavoursome or mouth-watering. 

Above is the Saltfish being cooked.
Below is the ground provision being boiled.

The end result of my tasty and satisfying dinner.  The dumpling is brown as I decided to use brown flour and cornmeal powder.

I came across a food quote “There is no love sincerer than the love of food” by George Bernard Shaw.  This quote drew me in as it reminded me of how I felt about my favourite foods; they make me feel better if I am not in the best of moods but even better when I am already happy.  I agree with the quote, do you?

What I haven’t yet told you all if that there are many ways to prepare saltfish and many different foods that can be eaten with it.  It can be eaten as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The most popular dishes when making saltfish are the following:
                Saltfish with cucumber and hard dough bread
                Saltfish with bakes (otherwise known as fried dumplings but bakes are flat)
                Saltfish and ground provision (also known as hard food) such as dasheen, dumplings, green bananas and plantain
                Fishcakes/fritters (the two names vary depending on the Caribbean islands) is made using saltfish

Saltfish is nonetheless a very popular fish in the Caribbean and can be cooked in many different ways.  That’s one thing I love about it, it’s very versatile.  

Lastly, Saltfish is quite often cooked with Ackee which is a fruit that was originally imported from West Africa to Jamaica and has ever since been popular in Jamaica and among the other islands.  Ackee and saltfish being Jamaica’s national dish recipe.

Quote from:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Caribbean
A Culinary Discovery

This is a different kind of cook book… Oh yes. Do you know why I say different? It’s different because it concentrates and deals with the cultural aspect of each Caribbean Island and the Culinary too.  This particular cook book was written and edited by Rosemary Parkinson who took a tour around the Caribbean discovering and exploring the multitude of foods and its cultures.

When first opening the book there are a few paragraphs on how magnificent some of the Islands are and what they have to offer. However, I chose the paragraph about Dominica as I'm concentrating mostly on the culture and foods of Dominica.  I don’t know about you but when I read Parkinson’s brief description I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say about the islands, especially mine.  How does the paragraph make you feel? Would you want to read on?


I was so excited to see what Parkinson had to say about Dominica I skipped right to the page. She started the passage by speaking about Dominica and its culinary delights and how the island has retained much of its traditional lifestyle such as the simplicity of everyday life.  A people who appreciate and respect the original inhabitants of the island and of their pride in preserving their culture.
The food reflects the nature and make-up of the island.  There is appreciation of vegetation and the abundance food.  A land covered by forests and protected species that can only be hunted during the hunting season and the populace showing their appreciation for the crabs, mountain chicken, manicou and agouti by adhering to the law on hunting.

Mountain Chicken

Reasons why many species have disappeared from other West Indian islands still inhabit the island of Dominica.  Parkinson tells of the pride that the people have in their culture and their versatility in appreciating reggae as well as their local cadence or zouk music.
An island where creole is spoken as freely as English, of vegetation in every shade of green, of virgin forests and waterfalls, sprays from the Atlantic oceans and mists from waterfalls and dewy mountains.
Of a people in tune with nature who enjoy locally produced fresh foods, inhabiting an island paradise that is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden”.


There is no long winded paragraph with an abundance of detail.  Parkinson has simply provided the readers with a recipe list and a paragraph on how to cook the dish.  She has chosen a simplistic form and structure to deliver the recipes which in a sense stops the reader from losing interest in how the dish is prepared.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

One evening my mother was reminiscent about the foods she enjoyed while she was a young girl growing up in Dominica. I took this as an opportunity to record what she said...

First of all, she started by telling me, 
"Dominican food consists of recipes from the native Caribs, African and European (mainly French cultures". 

I then asked her whether Dominica shared any of the same or similar dishes as the other Caribbean Islands. She went on to say... 
"Yes, with the islands that were once colonised by the French and reverted to England and the other French Caribbean islands.   Most of our dishes are different from the other Caribbean islands or the names of the dishes are different because of the language we speak (French creole (kwyĆ©ol)). My memory of the food I ate growing up consisted of a lot of fruits, lentils rather than kidney beans and pulses.
People were subsistence farmers so food was plentiful and fruits and vegetables were abundant. Much of the food was organic, except for the imported meat, which would eat when the fishermen did not have a good catch, besides meat was considered a treat to enjoy during Easter and Christmas".

As a young child, and even now, I always enjoyed hearing my mother tell me how "Families' slaughtered pigs, cows and chickens. Many families were fortunate to have had free-range chickens walking around their yards.  The whole village would feed them and sometimes kill other people’s and eat them too.  Fish was bought fresh from the fishermen at the seaside".  Lobster was considered “poor man food” no one bought it, the fishermen would end up giving them away.  Hard to imagine.

I found it very interesting that the bread they ate most of was Cassava bread rather than ordinary bread. The Cassava bread is made from manioc and baked in the traditional way, on a very large cast iron container on an open fire, was a popular staple diet of the native Caribs before the Europeans and Africans arrived. 

Another favourite is the avocado, the flavours are so different from those bought over here (England).  The flesh is rich and creamy.
There were other fruits like paw paws (papaya), fresh cashew which we would pick from the tree, eat the plum, slice the cashew open and eat the nut after rubbing it in our hair to avoid our lips being burnt by the oil from the husk.  We used the husk to play games. How imaginative is that?

Each Island has its own National dish, Dominica's own being quite unique. Mountain chicken (frog) and before you go urgh, don’t knock it before you try it.  It is called mountain chicken because it lives in the mountains of the island and tastes like chicken.

There is a knack to killing and cleaning mountain chicken.  After you kill it you have to know how to clean it properly by removing all the nerves, otherwise even after the head has been chopped off the frogs would continue hopping around (like headless chicken), pardon the pun. Once the frog was killed properly, the next part was being able to clean it properly by skinning it.

My mother’s great aunt was particularly good at that.

We both agreed that "One meal that has remained as a favourite is lentils boiled with salt fish and dumpling. Some meals you never forget, that is one from childhood that has stayed with me".

(Cassava image)
(Mountain Chicken image)

Thursday, 6 February 2014

I think you'd agree that we all love food... 

However, Most people think of the Caribbean and they think paradise. Mention the food and they think ‘jerk chicken’ or rice and peas. The truth about Caribbean cuisine is that it is as diverse as Europe. My family originate from Dominica where the culture is English French creole.

My parents always talk of growing up on sea food. The national dish is Mountain Chicken’ (frog). Fish is a large part of the diet as is crab, octopus, squid an all manner of sea food and vegetables.

My dad is the cook in the household. My mum protests every time she has to cook. Nonetheless, her coleslaw is to die for.

My dad cooks up a storm, broth with smoked ribs, cabbage, green bananas, dasheen, Tania, yam and so much more… He also cooks Callao (spinach with dumplings, breadfruit).