The Journey Called Food – Caribbean

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The Journey Called Food.

My travels around the world has taken me to some wonderful places with absolutely brilliant food, be it street food or some top restaurant food, So it is quite natural that the first blog I write about the cuisines of the world, would be about the beautiful Caribbean islands. In this interesting journey I have met beautiful and genuine people, heard great music, had good food and have enjoyed the warm seas. My interesting journey to this amazing island brings me fond memories of its warm turquoise waters, colorful carnivals, the chocolate beauties, steel pans and of course the rum and coconut punch. It is here on a walk around Montego bay that I came across this simple jerk chicken recipe, cooked on an open wood fire, the man I befriended let me into the secrets of a perfect jerk which I use today from pulled pork to jerk roast to burgers. There is a basic and non-negotiable rule to jerk and that is, it has to be spicy – i.e. use only scotch bonnet there is no substitute to that. Secondly let the marinade soak in the meat, I let the meat soak for at least 48 hours in my refrigerator and finally never ever, cook it in your oven, jerk chicken is not complete without its “soul” – charcoal and wood smoke. The one I had was smoked on pimento tree wood that’s where the allspice berries come from. We have perfected this recipe and we now share it with you, and as always no journey to Jamaica is ever complete without a trip to the blue mountains, where the air of strong coffee lingers on, so to add to our jerk chicken we also give you a blue mountain chocolate brownie with dark chocolate sauce coffee ganache, and when your done lickin’ your fingers with the jerk chicken with the left over’s try our jerk roll, so “nyam” (eat) your “bickle” (food) and “labrish” (gossip) with friends. Bon Appetit!

Jamaican Coffee Brownie with Baileys Ganache

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Jamaican Coffee Brownie

Jamaican Coffee Brownie

 

You may have reached for brownies across café counters or picked them up at your local store. These bite-sized bits of decadence owe their existence to Bertha Palmer, an America business-woman, socialite and philanthropist. The story goes that brownies were created for Palmer after she requested a dessert – smaller than a piece of cake – for ladies attending the Chicago 1893 World Fair. These first brownies featured an apricot glaze and walnuts!

But the standard store brownies seldom come close to a batch baked fresh at home. To help you understand what we mean, we have in this recipe, a marriage of chocolate and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, designed to hit all the right notes on the taste-bud scale, and easy to make!

The famous coffee flavors both the brownies and their ganache topping, and you can give it a bit of Kahlua or Baileys Irish Cream essence by adding a teaspoon of the desired liqueur to the ganache. Ideally any coffee freshly ground will work for this recipe but the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is prized for its bold, clean flavor. However, good espresso beans and strong brewed espresso works well, too.

This recipe makes 15 brownies

Ingredients

Oil to grease the baking tray
Sugar 360 gms
Unsalted Butter 220 grams
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 90 grams
Finely ground (Blue Mountain ) Coffee Beans 20 grams
Salt 4 grams
Eggs 3 large
Vanilla Extract 15 grams
All Purpose flour 160 grams
Pecan Nuts 95 grams
Bitter Sweet Chocolate Chips 180 grams
Freshly brewed coffee 6 tablespoons

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F. Spray 33x23x5-cm metal pan with nonstick spray.
Combine sugar, butter, and cocoa, ground coffee, and salt in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until butter melts and ingredients are blended (texture will be grainy). Remove bowl from over water; cool mixture to lukewarm if necessary (to help the cooling process keep whisking), then whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour over and fold in. Mix in pecans.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool brownies in the pan.

Place chocolate chips in small bowl. Bring brewed coffee to simmer in small saucepan; pour over chips and stir until melted and smooth. Optionally add the Kahlua or Baileys, let ganache stand until cool and beginning to thicken, about 1 hour; spread evenly over brownies. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.) Cut brownies into 15 squares.

 

 

 

The Mango and Pomegranate salsa

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This refreshing salsa is sweet and sour and complements the jerk chicken roll very well. In this salsa, the fruity sweet taste of the mango with the tart sharpness of pomegranate combine well with the hint of sour and spice that comes from the sweet chili sauce and the smoky flavor from the grilled red pepper. This salsa holds well in a refrigerator for quite sometime.

Ingredients -
Diced Fresh Mango: 3 tablespoons
Pomegranate Seeds: 3 tablespoons
Finely Chopped Red Chili: 1 teaspoon
Finely Chopped Coriander: 1 teaspoon
Red Pepper: 1 small
Sweet Chili Sauce: 4 tablespoons
Salt and Pepper: to taste.

Tangy Mango and Pomegranate Salsa

Tangy Mango and Pomegranate Salsa

The Method:
Deseed the red pepper, rub some oil, and grill or roast in the oven.
Cool it down and dice it fine, and add with the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

This is how we roll…Jerk Chicken Rolls

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Jerk Chicken Roll with pomegranate salsa!

Jerk Chicken Roll with pomegranate salsa!

Jerk chicken rolls have a bit of an oriental influence, owing to the folks from the Far East being hired to work in the Caribbean during British Colonialism. Today, this has become a big part of its tradition and I have been influenced to use left over jerk chicken with some flavored rice paper, and fresh julienne vegetables with the jerk jus. This is delicious when paired with a side of mango and pomegranate salsa. It is definitely a fusion of the native ingredients of the island and its indigenous culture. This recipe makes 5 rolls.

The Rice paper:
Rice paper sheets: 5 nos.
Hot Water: 1 liter
Rice Wine: 4 tablespoons
Salt: 1 teaspoon
Sugar: 1 teaspoon
 
The Vegetables:
Julienne Carrot: 50 grams
Julienne Mooli: 50 grams
Julienne Cucumber: 50 grams
Chopped Coriander: 10 grams
 
The Jerk Chicken:
Jerk Chicken: 200 grams
Jerk Jus: 50 grams
 
Method:
In a flat container put hot water, rice wine, salt and sugar and stir well. Then take a chopping board and wrap around with a clean kitchen cloth – this basically helps in the rolling process, you get nice and tight rolls without having to worry about the paper breaking.

Mix together the jerk chicken and jerk jus, and keep it ready along with the vegetables. Now very carefully put one rice paper sheet in the hot water for about 30-45 seconds; then quickly remove and place on the chopping board.

Gently place the vegetables and chopped coriander in the middle of the rice paper in such a way that it runs the width of the sheet. Add a little bit of the jerk chicken mix.

Starting from your end, lift the rice paper and fold it over like a half moon. Then using your finger, slowly pull back the top half of the paper all the while tucking your fingers under the mix; this will enable the mix to be wrapped around the paper.

Make another turn this time folding the sides in and making sure you use your finger to tuck in and tighten the roll. Once this is rolled, place on an oiled tray. Then cut diagonally and serve with the Mango and Pomegranate salsa.

Classic Jerk Chicken

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Classic Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken with Batata Chips, Rice n Peas


Ingredients:

Whole Chicken – 1 medium
Ground Allspice – 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg – ½ teaspoon
Salt – ½ teaspoon
Ground Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon
Sugar – 1 tablespoon
Cayenne Pepper – 1 teaspoon
Juice of Lime – ½ each
Juice of Orange – ¼ cup
Oil – ¼ cup
Spring Onion – ½ cup
White onion – ½ cup
Garlic cloves – 2
Fresh thyme – 1 tablespoon
White Vinegar – 2 teaspoon
Water – 1 tablespoon
Scotch Bonnet – 1
Molasses – 1 teaspoon
Soya sauce – 2 tablespoons

Method:
The Chicken:
Cut the chicken with the skin on into four pieces. You will have two breasts with the wings and legs (thigh with drumstick attached). Score the meat 1/8 inch deep and then rub some salt into it. Leave aside for 10 minutes and rinse in cold running water, and pat dry.

The Marinade:
In a mixing bowl put together ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, black pepper, sugar, cayenne pepper, lime juice, orange juice and oil. Mix well.
Peel and chop spring onion, white onion, garlic and picked thyme; then put together in a blender with the water, white vinegar, scotch bonnet, molasses and soya sauce and blend to a very smooth paste. Then add to the mix in the mixing bowl and whisk till its well blended.
Let the marinade rest for half an hour then put the chicken into the marinade and let it soak overnight in the refrigerator. A good jerk chicken will only taste good if the meat is let to soak in the marinade for a long time usually at least 24 hours.

The Cooking:
Turn the charcoal grill or Jamaican pan (jam pan) on at least twenty minutes before you intend to cook, you ideally want the heat to be medium to slow as this will cook the chicken slowly and not char it. Put the chicken to centre or the hottest part of the grill turning it after 5 minutes on each side. Then remove it to the cooler part of the grill, cover and cook for 30- 40 minutes. Alternatively you could, after sealing the meat, put some all spice wood chips to the side of the grill and put the chicken on it. Remove when the chicken is well cooked and let it rest for five minutes before you serve. Serve hot with some batata (sweet potato) chips and the traditional rice ‘n’ peas.

 

 

A Passion for Food

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“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”- Cesar Chavez

My passion for food is a journey that began with my birth into a family of certified foodies. In Indian families, the very first meal fed to a child is of great significance. It blends all the flavours available to the palate to prepare the child for the joy of food in later life. My mother, a most amazing cook, prepared me for my journey with recipes that were the envy of an entire town.

Then my father stepped in, cooking food that went beyond ‘home-grown’ dishes, thanks to his days as a young runaway who worked in wayside hotels to survive. Later, I entered the kitchen by first cooking for my siblings. Eager as they were for full meals, they enthusiastically tried every recipe I created – a blend of my own ideas with that of my parent’s. To add to my journey I married a woman who is a fabulous cook in her own right. It is indeed a luxury to come home after a hard day’s work and eat amazing food cooked with passion and love.

However, this decision to follow my passion was made at the cost of a possible future in economics, and an irate parent who had “bigger and better” dreams. In 1997 I did my apprenticeship under the guidance of chef Jean-Yves Salou of the La Rabelais at the Novotel in Abu Dhabi, and the ever watchful eyes of my guide Chef Jose De Los Santos. These stellar chefs dedicated a fair amount of time initiating me into the basics of French fine dining. Now, twenty years later, my passion has led me to become a food developer and a consummate chef; one who believes that cooking should be fun.

This philosophy led me to form the Gourmet Gurus – an ethical hospitality solution –with my friend and brother chef Bhanu Murthy Pitta. Together we travelled the world and absorbed food from the places we visited. This led to our “cuisines of the world” concept, one that inculcates the various techniques and flavours that the world has to offer. We now have a different way of looking at food but the passion is the same –the desire to cook amazing food still our highest priority.

With this in mind, I bring you this blog to share my passion and food experiences with you. Every recipe here is tried and tested, and more importantly easy to make in a home kitchen. We hope you will accept this blog as we bring you food that is simple and easy to cook, but designed to be stunningly delicious.

In Luciano Pavarotti’s words – One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

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