Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Caribbean Platter

We have decided to make a conscious effort to participate in events. But we're taking this a bit slowly. We realize that events are a great way to not only follow what other great food bloggers are fixing in their kitchens, but also to absorb and assimilate other cultures.

The Monthly Mingle hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey? this time is a great example of that. The theme is Caribbean cuisine. Being a sports aficionado, the minute I read the word Caribbean, images of Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh, Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey flashed across my mind. At this point, I am being COMMANDED by my other half to add Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) to this list.

The atmosphere during cricket games, people dancing to the beats of calypso (regardless of whether West Indies is winning or losing!), the laid back attitude towards life, sun soaked beaches is what I thought was Caribbean. I had worked with a Jamaican colleague earlier and she took me to this place called Jamaican Jerk Pit. So I knew something about Jamaican cuisine. I immediately started to think of how to make Jamaican Jerk ourselves. But then I thought I should perform a general search on Caribbean cuisine and get some cues. This is because as we've mentioned it in the past that we LOVE to try out different cuisines but we've never really made anything 'Caribbean' before. And I (much to 'someone's' annoyance!) like to dig up info before I get into the cooking part of it ;)

So, back to the 'search'. The first link that I came across when I googled Caribbean (Wikipedia, what else!) made my jaws drop. I had no idea that Caribbean is such a broad term applied to an extremely diverse culture! Well, the part with the beaches and the laid back attitude was still true, but I had grossly underestimated the geographical vastness and the overall diversity of the Caribbean world! I did not know that it included nearly 7000 islands and also included countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Aruba and Puerto Rico! I immediately rushed to convey this to my better half but I was met with that "I already knew it" look. What a barefaced liar :P

Well, the point is, we got excited and decided to explore a bit more. We wanted to sample Caribbean cuisine by trying to glean some aspects from different geographical regions of the Caribbean. I know how I feel when someone comes and tells me "I just had the best Indian food". I simply try to convey to him/her that while that statement is true in a very broad sense, one needs to learn a bit more about the eclectic nature of Indian cuisine in order to appreciate what he/she just savored a little better ;) Besides, learning about other cultures is a lot of fun to me. So we ended up looking for cooking techniques and ingredients germane to Caribbean cooking and came up with the idea of making a little Caribbean feast for ourselves :) Here's the 'menu' :

Coconut cornbread (Jamaica)

Ajiaco or Spanish Caribbean style Stew spiced up with Jamaican Jerk.

Aranitas de Platono or Plantain Spiders (Puerto Rico) with Cuban Adobo marinade.

and...Pina Colada!

Jamaican Coconut Corn Bread


1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded and toasted coconut flakes
a pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 egg (thats the problem when you scale down original recipes ;) )

1. Beat the egg well and incorporate the butter. Add all the other wet ingredients to this and mix well.

2. Sift all the dry ingredients separately into a large bowl.

3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and make a smooth-lump free batter without beating too much.

4. Bake at 400F for about 25 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Aranitas de Platono (Plantain Spiders)


2 unripened plantains (peeled)
salt and pepper according to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Grate the plantains and add the salt and pepper.

2. Make 1-2" balls and flatten them slightly. Do not pack the plantains too tightly.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the 'spiders' on both sides till golden brown and crisp on both sides.

Cuban Adobo Marinade


1 tbsp thymes leaves (we used dried, powdered thyme)
1 tbsp Oregano leaves ( we used dried Oregano)
2 handful cilantro leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground black pepper
7 tbsp Orange juice or lime juice (the original recipe calls for Cuban sour oranges or Naranja Agria but we used lime juice)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor into a coarse puree.

Adobo can be used in two forms. The one described above is a marinade. If we remove the lime juice, then it becomes a rub for meats. This is one way of incorporating flavor in Cuban cuisine. In Spanish-Carribean cuisine, another way of imparting base flavors is called Sofrito, and is described below with the recipe for the stew.



2 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Annatto oil (or 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp paprika)
1 medium onion
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce
3-4 scallions
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 jalapenos, diced (no we didnt de-seed them. We LIKE the heat :) )
6-8 cups water
4 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp Oregano (we used dried Oregano)
2 tbsp Jamaican Jerk seasoning, recipe follows
salt to taste
2 handful of cilantro leaves and sprigs
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp grated ginger
vegetables (the original recipe calls for malaga, boniato, yuca, yams, potatoes, butternut squash cubes, green and semi-ripe plantains, corn and taro). We had and used potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantain and corn.

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the bay leaves, onions, bell pepper, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, oregano, cumin and one handful cilantro leaves and sprigs. This constitutes the Sofrito. I guess this is a bit interesting since cilantro and parsley are usally added after the preparation as a garnish.

2. Add the tomato sauce, lime juice, jerk seasoning, salt and cook for a few minutes.

3. Add the water and the vegetables. Stir well and cook for about 30-40 mins. or until the potatoes begin to disintegrate.

Jamaican Jerk


2 Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (we used jalapenos)
3 scallions
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small piece of fresh ginger
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp dried, powdered thyme
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Grind everything in a food processor. If you wish to store this for a longer time in the refrigerator, the recipe calls for the addition of 3 tbsp sunflower oil.

Now for the yummy creamy pina colada! Remember the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from last week? We had some pineapple slices and thought that we should have a drink to go with the meal. While we are not sure which part of the Caribbean is home to the Pina Colada, we decided that we should not skip this opportunity to make some :D We don't drink alcohol, so this was a non-alcoholic pina colada and I'm not sure we missed much ;) Here is the super simple recipe for an indulgent drink!

Pina Colada (for two):

A couple of slices of Pineapple - we used 4
1 cup Pineapple juice
1/2 cup coconut milk. You could use 1/2 tbsp coconut extract and use plain milk instead. Or, pair 1/2 tbsp coconut cream with 1/2 cup of milk
Sugar, just enough to taste
Some chopped pineapple for garnish, and a slice for 'show' just like this ;)

Well, what can I was a terrific meal! The cornbread, with a slightly sweet taste from the coconut flakes and the coconut milk went really well with the piping hot stew that exploded into our mouths with the heat from jalapenos and jerk seasoning! We dipped the plantain spiders (I am not sure why they call them that way!) into the Adobo marinade. While the Adobo marinade is going to be used extensively in our kitchen in the future, the plaintain spiders , we thought will work as an easy and great appetizer. Has the Kerala effect with the plantains, so could go very well with Indian food too! What can I say, we simply stuffed ourselves while watching Dilli 6.

It was tons of fun cooking together and we learnt a lot about Caribbean food! Everything was fairly simple to make and very healthy too! So, here's sending this platter to Meeta for the Monthly Mingle- Caribbean event!


Ranjani said...

wow! everything looks phenomenal:) You guys are on an event roll!!

Mahimaa's kitchen said...

oh wowwww... is it fair on your part to post such lovely lovely array of dishes in one single post?? everything looks terrific A and N :)mouthwatering...

Dee said...

What a gorgeous meal! We love Jamaican jerk so much, we started growing our own Habeneros (Scotch Bonnets)! I think our palates have been permanently damaged.

I'm borrowing your Cuban Adobo Marinade recipe for our barbecue this weekend. What kind of meat, do you reckon?

Varsha Vipins said...

Wow,,Thats an awesome start A n N..I am seeing almost all blogs sizzling with gorgeous Caribean Cuisines.But such a feast am seeing for the 1st time..Kudos to ur effort n everything looks so delectable..!!

Cham said...

A & N, not fair :( u guys partying without me. I don't know which one to grab first, probably the drink first? That is a Carribean feast! Well done!

Nags said...

i am so floored!! and i wish i could see the bigger versions of some of your pictures :)


Arundathi said...

that's truly a feast! very nicely done!

Indhu said...

that's an awesome spread... I just finished my dinner and i am hungry again :)

Uma said...

wow, what a spread! looks like you had a lovely caribbean feast! All of them look mouth-watering.

aquadaze said...

what an awesome spread!

Chitra said...

ohoh,its a fantastic array of caribean food!!perfect for the event!!do visit my blog at ur free time:)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love Caribbean food! Everything looks so appetizing and tasty!

Good to know you also like your music heavy ;-P! I was quite a Metallica fan in the 90's...



Asha said...

You went town ...errr...Caribbean this week. All of them looks so yum. I was surprised to see somany little countries includes in Caribbean too, I chose Jamaica maan! :D

Usha said...

Love your spread, I cannot decide which of these I want to try first, Awesome :-)

The Caked Crusader said...

Lovely selection of dishes - you must have put in some work!
Caribbean food for me would be Bahamian conch fritters, preferrably at Arawak Cay with a nice rum cocktail!

Arch said...

Very very very nice A and N, real awesome spread. That marinade looks wonderful and the cornmeal coconut bread seems like a great idea...Great work, really !!

MeetaK said...

oh my this is an incredible looking feast. i love it. so perfect for the mingle. thanks for joining us!

Aparna said...

You should title this "A Caribbean Feast"!
That's quite a meal.

confounded-lady said...

Ah, looks thoroughly enjoyable!

Thanks for the visual (and otherwise) treat :D I will go step by step, by first starting out with the pinacolada :)

Maria said...

Look at all of that food! Everything looks fantastic!!

Lakshmi Venkatesh said...

Looks Amazing. Array of dishes all at the same time. Please send them all to me also.

Soma said...

Do u have beaches around where u live? May be u should have taken all that delicious Island Food & relaxed on a beach chair while sipping the Colada & dipping the spiders in that awesome looking adobo sauce..& watch thewaves break!! later the bread & the stew... at a cozy corner .

I love everything that u cooked, But I hate Pirates of the Caribbean. Boy I do need to escape to a seascape.

Deepa Hari said...

I am seeing lot of Carribean cooking going around..What a lovely spread?....and all in one post....thats great yaar...looks very delicious and inviting...

Sukanya Ramkumar said...

Lovely Caribbean feast. Looks so good. Nice recipes. YUM!

Lavanya said...

wow.. evrything looks perfect n yummy..I will try those plantain spiders:)

DEESHA said...

Thatz quite a lot of food .. never explored Caribbean cuisine ..

Superchef said...

That is such a yummy platter!! Envy anyone who was around to eat all those food!! too good!!!!

Natashya said...

You did a great job sampling many Caribbean flavours! I love jerk, we had jerk pork last night. And the spiders look really good, I have made tostones before, which are similar but not shredded.
Yummy dinner all around!

Lisa said...

That's quite the spread! Everything looks fabulous. Holler and I would be pleased to have you participate in this months No Croutons Required.

meeso said...

Oh man, you made me in the mood for some Caribbean food!

PG said...

love this meal of yours. yummy1 Even i have been wanting to try out some Carribean food. let me see if I gather enough courage to do it. :)

Priti said...

Wow everything looks so yummy...difficult to say which one is better..thanks a wonderful meal...hope you guys have enjoyed it much....

Dibs said...

great stuff!! cant decide which one to try first!

Sig said...

This is the second jerk recipe I am seeing today! One of my favorite marinades, I can still taste the jerk chicken we had in Jamaica years ago from one of the dumpiest stalls... Great platter you've got there!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of using coconut & coconut milk in corn bread - I must try it!!

Vani said...

What a lovely Caribbean spread this is! Liked your pasta too. I think peppers (the green ones esp) add a lovely flavor to any dish.

Elle said...

What a great Carribean feast!Love the bottom photo that shows it all together.

bee said...

what a great platter!!! i'd love to try some of these dishes, esp. the cuban adobo marinade.

A_and_N said...

@bee: Do try the Cuban Adobo Marinade. It should work amazingly well with Tofu as well, though we haven't tried it so far!

@Elle: Thanks so much, Elle!

@Vani: I totally agree about the peppers :)

@Madcapcupcake: It is so good! So, do try it.

@Sig: Thanks Sig! Hope you're having fun at home!

@Dibs, Priti: Try the Pina Colada ;)

@PG: Yours is brilliant too!

@Meeso: Gracias!

@Natashya:Oh, have you posted it?

@Lisa: Sure thing! We'll send in something.

@Superchef: Danke!

@Deesha: :D you must be one fussy eater to think that was a lot! Just kidding, lol!

@Lavanya, Sukanya, Deepa: Thank you so much!

@Soma: We are in Atlanta :( no beaches around. Just heat. Sigh.

@Lakshmi: What will we get in return ;)

@Maria, Mayth: Thanks!

@Aparna: I'd love love to eat the Dhal Puri and potatoes :D

@MeetaK: It was a pleasure! Thank YOU for taking the initiative!

@Arch, Caked Crusader, Usha, Asha: Thanks a lot. We did love the challenge!

@Rosa: A loves Metallica. He listens to it ALL the time!

@Chitra: Sure thing ;)

@Indhu, Uma, Aquadaze, Arundhati: Thanks :)

@ Nags: You know the story!

@Cham: Come join us!

@Varsha, Dee, Ranj, Mahimaa: Totally! Come on over for a party :) Thanks!

Madhuram said...

You guys have definitely made a great effort to prepare this Carribean menu. I should also try like this once.

Food Fanatic said...

omg i have been missing all the fun!!

love the recipes. u work so hard!
hey do u have any tips for peeling plantain?

A_and_N said...

@Madhuram: Hey, try it and let us know how it worked out!

@Food fanatic: No tips, really! I just sliced it with a knife!

A_and_N said...

@Madhuram: Hey, try it and let us know how it worked out!

@Food fanatic: No tips, really! I just sliced it with a knife!

Maricar said...

How come when I click on a recipe that looks delicious, I get sent right to you? Can't wait to try this!