Sunday, 25 October 2015

Plantain Cranberry Bread

This is one of those recipes that you can taste in your mind but translating it to reality is a challenge. I came up with this as I wanted something for Thanksgiving that was not made with Pumpkin! We do not celebrate Thanksgiving where I'm from but if we did, I guess this could be called Plantain Thanksgiving Bread. I can't call it Harvest Bread as the ingredients I have used, grow year round in the Caribbean. I therefore settled on Plantain Cranberry Bread as that would bridge the Caribbean-American gap. I also used American Sweet Potato or Sweet Yam as it's sometimes called. I did not use the Caribbean sweet potato or Boniato as it is more starchy, and has a different taste and texture to the American variety. It is a tedious recipe to make because of so many ingredients but it's well worth the effort......very "Moreish" as we say in the Caribbean!

·          INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup bread flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon allspice

1 tsp grated fresh ginger root

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup yogurt

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

½ cup oil

1 Chayote squash, peeled, seed removed, and finely grated (I would imagine that 1/2 cup of grated zucchini could be used as a substitute)

2 tablespoons molasses

3/4 cup grated raw, American sweet potato

3/4 cup "turn" plantain ("turn" means that the plantain is firm with yellow skin, not soft and ripe with blackened skin), peeled and shredded(if you are not familiar with how to peel it, there are many sources on the Internet that show you how to do it)

½ cup chopped dried cranberries
Juice and zest of one lemon


1. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper, Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg and allspice.

3.In another bowl, mix together well, the shredded plantain, grated chayote, ginger root, lemon juice and zest, chopped cranberries, grated sweet potato, and yogurt.  To shred the Plantain, use the coarse shredder (larger holes), and use the smaller holes to grate the other ingredients)

Shredded "turn" Plantain

4.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, dark brown sugar, oil, and molasses.

5. Add the sweet potato and plantain mixture to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and mix together until just combined. Do not over mix.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the edges are golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Brown Butter Raisin Beer Bread

 This is a very quick and easy beer bread to make. Unlike others on the Internet, this recipe uses a variety of dry ingredients that enhance its nutritional value as well as its taste. I used a Boston Lager but I'm sure any light ale would work. I added the Flax Meal because of the high concentration of Omega3 found in that grain. The oatmeal adds fiber as well as helps lower cholesterol. All in all, it is a very satisfying breakfast bread that goes great with a morning cup of coffee.

1 cup bread flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup scottish oatmeal
1/2 cup flax meal
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 12oz bottle lager

1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside
2. Slowly melt butter,  molasses and finely chopped raisins in a saucepan until butter slightly caramelizes.
3. Add the beer to the cooled butter mixture then add all to the dry ingredients, mixing until a dough forms.
4. Pour mixture into a well greased and floured loaf tin. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40-50 minutes or until cake tester inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.
5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to cool further. Slice when cooled completely. I cut the bread in thick slices, then cut those in half (see photo)
The bread goes well with butter or cheese.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Healthy Crunchy Sesame Pumpkin Seed Cookies

I'm always looking around for a healthy bar or cookie to eat for breakfast. These fit the bill. It's a cross between a Granola bar and a seeded cookie. I can also control the amount and type of sugar that I use. These are dry, crisp cookies that are double baked, and dried out in the oven so that they keep indefinitely. They never usually last that long however. Using the amount of sugar in the recipe results in cookies that are not that sweet but the amount and type of sugar can be increased if sweeter cookies are desired. Other types of sugar such as raw Turbinado, Piloncillo, or Palm sugar could also be substituted for the brown sugar in the recipe. These will bring a different dimension of taste to the cookie. If Piloncillo is used, omit the molasses and use maple syrup instead.
3/4 cup flour+3/4 cup durum atta flour
3/4 cup sugar (I use a mixture of 1/2 dark brown and 1/2 granulated white sugar)
1 cup flax meal
2 heaping tbsp salted and toasted pumpkin seed kernels, finely chopped almost to a meal like consistency (if using unsalted seeds, add 1/2 tsp salt to mixture)
2 heaping tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp desiccated, unsweetened coconut
2 cups oatmeal
2 1/2 oz butter
2 1/2 oz coconut oil
2 tbsp molasses (Honey, Golden Syrup or Maple Syrup could also be used)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda (for a less crumbly, firmer texture use 1/2 tsp baking soda)
8 tbsp boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place flours, sugars, pumpkin and sesame seeds, oatmeal, and flax meal in a bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the center.
2. Place butter, coconut oil, and molasses in a saucepan to melt, or microwave in a bowl to melt. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water. Add melted ingredients and dissolved baking soda to dry ingredients and mix to combine.
3. For shaping, I use a wooden mold that is made specifically for a Lebanese pastry called Ma'amool, and fill the mold completely with the dough, pressing it tightly then inverting it on to the baking sheet.
I would imagine, as I stated in a previous recipe, a similar shape might also be obtained if the mixture is packed tightly into an oiled foil cupcake liner then inverted onto prepared baking trays (I use parchment paper), allowing space for biscuits to spread while cooking. The dough can be a bit crumbly and that makes it difficult to handle.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven to cool for 15-20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake the cookies for another 45-50 minutes until they are golden brown in color. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. The cookies will become harder as they cool. Store in an airtight container.                      

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ground Pork with Bitter Melon

I guess this recipe could also be entitled, "Fish Tasting Pork with Bitter Melon". The pork does end up with a "fishy" taste. I grew up eating mainly Hakka Chinese food in Jamaica. My friend's mother was an excellent cook, and she would always put something "smelly" in whenever she cooked Bitter Melon. It would either be dried shrimp or dried fish, something to make it fragrant (Fragrant 香 - xiāng). Nowadays, the term "Umami" is used to describe that kind of taste, and for me, it's an integral part of my taste in food.  I decided to use XO Sauce and Fish Sauce to try and recapture that taste. I use Lee Kum Kee Premium XO Sauce. It's very expensive but has a quality and taste that the cheaper versions cannot match. Getting the right balance between the "sweet" and Salty" tastes in this dish that counteract the bitterness of the Bitter Melon, is not easy. The seasonings may require adjustment at final tasting to get the taste you like.This dish has very little sauce so it goes well with stir-fried vegetables or steamed Chinese Broccoli or Yu Choy Sum.

3/4 lb ground pork
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 bitter melon, washed, deseeded, and sliced (see photo)
1 tablespoon salt
3 stalks green onion
3 cloves garlic
4-5 slices of ginger root
1/2 tsp black or white pepper
1 heaping tbsp Lee Kum Kee XO Premium Sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 chicken bullion cube + 1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp Guilin chili sauce
1. Wash, remove pulp and seeds, and slice the Bitter Melon (see photos). Mix with 1 tablespoon of salt and set aside for about a half hour. This helps to decrease the bitterness of the Bitter Melon. 

2. Place the garlic and green onions in a small chopper, and chop finely (see photo).

3. Rinse and drain the Bitter Melon so that no salt is left on the vegetable.
4. Microwave the chicken cube with the water so that it's dissolved. Mix in the XO sauce, sugar, fish sauce, and chili sauce.
5. Heat the cooking oil in a wok and fry the ground pork until fully cooked, and some of the pork starts to brown. Add the black or white pepper to this mixture.
6. Add the ginger root, chopped green onions and garlic and continuing frying.
7. Add the sliced Bitter Melon and continuing stir-frying
8. Add the bullion mixture with sauces to the wok and cook at high heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Oven Baked Beer Braised Pork Ribs

I like barbecued ribs a lot but do not have an outdoor grill. This has forced me to come up with ways to "barbecue" using only my oven. One supermarket here in the US sells what they call "end tips" of pork spareribs. These appear to be the ends that are cut off a rack of ribs to make the edges nice and straight. This is what I used for this dish but any cut of pork ribs may be used e.g country style, Missouri style etc. I use Jamaican type seasoning as that's what I like but I'm sure any type of all purpose meat seasoning could also be used. 
Yummy, rich, dark brown sauce. Ignore the rice grains

3 to 3 1/2 lbs rib tips or pork spareribs
3 tbsp all purpose meat seasoning
1 bottle barbecue sauce, any brand you like
1 tbsp Sriracha pepper sauce
1 tsp Paprika
1 12 oz bottle lager
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
3 medium sized shallots,chopped coarsely
4 tbsp cooking oil
1. The rib tips come cut the length of a rack of pork. I cut them into shorter lengths. Season with the all purpose seasoning and paprika (see photo) and 2 tablespoons cooking oil. Marinate in refrigerator overnight. 

2. Line a roasting pan with heavy duty oven foil. Place ribs on the rack of a roasting pan, and broil until lightly charred (see photo). Alternatively, you could brown the ribs in a frying pan. 

 3. Discard the oil that's drained into the roasting pan and add the remaining 2 tbsp cooking oil fresh cooking oil. Add the chopped shallots to this (see photo) and put under broiler until the shallots start to cook and smell fragrant.
4. Remove from under broiler. Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the broiled pork strips to the roasting pan, along with the lager, brown sugar, and molasses. Cover with foil and steam bake for 1 hour.
5. Remove pan from oven, uncover, and add the bottle of barbecue sauce, and the Sriracha pepper sauce. Shake pan back and forth to mix and coat the ribs, making sure that they are submerged in the liquid.
6. Place roasting pan under broiler and broil until the liquid is bubbling, reduced in volume, thickens and coats the ribs. You may have to move the pan from under the broiler to turn the ribs in the mixture so that they do not burn but instead develop an even char. The ribs come out with a rich, brown color, coated with sauce, and have a really good flavor.