Sunday, April 20, 2014

'French Decoded': An article I did for Website Languages.Guru

Eiffel Tower

I recently did an article; 'Sexy Sophisticated French Decoded' that was published on Languages.Guru, a website about languages, obviously! I  love the French language, ever since I was introduced to it in high school. At the high school I attended you had to do both Spanish and French for two years and at the end of those two years you had to choose to do either of the languages or to move on to Computer Science instead. I just fell in love with French, it was so much more sophisticated and sexy. The way it sounded, compared to the loud pronunciation of the Spanish language, to me was just so appealing. It's a language made for romance. Not surprising I chose French and went on to gain a CXC Grade 2 at my O' Level Exams, an equivalent to a grade 'B'.

I know my choosing French was not very practical, Venezuela is closer to Trinidad where I live than even Barbados or Grenada, but French to me was enchanting. I really would have benefited greatly from doing Computer Science. Trinidad actually does have French influence since as a Caribbean island, it had been claimed by the Spanish, French and English a few times during it's early history. The name 'Trinidad' is Spanish and was the name given by Columbus when he saw the three peaks that dot the south of the Caribbean island. What is spoken in Trinidad is a French dialect called Patois. Words that have seeped into Trinidad dialect that have French origin include words such as 'Macomere' and 'maco', which mean a very nosy individual and 'Flambeau' which means a lighted torch.  Trinidad Carnival is descended from French origins as can be seen from words such as 'Mardi Gras'.

The article, 'Sexy Sophisticated French Decoded' is really an introduction into the French Language. It  gives an overview of the basics of the French language, it's pronunciation and simple phrases. You can view the article here.

I did another article which is more specific to dining at a French Restaurant and I will post the link once the article is published. This article I know will be more relevant to you my readers, being food related. It will help you navigate the French Restaurant landscape.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Curried Vegetables, so delicious with Roti

Curried Vegetables, delicious with Roti
A variation of this curried vegetable dish was a staple when I was growing up. I am indian by origin; my ancestors came from India to Trinidad about a hundred years ago. They were very poor and when I compare the cuisine that I grew up that has indian roots, it's a much simpler version of the indian food that I would eat in an authentic Indian restaurant. The curry that is most prevalent in Trinidad has become fairly generic due to the spices being sold already ground and mixed. 
It has become so popular to buy prepackaged spice curry mixes in Trinidad, I did not know that curry was a mixture of spices until I read an indian recipe book. Curry traditionally is a mixture of turmeric, cumin (geera, hindi) and coriander (dhania, hindi) in its simplest from, but the variations are really endless, with the addition of other spices and nuts and seeds.
Cumin in both it's seed and ground is used in Trinidadian Indian cooking when we make chokas like 'Bygan Choka' and to make 'Dhal'. Fenugreek whose hindi name is 'Maithee' is a seed also used to 'chunkay' dhal. It has a scent reminiscent of maple syrup, but with a much spicier undertone.
This curry was made with a ready made curry spice blend, probably Chief, Turban or Chatak brands. I also added extra ground turmeric, cumin and coriander to add more flavor to my curry. You can add the equivalent extra curry powder if you don't have these spices. Try this recipe with dhalpourie or sada roti. It's simple and a great way to eat vegetables. You can substitute any vegetable you want, it's a very versatile and easy recipe. Just tweak your cooking time for the vegetables that you have added to ensure they are cooked. You can make this as dry or as saucy as you wish. I prefer a saucy curry that I can soak my dhalpourie or bread in. This can also be eaten with rice.

One note on herbs though. I used bandania, also called chadon beni in this curry. Cilantro can be substituted, but more should be used. Since I live in the tropics the herbs I use are very potent, due to the heat and much smaller in size. Less is needed to achieve flavor.
Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian,
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner      
Time:            1 hour
Serves:         7
Skill:             Medium
Suitable:       Vegetarian

½                 cauliflour
1                  onion sliced
4                  garlic cloves minced
4                  potatoes
5                  tomatoes
2 c               sliced patchoi or spinach
1                  hot congo pepper
2 tsp            curry powder
1 tsp            coriander
½ tsp           ground cumin
½ tsp           tumeric
1 c               milk
3                  leaves bandania (chadon beni), cilantro can be substituted
3 tb             coconut or vegetable oil
                    salt to taste
                    water as needed  

  1. Cut cauliflower into florets.
  2. Chop potatoes into bite sized pieces.
  3. Put oil in pan and heat on medium.
  4. Add curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander and fry till fragrant. Add water to this mixture occasionally to ensure spices don't burn.
  5. Add onion and garlic and fry till soft.
  6. Add vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes first, then cauliflower and patchoi last. Fry for a few minutes for each vegetables.
  7. Add about a cup of water and let cook down, till the vegetables candy at the bottom and then add water again.
  8. Add milk to pot and let reduce a few minutes.
  9. Repeat process until the vegetables are cooked.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Be careful not to burst the hot pepper, unless you like your food very hot. Take out of pot.
  12. Add bandania at the end or parsley.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Decadent Banana Prune Cake in Caramel Sauce, Eggless and Low Fat

This banana prune cake feels so decadent and naughty, but the cake itself has only 2 tablespoons of butter, which if you want can be omitted. The cake gets its moistness from the addition of bananas which together with the pureed prunes add a richness and exotic taste. It such a delectable desert, and goes really well with coconut ice-cream.

I have been experimenting with bananas as a substitute for butter and oil for a while. This cake was made for my father who is vegetarian and cannot eat too many rich deserts. You will not believe that there is hardly any butter, and if you choose to not use caramel sauce it will be surprisingly low in fat. There are also no eggs in this recipe, so it is suitable for vegetarians. If you can eat eggs you may add an egg and omit a quarter cup of milk from the recipe. Add the egg to the wet ingredients if using.

So try this recipe and let me know what you think.

Cuisine:        International,
Good for:      Desert      
Time:            1 hour
Serves:         10
Skill:             Medium
Suitable:       Vegetarian (eggless), low fat
Allergy          Contains wheat, milk


Dry ingredients
2 c               flour
1 c               sugar
3 tb              baking powder
1 tsp            baking soda
1 tsp            cinnamon
1 tsp            salt

Wet ingredients 
1¼ c            milk
½ c              bananas mashed
6                  prunes
2 tb              lemon juice
½ tsp           lemon zest
2 tb              oil or melted butter, optional
1 c              caramel sauce optional

  1. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl. Puree till smooth in blender.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined
  4. Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Pour half into a 6" circular cake pan. Repeat with other half.
  6. Let bake for 30-40 mins untill an icepick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool till warm.
  8. Gently cakes take out of tin.
  9. Use an ice pick or toothpick and pokes holes in top of both cakes.
  10. Pour half of caramel sauce on one cake. Put other cake on top and repeat poring on other cake.

  1. Add an egg and omit ¼ cups milk.
  2. Omit 2 tb butter and substitute 2tb milk.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Creamy Spicy Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup is just a comforting food. My first introduction to tomato soup was believe it or not in India. I had it in an ashram, where whenever it was served it was a favorite. Soup was a staple at dinner in the ashram together with with a curried vegetable and chapatis. It was always served in the afternoon, as it was believed that the last meal of the day should be a very light one.

But one my favorite versions of tomato soup in India was at a wedding I attended while there. Guests were served tomato soup in small tea cups as an appetizer. It was rich and spicy and honesty I fell in love with it. I just savored every warm flavor packed sip. It was divine.

The other time I had soup in India that I truly loved, I was able to ask the cook what was the secret. He told me he added the leaf of the cinnamon tree. His soup had this delicious spicy warm undertone from the use of this leaf.

The tomato soup in india though had indian spices as well, making them quite unique and delicious. For my version, I was a bit lazy to go get cumin and other spices and chunkay them, so this is more of the western version of tomato soup. I roasted the tomatoes in the oven to make them sweeter.

My favorite accompaniment to tomato soup would be grilled cheese. It's obvious and traditional but the richness of the cheese and the tanginess of the tomatoes, wow! It's a match made in heaven. While this is really not anything you will see in a traditional Trinidadian menu, it does remind me a bit of tomato choka. I ate my soup with toasted bread drizzled with olive oil.

Cuisine:       International
Good for:     Lunch, Dinner      
Time:           1½ hour
Serves:        3
Skill:             Medium
Suitable:       Vegetarian

20           medium tomatoes
¼ c         olive oil
1 tsp       salt
7             unpeeled garlic cloves
1             onion cur in quarters
½ c         milk or ¼ c heavy cream
½ tsp      basil dried
1tb          sugar
½ tsp      red pepper flakes
½ tsp      black pepper
3             oregano leaves minced
               hot water as needed

  1. Put tomatoes, onions and garlic still in skins into a sheet pan, douse with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.
  1. Put in 400° oven for 40 minutes turning twice.
  1. When done take out oven and let cool. Take off the tomato skins. And squeeze garlic out of skins.
  1. Add tomatoes, with onions and garlic to a blender and whiz to liquefy completely.
  1. Pour the tomato mixture into a pot, and use 1c water to wash out the blender and pour into tomato mixture. Bring to boil and then lower to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
  1. Add sugar and milk and dried basil.
  1. Taste at this point, and if its too acidic add more sugar to taste.
  1. Add more salt if it needs and the black pepper.
  1. Take off heat. Add 3 leaves minced fine fresh oregano if have. 
  1. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.
© Chillibibi Food Blog  All Rights Reserved 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Perfect Fragrant Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice is a favorite of mine as it smells exotic, it's a smell reminiscent of flowers. As such it pairs fabulously with aromatic spices such as cloves, ginger, cardamom (elichee) and nutmeg. When you make basmati rice the whole house id perfumed with its scent. It pretty hard to cook basmati rice in secret.  


Cuisine:          Indian
Good for:        Lunch, Dinner  
Food Group:   Starch 
Time:              10 mins
Serves:           5
Skill:                Medium
Suitable:          Vegetarian

1 c          basmati rice
2c           hot water
1 tsp       salt
2 tb         ghee (clarified butter) or butter, optional

  1. Check rice for stones and then rinse and drain.
  1. Add rice and hot water to pot, bring to boil, then lower and cover.
  1. Cook for 10 minutes covered, then take off heat.
  1. Leave covered for 5 mins.  
  1. Uncover lid, fluff and enjoy.



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