Friday, 25 March 2016

20 Minute Baked Fish

This is a very easy and tasty way to cook fish fillets. It is steam-baked in the oven, along with vegetables of your choice, wrapped in aluminum foil or parchment paper and baked (the fancy name for this is "en papillote" which means "wrapped in parchment." For this recipe, I have used a Caribbean style of seasoning but you can use the seasoning of choice to suit your taste as the recipe is very flexible. I have used carrots and cauliflower here but the mix of vegetables can also be varied to include asparagus, sweet potato, tomatoes, or any others that you like. They must however be cut in small pieces in order to cook in 25 minutes.
10 oz fish filet (Red Snapper, Basa etc)
Seasoning of choice (I use Grace Caribbean Fish Seasoning but any other can be used)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 green onions, cut in half and the bottom end crushed with a flat  knife
5 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon white cooking wine
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
2 florets of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
A few drops of Sriracha pepper sauce, if desired but Tomato Ketchup can be substituted.
A square of aluminum foil or parchment paper that is large enough to hold all the ingredients
1. Dry the fish fillet with a paper towel, and cut in half to fit  the baking sheet or pan you are using. A 8"x 8" works well.
2. Season both sides of the fillet well.
3. Place 1 half of the fish in the foil, and put the sliced garlic, green onions and thyme on top of this. Place the second fillet on top of this (like you are making a sandwich).
4. Top with the butter, and add the olive oil, and cooking wine. Place the cut vegetables around this "sandwich".
5. Fold the foil to completely seal the fish and vegetables, and bake in oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and carefully open the foil to avoid being scalded by the escaping steam. Plate and enjoy

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Red Cabbage, Beetroot and Cranberry Pickle

I love pickles! You can see this from my earlier recipes of pickled Jalapenos, Habanero jelly etc that I posted last year.  It is based on Achara which is a type of sweet pickle from the Philippines. The traditional Philippine Achara uses green Papaya as the base but I wanted to develop a recipe using red cabbage and raw Beetroot. Because of the bright red color, this is a very nice pickle to use either at Thanksgiving or Christmas  but can naturally be made anytime of the year. It'll keep for quite a while in the refrigerator.  I shredded the beetroot by hand, and also sliced the cabbage in this way but the shredder and slicing discs on a food processor obviously will make the task less difficult. I have added Thai Chili to the pickle as I like pickles to be spicy. If you do not want a spicy pickle, this chili may be omitted. If you like a sweeter pickle, the sugar may be increased. Although the pickle can be eaten after 24 hours, it is best eaten after about 1 week in the refrigerator as this will give it time to mature, and the flavors to mix together. It will keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator.

1 small head of red cabbage or Radicchio
2 medium sized beetroot
1/2 cup pickling salt
1 cup white vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin strips
2 red Jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and cut into slices
2 green Jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and sliced
2 red Thai chili peppers, sliced (optional)
6 tablespoons dried cranberries

Pickling Brine
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar (increase to 1 3/4 cups if you like a sweeter pickle)
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon Pickle Crisp granules (optional but I like to use it as it keeps the pickles nice and crunchy)

1. Wash and finely slice the red cabbage as if to make Sauerkraut.
2. Wash the beetroot carefully, cut off tops and root at the bottom. Peel the beetroot. Use the coarse shredder on a grater or the appropriate disc on a food processor, shred the beetroot and mix with the cabbage. Add to this the 1/2 cup of pickling salt and massage it into the vegetables for about 10 minutes. This will cause some fluid to be extracted  from the cabbage and beetroot. Put the mixture in a colander or sieve to drain the liquid. Rinse the cabbage and beetroot once or twice to wash away the excess salt. Using a clean cheesecloth, place a handful of the mixture at a time into the cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Place the vegetables in a glass bowl, add 1 cup of vinegar, cover and leave in refrigerator overnight.
3. The next day, clean and sterilize a glass jar for the pickles. Place the strips of ginger at the bottom of the jar.
4. In a small pot, add the vinegar, sugar, salt, Pickle it (if you are using that), dried cranberries, and salt. Heat the contents over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. DO NOT allow the mixture to boil. Let it cool to room temperature as this will allow the dried cranberries to absorb some of the liquid and  "plump up".
5. Using another piece of cheesecloth, place small quantities of the vinegar soaked cabbage and beetroot mixture on the cloth and squeeze out as much of the vinegar as you can.
6. In the clean and sterilized pickling jar, arrange the cabbage and beetroot in alternating layers with the sliced onion, garlic and peppers. Pour the pickling brine over this and shake the jar a couple of times to ensure that pockets of air that may be trapped in the mixture, rise to the surface. Use a clean spoon or fork to further press down on the mixture as well. Store in the refrigerator.    

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Spicy Collard Greens

We don't have collard greens in the Caribbean. We tend to use mainly "Callalloo" as our green vegetable. I have grown to like collards since I've been living in the USA but find the Southern way of cooking it to be rather bland for my taste. It also has a lot of fat when cooked with smoked ham hocks. This version of mine aims to cook the collards with some heat, and also get the taste of salted pork but with minimal fat! I also wanted the recipe to be one that I could prepare and leave to cook in a slow cooker. I use red Jalapeno chili peppers as they are not spicy but for me, I also added two Thai chili peppers. However, that is optional for anyone who may not like it so spicy! 

1 large bunch of Collard Greens (Collards come in very large bunches)
1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
1/2 tablespoon Grace Caribbean All Purpose Seasoning
6-8 whole allspice berries (These must be removed before serving. As an option, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground allspice can be used instead.)
6-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
4-5 strips of salted pork "fatback"
Salted Pork fatback
2 red Jalapenos, sliced
The bigger pepper is the red jalapeno
2 Thai chili peppers (totally optional)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 14.5 oz tin chicken broth
6-8 quart slow cooker
2 tablespoons cooking oil

1. Remove and discard stems from collards and wash leaves very carefully. Coarsely chop the leaves.
2. Cut the pork fatback into small pieces. Heat oil in a wok and fry the fatback until crisp and brown. Remove from wok and drain on a paper towel. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the oil and salt rendered from the fatback and discard the rest. 
3. Put some of the sliced onion, minced garlic, allspice berries, and pepper/s in the bottom of the slow cooker, and layer half of the chopped collard greens on this. Sprinkle the fried, crisp fatback over the greens as well as the Caribbean seasoning mix. Add the sugar and vinegar at this point and mix well. Add the remaining onion, garlic and peppers.
4. Heat the 2 tablespoons of reserved "fatback" oil in a wok and add the remaining chopped collard greens to this. Saute until the leaves have wilted to about half their volume. Add this to the slow cooker and then pour the can of broth into the cooker. Cook on high for about 4-5 hours, stirring once in the process to mix all together.

Steamed Chinese Pork Buns (菜肉包) My Quick Version

Steamed Pork Buns with Homemade Vietnamese pickle (Do Chua) and stir fried Broccoli
I love to eat Chinese steamed pork buns but the thought of having to make the dough puts me off (I really dislike making bread dough). When I saw that other bloggers were recommending to use flaky biscuit dough, I knew I had to try that just from the point of convenience. I could also make my own version of the filling which appealed to me. This recipe can be completed even more quickly using already cooked Chinese BBQ pork from your Chinese take out. This will give you a quick version of Char Siu Bao (叉烧包). One note of caution, avoid the Flaky Biscuit Dough that has added butter. When steamed, it has a very unappealing yellowish color. I will continue trying other types of prepared biscuit and bread dough to see if there are any better ones out there that are closer to the authentic version of these buns!

6 ozs pork belly or pork butt (must have some fat in it)
2 tbsp cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (You can also use thick soya sauce if you have it but if you use this, use half the amount of sugar as this type of sauce is mixed with molasses)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Char Siu sauce

2 tbsp cooking wine

1/2 cup dried Chinese fungus (Elephant Ears), soaked and finely chopped
1 red Thai chili pepper, minced
1 can jumbo flaky Biscuits (I use the WalMart brand but get the one without butter) 


1. Chop the pork into very small cubes (diced).

2. Heat cooking oil in wok and fry until the pork starts to brown. Add the chopped shallot, garlic, and chili pepper to this and saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the various sauces, sugar and cooking wine to the mixture, decrease heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is thick.
4. Roll out the flaky biscuit dough into rounds about 6 inches in diameter. Fill with 1-2 tablespoons pork mixture, pinching top to seal the bun. Steam on a square of parchment paper for 15 minutes (I use my rice cooker as a steamer for this). I get about 4 buns using this method. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Spicy Caribbean Style Oven Baked Chicken

This is a different way to do traditional Caribbean stewed chicken. In Jamaica this is known as Fricassee Chicken or Brown Stew Chicken. This version is spicy, and has a nice thick sauce that is perfect to spoon over a serving of rice and peas. It is usually served with fried or baked ripe plantains, and a green salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. After the first baking, this dish may also be completed in a slow cooker but the time to completion will obviously be longer.
Some ingredients


3 1/2 lb chicken meat (Legs, thighs, breast, with skin or skinless)
Grace Caribbean All Purpose seasoning
Worcester sauce
1 Tablespoon thick soya sauce (if not available substitute 1/2 tablespoon dark soya sauce and 1/2 tablespoon molasses)
1 tablespoon Grace Jerk Seasoning
2 medium yellow onions
6 cloves garlic
3 vine ripened tomatoes
1/4 cup white cooking wine
8 whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 Habanero chili pepper, left whole
Small red bell pepper cut in slices (optional)
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cooking oil

1. With a sharp knife, make cuts in the chicken pieces down to bone. This allows the seasonings to coat the meat better. Sprinkle each chicken piece liberally with the all purpose seasoning.
2. Place chicken pieces in a 1 gallon Ziploc storage bag, and add a couple of dashes of Worcester sauce, the thick soya sauce (or substitute) and the jerk seasoning. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. 
3. The next day, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to the chicken and place in an oven proof baking dish. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake chicken, uncovered for 45 minutes. 
4. While the chicken is baking, coarsely chop onions, garlic and tomatoes.
Heat the other tablespoon cooking oil in a frying pan or wok, and fry the onion and garlic until the onion pieces become translucent. Add the tomato pieces and fry until the tomato skin starts to peel off. Remove from heat and blend all to a puree.
5. Remove chicken from oven, and put the chicken pieces in another bowl. Drain off as much of the oil as you wish, leaving the dark sauce at the bottom of the baking dish. Mix in the puree, thyme, and add the whole Habanero chili to the mixture. Place the chicken pieces back in the dish and coat well with the mixture. Add the cooking wine and tomato paste at this point, mixing well. Add the sliced red bell pepper at this point if you wish to include that as an option.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for 1 hour.
7. Remove baking dish from oven. Uncover the dish, and discard the Habanero chili pepper, taking care not to burst it. Carefully mix the chicken and sauce together ensuring that the chicken pieces remain intact. Increase the oven temperature again to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake, uncovered for another 15-20 minutes until the volume of sauce has decreased and the sauce has thickened.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Jamaican Style Stew Fish

This is a typical Jamaican way of cooking fish. It goes by various names e.g stew fish, brown stew fish. Whatever you call it, the result is outstanding in both flavor and presentation. It is done in one cooking vessel (I use a wok), and have done the sauce a bit differently so that it is smooth and does not have all the chunky bits of onion, tomato etc. Because Jamaican cooking is a melange of cultures, this goes well with a Chinese vegetable stir fry. To make this I just used a bag of Kale Salad mix from Costco but any bagged salad/slaw mix that has shredded broccoli may be used. It is not a spicy dish.
2 fish fillets (I used Basa but any firm, white fish fillet may be used)
Grace Caribbean Traditions Fish Seasoning (if this is not available just use a mixture of salt, pepper, ground allspice and a little paprika). The advantage of using the prepared seasoning is that it takes the guesswork out of balancing the spices
3 cloves garlic, left whole
1 medium sized shallot, coarsely cut
1-2 very ripe Roma tomatoes, cut in small pieces
3-4 sprigs thyme
4-5 whole allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 slices fresh Habanero chili pepper
1. Pat dry the fillets and cut them in half. Season both sides liberally with the Fish seasoning.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a wok, and saute the garlic, shallot, and tomato until the shallot becomes translucent. Remove the shallot, garlic and tomato pieces from the oil taking care to drain well as the oil/butter mixture will be used to lightly brown the fish fillets.
3. Place the sauteed shallot, garlic and tomato in a small food chopper and blend to form a puree.
4. Heat up the oil/butter mixture again. Add the thyme, allspice berries and 2 slices of fresh Habanero chili pepper and saute for about 1 minute. Add the fish, and fry the seasoned, dry fish fillets in the hot oil/butter for about 2-3 minutes. Pour the garlic, tomato, and shallot puree on top of the fish, coating well while the fillets are still firm. Cover and simmer for between 5-8 minutes. Add the vinegar and shake the pan to mix. Serve with rice, salad or stir fry vegetables of your choice.

Easy Spicy Scrambled Eggs

This is a quick, easy and spicy breakfast that goes beyond the usual bacon and eggs or just plain scrambled eggs. It combine the spiciness of the red jalapeno chili and the nutritional goodness of kale. If you think that a red jalapeno may be too spicy then half of a red bell pepper my be used instead. It's a good way to start your day!

1 pork sausage patty or 2 ozs ground pork or beef
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red Jalapeno chili pepper, seeds removed and cut into pieces (if you are not into this level of heat, use 1/2 of a red bell pepper instead.
4 leaves Kale, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon any all purpose seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice mixture (Baharat) or Garam Masala
1 tablespoon white cooking wine

1. Sauté the meat of your choice in the olive oil until brown. Add the garlic, spices and shallot and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the chopped kale, sliced jalapeno (or bell pepper), and cooking wine. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes then mix in the egg as if to scramble. Eat with the bread of your choice.