Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tastes of the Caribbean - Part 1

The Caribbean has an extremely colourful culinary past as a result of its early American-Indian roots, European invaders and introduction of African slaves. Each of these brought its own style and technique through plants and livestock, as well as incorporating the indigenous ones already in abundance due to the tropical weather and vegetation.
Over the next couple of months I will be providing information on the many unusual fl avours available, together with some interesting trivia to impress your guests! Let’s make a start with the exotic fruits of the Caribbean and Bahamas.

Here’s information on some of the fruits that you may come across:

A beautiful yellow, black and red colour, ackee is about the size of a peach and tastes like scrambled eggs when eaten, traditionally with salt fish for breakfast. When unripe it contains hypoglycin, which is quite poisonous so make sure you get ripe ones!

Introduced over 100 years ago as an economic way to feed African slaves of sugar plantations. When plantation owners had to free the slaves the sugar cane was left to waste but the newly freed slaves could still enjoy free food as the breadfruit grew happily in abundance.

Acerola or Barbados cherry
This wonderful fruit has the highest vitamin C content of any fruit – the equivalent of 12 oranges! It also retains all of its vitamins after freezing or making jam.

This close relative of the custard apple is a spectacular-looking fruit, used to make soft drinks and sherbets. It is dark green, heart-shaped and covered in spiny thorns. Mature soursop is often used as a vegetable, roasted or fried. Half-grown ones are boiled until tender and have the taste and aroma of corn on the cob.

This small, popular green fruit is quince-like. The chopped fl esh makes a good stuffi ng with rich meats such as duck, pork and game. It is used to make spicy salsas, jams and punches.

Here’s a recipe for Guava Chutney. Originally Indian, it goes so well with many spicy Caribbean dishes like goat curry or jerk chicken:

Guava Chutney

250g fresh guava
1 red chilli, chopped
(seeds can be left in or
out depending on heat
2 cups water
1 cup rice vinegar
2 large cardamom pods
180g cane sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh
ginger, fi nely grated
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons desiccated
A small handful of raisins

1.Peel the guava, cut into four pieces and
remove the seeds.
2.Slice thinly and cook with the ginger,
garlic and water until soft.
3.Add the chilli, coconut, raisins and
sugar, and cook until thick and syrupy.
4.Allow to cool before putting into jars and
serving with your next spicy island feast!

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