Sunday, 29 August 2010

Caribbean Food

Last night, after wondering what to make for tea, and reading various recipe books, we settled on perhaps one of our most adventurous books; Caribbean Food Made Easy with Levi Roots. We'd previous made something from this book, so knew that the recipes were good, and that any crazy ingredients had alternatives, but really we should be able to source anything in Manchester.

We settled on the Caramel-Lime Chicken, which the book puts with the Caribbean Mash and the Caribbean Griddled Aubergine. Even though there wasn't anything too unusual in the ingredients, we did need a separate list to go shopping. We got hold of the Scotch Bonnet no problem, but despite previously having Tamarind Paste in the cupboard, we couldn't find it. With the advice from a very nice Pakistani lady shopping in Morrisons, we bought actual Tamarind along with instructions and reassurances from her that it was very simple to make the paste. And at 30p for the Tamarind, I guess it is so much cheaper than if we were to find it in a bottle. This was a new one to us but we gave it a go.


First of all the Tamarind had to be soaked in warm water for 30 minutes. I guess that natural tamarind might be different, and that this is dried and therefore needs the soaking. It then needs to be pushed through a sieve, and what we get is the paste.

We actually got the right amount (1.5 tbsp) that we needed for the Aubergine dish as we were halving the amounts. We think this is the way forward for Tamarind in future, even though the sieve took some cleaning.

To start the Aubergine dish, soften 1 and a half yellow peppers, about 75g butternut squash (about two slices from the thin end), 1 and a half sticks of celery (now I don't usually like celery, but I was willing to trust Levi on this), with a finely chopped garlic clove.

Meanwhile, griddle slices of one large aubergine.

When that mixture has softened, add one finely chopped scotch bonnet chilli (we couldn't find any gloves to use, and we weren't going to risk the hotness, hence the sandwich bag!), 1.5 tbsp tomato puree, same of demerara sugar and the tamarind paste, plus 3 tbsp of water and let this cook for about 5 mins.

After that has cooked and the aubergine has been griddled, put it all in a heat proof dish (that can be covered) and stick it in the oven at 180C or Gas 4 for 20-25mins.

The chicken recipe has less ingredients, and less crazy ingredients.
To start with we tossed 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in 1 tbsp of pepper and a pinch of salt. The recipe said 8 thighs for 3-4 people, and Morrisons had them in packs of 6. We kept the same proportions of everything else, as quite frankly, trying to work it all out is too much brain strain.
Put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan (with lid) with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and heat. Don't stir! I've never worked with sugar, as it scares me. Maybe its because of the temperatures it can reach and basically the chemical reactions that occur at the different temperatures so this was new to me. Levi says that if you stir it, the sugar will clump, and even though this was with oil and not water, which is the common ingredient for syrups etc, I thought it would be best to trust him. It did all melt and come together. The chicken thighs then go in and the pan is covered and it is left to cook for 10 mins.

After the 10 mins, the chicken is turned to reveal a lovely caramel colour and to allow the other side to cook. 50 ml of lime juice is then added to the pan, which Levi says is about 2 limes, but we managed to get it out of  1. It is then covered again and left to cook for another 10 mins.

After that cooking time, the chicken is lifted out, and the sauce is boiled for a bit for it to come together and thicken. We didn't see much thickening in the pan, but nevermind. It did thicken as it cooled down. This sauce was poured over the chicken.

We finished the meal with Caribbean Mash. Or just mashed sweet potato with a pinch of nutmeg as we didn't have any ground allspice in as the recipe said. The aubergines came out of the oven and were garnished with parsley. These were in for the correct amount of time, but we felt that they could have been in for longer, and that any extra time would not ruin the dish.

Caramel-Lime Chicken, Sweet Potato Mash and Caribbean Griddled Aubergines

The meal was lovely, and very different to what we've eaten recently. So many exciting flavours, and lots of happy, sunshine colours (and you couldn't really taste the celery, even though it still gave a crunch - bonus!). We'll definitely be cooking more from Levi's book.


  1. I like this book too - although I haven't cooked as much as I did from his first one. Looks absolutely delicious, and I might even try that with the tamarind too

  2. The tamarind was a lot easier than first thought so we won't be buying tamarind paste in a jar again!! The few things we have tried from this book are great - maybe we cshould get his first one then if it is recommended. PS love your blog