Thursday, 10 December 2015

Spicy Cabbage Soup

As you can see from the red color of the soup, this is unlike many other cabbage soups that you may find on the Internet. This is a very spicy soup that once again combines a variety of very spicy ingredients from my mixed cultural heritage. It is not for those who do not like spicy food. In addition to cabbage, I have added sweet corn, carrots and Chayote squash. It's the perfect warming agent for those very cold Winter nights....but again, only for those who like and can tolerate spicy food!
2 lbs meaty Lamb neck bones
1 tablespoon Jamaican Meat seasoning
1/2 tablespoon of Lebanese 7 spice mixture
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups of chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced
1 Chayote squash, peeled and cubed
1 tin sweet corn
1/2 cup pearl barley
3/4 cup Maggi Spicy Masala Chili Sauce
1 whole Habanero Pepper (green)
4 oz Spicy Cajun Andouille sausage, sliced thickly
6 Allspice Berries
1 Tablespoon Caraway seeds
4-5 sprigs thyme
4-5 cloves garlic
1 large yellow onion
1 lb very ripe tomatoes
1 small head of cabbage cut into pieces
1. Season the neck bones which have been cut in small pieces, with the spice mixtures, salt and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
2. Mix in about 1 tablespoon olive oil and place in an oven proof baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes until the spices and meat have browned.
3. Chop the onion and garlic very finely in a small chopper. Wash and puree the tomatoes.
4. Drain the drippings from the browned lamb bones into a frying pan or wok. Place the meat, barley, thyme, tinned corn, caraway seeds, and allspice berries into a large (7-8 quart) slow cooker.
5. Saute the chopped onions,garlic and sliced Andouille sausage in the lamb drippings until the onions become translucent. Add the pureed tomato mixture and the spicy Masala Chili sauce. Let this simmer for about 3 minutes then add the mixture to the slow cooker.
6. Add the 6 cups of chicken broth to the ingredients in the slow cooker, and float the whole habanero chili pepper on top. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.
7. About an hour before the soup is finished, add the chopped vegetables and cabbage. Balance flavors to taste using chicken bouillon cubes or granules.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Slow Cooker Hakka Style Chinese Ribs with Red Bean Curd

As I mentioned in previous postings, I grew up in the Caribbean in a multicultural setting. My best childhood friend was of Hakka Chinese ancestry. I became accustomed to this style of Chinese cooking, with its myriad flavors and multidimensional sauces. This is why other styles of Chinese cooking, especially Northern style cooking appears very bland to my palate. The unique flavor of this dish comes from the fermented Red Bean Curd.

Instead of cooking this in a wok, I did it in a slow cooker. That way I just set it, and forget it! Step 6 is very important as the sauce is too delicious to be wasted.


2 1/2 lbs pork ribs, cut into bite-sized pieces (I use Pork Loin Back Rib Tips or Oriental cut ribs)

5 Tbsp oil

1 whole bulb of garlic
6 shallots
2x2inch piece of dried orange peel, soaked in water until soft

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

3 Tablespoon mashed fermented red bean curd (about 3-4 cubes) plus 1 tablespoon of the fermenting liquid

4 teaspoons Dark Brown Sugar or Piloncillo

2 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 small can of chicken broth

1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 -1 teaspoon salt 


1. Put pork ribs into a large bowl and sprinkle the light soy sauce over them. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a wok until very hot, then add pork ribs and fry until lightly browned.
3. Remove the browned rib pieces and put in a 2-3 quart slow cooker.
4.  Put the shallots, peeled garlic cloves, rehydrated orange peel and ginger in a small chopper. Chop finely.
5. Discard the oil in which the ribs were browned, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the wok. Lower the heat to medium and add the chopped garlic, five spice powder, shallots, orange peel, and ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds.

3. Add the mashed red bean curd and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add in sugar, dark soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and mix. 

4. Pour in the can of broth and bring to a boil.

5. Pour this mixture over the browned ribs in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 4 hours or until the ribs are fully cooked. 

6. Remove cooked ribs from the slow cooker using a slotted spoon, and place them in a bowl. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot or wok and heat on high heat until the volume is reduced by one third. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes so that the sauce and oil separate. Drain the oil off the top and pour the thickened sauce over the ribs.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Thick and Hearty Spicy Lamb and Lentil Soup

Nothing beats a thick, hearty soup in the Winter. I like any kind of bean soup as long as it's spicy, and can be made in a slow cooker. For this version of lentil and lamb soup, I wanted something that had complex flavors and would be spicy so I took  inspiration from my Jamaican-Lebanese cultural heritage. It does require some work to get the right balance of flavors but I found that adding some chicken bouillon cubes (1-2) towards the end, tasting as I did so, resulted in what I wanted to achieve. The flavors are a mix of Jamaican and Lebanese spices and include, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and cloves, all of which are contained in the prepared spice mixes that I used.. The Habanero pepper is ubiquitous in Jamaican cooking as we put that in almost every dish that we make! You will need a large (7-8 quart) slow cooker for this unless you plan to make it in a stockpot on the stove. The length of time for which the soup is cooked is not so much for the lentils but more to ensure that the lamb is cooked to the point where the meat falls off the bones. Lamb is a very fatty meat so if you prefer something less so, I guess beef or chicken could be substituted.
1 1/2 lbs Lamb neck bones
4oz spicy Andouille Cajun Sausage, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow, sweet, white, it does not matter)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb very ripe tomatoes, pureed
1 lb lentils, washed and picked over
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 8 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1-2 tablespoons Jamaican Meat seasoning
1/2 rounded tablespoon Lebanese 7 spice mix
8-10 whole Allspice berries
5-6 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons Maggi Spicy Masala sauce (if you cannot get this, use 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce)
1 Habanero chili pepper, whole
10 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
8-10 cups chicken broth (depending on capacity of slow cooker or stockpot)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cups Swiss Chard or Kale leaves, washed and cut into thick strips

Have the butcher cut the lamb neck bones into small chunks (see photo)

 Season the lab with the meat seasoning and 7 spice mix. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Brown the lamb chunks in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit(see photo)

 Sauté the chopped onions, sliced Andouille sausage, garlic, thyme, and allspice berries in the oliveoil until the onion becomes translucent. Add the pureed tomatoes and the whole habanero pepper to the mix and sauté 2-3 minutes longer.
Put the lentils, barley, sautéed mixture of onions etc, drained mushroom pieces, Maggi sauce, oven browned lamb chunks (I discarded the small amount of drippings), and butternut squash in a 7 quart slow cooker. Add 8 cups of broth and cook on high for 6 hours (you may need to top up with broth as the liquid is absorbed during the cooking process. If you need to do this, boil the broth before adding to the slow cooker to prevent a drop in cooking temperature). Taste at the end of the cooking period and season to taste using 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes (I like the Wylers brand). Add the Kale or Swiss Chard leaves 5-10 minutes before serving

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Puffed Millet Cookies

Update: A friend has told me that he sprinkled some coarse sea salt over these cookies prior to baking, and then pressed the grains into the cookie mix. I can well imagine that this would be delicious as one would end up wiath a salted caramel taste especially if Panela sugar is used! I plan to try it with my next batch!

I wanted to make a biscuit (sometimes called a cookie in other countries) using puffed millet, and Piloncillo. Most of the recipes I found for this were in the form of "no-bake" bars, and was not what I wanted. Piloncillo is a type of raw sugar that is common throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a mixture of sugar crystals and molasses, formed at the stage of sugar processing where the two have not yet separated. Different countries have different names for it. The name piloncillo refers to the traditional cone shape in which the sugar is produced (see photo)
. It is also known as panela and panocha. There are actually two varieties of piloncillo produced one is lighter (blanco) and one darker (oscuro). In Jamaica, we call the very dark "wet" variety, "New Sugar" or "Wet Sugar. This is softer, more liquid than Piloncillo, and we would eat it "as is" or use it to preserve Tamarinds. I could not find that here in the US so Piloncillo or its Indian cousin "Jaggery" would have to do! I put the lump of Piloncillo or Panela in a plastic ziploc bag, the wrap the bag in a clean kitchen towel. I use a wooden mortar or a hammer to hit it through the towel so that it breaks into smaller pieces. The result is a soft center coated with a caramel outside. I use it to sweeten my coffee as the taste is far more flavorful than just dark brown sugar.

Piloncillo is very hard compared to the brown sugar you purchase in a box in mainstream American supermarkets. I like the dark, Colombian variety called Panela that comes in a flattened shape.
If you cannot find Piloncillo in your neighborhood Latino market, you can substitute dark brown sugar in this recipe but you will not end up with the same taste. The recipe yielded 30 cookies, and using one of the nutrition calculators online (Calorie Count) it said that each cookie had approximately 7 grams sugar and 14 grams carbohydrate. I cannot verify that with any accuracy. Are these cookies healthy? I have no idea. Are these cookies delicious.....Hell, yes! They are crisp, crunchy with a hint of caramel that goes great with a cup of coffee. You will not be able to eat only one!

  • ½ cup self raising flour+1/2 cup durum atta flour
  • 3/4 cup Piloncillo
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 cup Scottish oatmeal
  • 1 cup puffed millet
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 75g butter+50 grams coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Place flours, oatmeal, puffed millet, sesame seeds, salt, and flax meal in a bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre.
2. Place butter, Piloncillo, coconut oil, and golden syrup in a saucepan to melt, heat over low heat until bubbly and smells like caramel. Dissolve baking soda in the boiling water. It will foam when added. Add melted ingredients and dissolved baking soda to dry ingredients and mix to combine.
3. Using both hands, shape 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture to form balls ( see photo)
and press onto prepared baking trays, lined with parchment paper, using the bottom of a drinking glass. I oil the bottom of the glass, and press lightly until the ball is flattened to about 1/2 inch thickness (see photo above). Allow space for biscuits to spread while cooking.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.
5. Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for another 45 minutes to one hour. It is this drying out phase that makes the biscuits crisp and longer lasting. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack. Store in an air tight container.