Food

What’s Cooking: Jamaican Sorrel

Last year I told you about Jamaican rum cake, a popular food to eat during the holidays.  Today I will tell you about another Jamaican specialty – Sorrel.  This is the most popular drink served during Christmas and New Years on the island and in Jamaican diasporic communities worldwide.  Sorrel is made out of a hibiscus flower grown on many Caribbean islands and was most likely brought to the New World from West Africa, where it is referred to as roselle or Zobo.

I currently use this more simplified version the recipe for making sorrel, like for the dinner party I hosted for friends and colleagues last weekend.  I borrowed the recipe from Jamaicans.com.

INGREDIENTS :

  • 1 pound sorrel
  • 2-4 oz. ginger
  • 2 quarts water
  • sugar
  • wine or Jamaican White Rum (optional)
  • 8-12 pimento grains

METHOD:

  1. Wash sorrel thoroughly, using the fingers to lift it from the water.
  2. Put into a stainless steel container.
  3. Scrape and wash ginger. Grate and Add to the sorrel. Add pimento grains.
  4. Boil water and pour over sorrel.
  5. Allow standing 4-6 hours. Strain.
  6. Sweeten to taste and add rum to taste.
  7. Add optional wine.
  8. Serve with ice cubes.

What’s Cooking: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

In addition to the international potluck I went to last month, I also attended my sister’s housewarming party where she served jerk chicken.  I don’t eat chicken that much since I mostly eat a vegetarian diet.  But when I sank my teeth into that spicy piece of meat, it brought back some great childhood memories of summer cookouts at my aunt’s house who would grill up jerk chicken in her backyard.

So for a fundraising event I hosted recently, I grilled up some jerk chicken for my happy guests.

Here is the recipe I have been using for a while that I found online:

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (5-7 servings)

  • 1 (5 or 6 pounds) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
  • a pair of plastic gloves for handling ingredients
  • Large zipper lock plastic bag
  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Mix vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender until it’s smooth.
  2.  Put cleaned chicken in the bag and coat the chicken with lime juice and then pour the jerk mixture on it.  Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight in a pan.
  3.  There are two ways to cook your chicken – on a grill or oven baked
  4. Grill instructions: Cook for approximately one hour, keeping the internal grill temperature between 350°F and 400°F, turning the chickens occasionally and basting with marinade, until the chicken halves are cooked through. The chicken is done when the juices run clear.
  5. Oven instructions:  Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh.

Here are some visual instructions, courtesy of CaribbeanPot.com

What’s Cooking: Paella Valenciana

Yesterday, we went to a cookout at my friend Josefina’s home.  She and her husband cooked up the usual Fourth of July fare – hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecue ribs and chicken.  All the guests were asked to bring an international themed dish.  I was SO EXCITED about this!

Anytime I can get to make my Paella Valenciana is always a good time for me and those eating it!!!

I have traveled to Spain many times, including a time where I tried to follow the same route my favorite writer, Richard Wright, did in Pagan Spain.  The country, its people, and culture are both so beautiful and mysterious.  I was in Valencia once and took a cooking class at a restaurant on how to cook proper paella.  This dish has different variations depending on what region you are in Spain; however, paella was created in Valencia.

There are also different types of paella – seafood, chicken, vegetarian, chorizo (which is pretty controversial with Valencians), duck and snails.  I have even eaten a version with rabbit!  So for the cookout yesterday.  I made both a seafood paella and a vegetarian paella, which I have to say went over very well with party attendees.

The picture above is the seafood version, which includes shrimp, scallops, squid, and calamari.

Vegetarian Paella Recipe – serves 4 people
Ingredients

Use whatever vegetables you have, but I use:

1 green and 1 red bell pepper
5 carrots
1 eggplant
3 portabello mushrooms
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 onion
2 garlic cloves or scapes
2 cups of saffron or Bomba rice
3 cups of vegetable broth
4 diced tomatoes
1 tsp of smoked paprika
A pinch of salt and pepper (you can even add crushed red peppers if you like it a little spicy.)

Chop up the vegetables and saute it with onion and garlic in a wide cooking pan for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for two minutes. Add paprika, salt, and pepper and stir for two minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add broth and bring to a boil. Then add rice and peas and stir everything to make sure it is evenly layered. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer with a cover for about 20 minutes. Remove pan and let sit for five minutes.

Seafood Paella Recipe

Do everything above. You can keep as many vegetables from above as you want, but traditional Valencian paella generally has only peas and maybe red peppers. But that is up to you. I like using the frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe’s, which I would simply add after bringing the broth to boil.

Enjoy and please let me know if you try the recipes!

What’s Cooking: Jamaican Corned Beef and Cabbage

Last Saturday my friends Brian and Mariah came to visit us for dinner.  They are originally from Dublin, Ireland and have lived in New York City for the last nine years.  Since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I thought I would make them a special Irish meal.  I asked them if they would like corned beef and cabbage.  Brian said he always hated this traditional Irish meal because it was so bland.

“I have never tasted an Irish corned beef and cabbage I liked,” he said.

“Then you have never tasted the Caribbean version of the recipe,” I replied.

I offered to cook Jamaican corned beef and cabbage since it is spicier, as well as baked chicken just in case they didn’t like.  When I was growing up, my mother made me make this for dinner every Saturday.  It is a pretty simple recipe using corned beef from a can, cabbage, onions, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and your choice of hot pepper (I use pimiento pepper). Pair it with white rice and you have a meal.  Although I don’t eat red meat anymore, I still know how to make this flavorful dish to satisfy.  When Brian and Mariah tasted my recipe, they almost flipped out of my dinner table.    Mariah loved my version so much that she asked me for the recipe.

Below are two slightly different variations on the recipe. Enjoy!

“No need to cook and kill the corned beef again.” Truth…