Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The best pizza I've ever had, the Buzo

The Buzo Pizza, Manchego Cheese, Wild Mushrooms and Spinach


Buzo Osteria Italiana is a restaurant located in Port-of-Spain Trinidad. It specializes in authentic Italian pizzas. Other things on the menu include pasta, calzones, antipasta and salads.

One huge point in Buzo's favor, even before you walk in the door is it's free parking, and the friendly Buzo employee who directs you to where that free parking is. And then there is the fact that Buzo on the outside seems to have been transported directly from Italy, standing out among the rest of the buildings nearby with its stone walls and rustic old world charm.
 
Walking into Buzo you're greeted by probably some of the best trained service staff in the country and one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants in Trinidad. There was definitely a more fine dining ambiance than say Kava at Kapok which comes off as a hybrid of a liming spot and special occasion. From the very earthy color scheme, the wall with bottles of wines and jewel colored jars of preserves and the excellent wait staff; Buzo has intimate and extraordinary written all over it.
After being seated, you are usually brought two selections of bread, topped with olives and onions. And you're encouraged to try them with either the Extra Virgin Olive oil or the Balsamic Vinegar on the table.  The two times I went to Buzo, I was extremely hungry, and that bread tasted so good to me, with the olive oil and vinegar and with the chilli oil. I love pepper and Buzo offers you a sort of Italian pepper sauce; pepper flakes in olive oil and pepper flakes. Both have a really nice kick to them.
 
By the time the pizza arrived, I was able to really appreciate the sight and smells of it. The first pizza I had at Buzo. Yes Buzo has a pizza named Buzo, which has manchego, a Spanish cheese (according to the waiter), wild mushrooms, pepper flakes, truffle oil and is usually topped with rocket. The day I went however they were out of rocket so they asked us if they could substitute spinach which we accepted. I don't know how the rocket would have tasted, but that pizza was the best pizza I have ever had. The creaminess of the cheese with the earthiness of the wild mushrooms and the hint of truffle oil; all that richness balanced by the fresh spinach and spiciness of the pepper flakes. It's all tied together by a crunchy thin crust; the perfect blank canvas.  
 
Campagnola was the second pizza I tried and another vegetarian option at Buzo of which there are six options. The others are the marinara, the margherita, the Buzo, the Quattrio Formaggi and the Ciclista. The Campagnola has eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, goats cheese and mozzarella. This pizza was great with the grilled vegetables and the cheeses.
 
Buzo is unquestionably a special occasion affair, in looks as well as price. The pizzas to be fair are reasonable ranging from $45TT, the most basic with just salt and rosemary to $110, the Crudaiola with proscuitto, mozzarello and arugula and basil. The additions of bottles of sparkling or plain water at $30 a bottle and wine however do add to the final result, as well as the additional vat and service charges that aren't reflected in the menu prices.
 
In terms of all the pizzas I've ever had, The Buzo is the best, followed closely by The Sundried Tomato Pesto Pizza at Kava at Kapok Hotel.

© Chillibibi Food Blog 2010-2013 All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sundried Tomato Pesto Pizza at Kava, Kapok Hotel

Greek Pizza at Kava

Kava is located on the ground floor of the Kapok Hotel in Maraval, just off the Queen's Park Oval. You can enter Kava from the Hotel's main entrance, and parking is available in the Hotel's carpark. My first impressions of Kava was of a chic, modern space, populated with a natural muted color palette accentuated by bold refreshing pops of green and orange. The overall impact is very pleasing. This is complemented by an efficient indoor and outdoor seating plan.

Kava's menu ranges from cutters such as wings and samosas , salads, sandwiches, main dishes of pasta, steak and even curried chicken, and burgers. However my reason for going to Kava was none of the above, it was their Brick Oven Pizzas.

Kava boosts 19 pizzas on its menu, 7 of which are vegetarian. One thing that my family knows about me is my love of pizza; I want to eat my way to Italy one day soon. But the next best thing is sampling the best pizzas I can get find in Trinidad.

I usually eat vegetarian pizza, being vegetarian for a long time and having a huge amount of vegetarian friends and family, so a place that gives so many yummy vegetarian options is definitely a hit with me.

I have tried two of Kava's pizzas so far, the Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and the Greek, the former being the real winner with me. The Greek pizza was great, don't get me wrong; a lovely thin crust with topping of tomatoes, feta cheese and olives. Thin crust and cheesy toppings with bites of the salty feta.

The Sun-dried tomato pizza, as the name suggests was topped with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, walnuts, basil and then the normal tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. This is far from your run of the mill pizza, its so unusual and unusually good. Who would have thought walnuts on a pizza would be so good and with the sweetness of the sundried tomatoes and the fresh taste of the pesto, its my definite favorite at Kava (so far).

The service the two times I have been to Kava was really good, and the pizza was cooked very quickly. You can actually see the brick oven that the pizza is being cooked in at one end of the restaurant and if you're lucky, you might see your pizza being shuffled into the oven. The ambience and décor is great for a lime, date or special occasion. Pizzas at Kava on average cost $100TT and feed two people.

Overall Kava was a fantastic pizza experience which I will definitely repeat.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dhalpourie, roti stuffed with dhal


Dhalpourie



Dhalpourie is a roti that has been stuffed with a spicy dhal mixture. It's a recipe thats been passed down by my agee (grandmother). It definitely has indian origins.

Its one of my favorite rotis, and its delicious and almost a full meal eaten on its own since it has both flour and dhal. One of my favourite ways to eat this is with cheese melted inside it or with tamarind chutney or anchar. Its most often served with curried channa and alloo, curried chicken and some kind of vegetable talkarie (curried vegetable).

Its a tricky recipe and as with most rotis a skill that develops after repetition. There are tips that only seasoned veteran roti makers know. My mum says to cook the roti almost as soon as you fill the dough with dhal as it will get too soft if it sits. My agee would press the ends of the roti as it cooks so it would cook evenly. And also ensure that your dhal is ground very fine, as big chunks will makes holes in your dough.

 


If there ends up to be less dhal, no worries, just make some pepper roti. That my next absolutely favorite thing next to dhalpourie. Some people make pepper roti with alloo (potato) but to me the dhal version tastes so much better and also healthier as it has dhal.

Honestly I would not be too worried if your first attempt at this looks square with a few holes and fat edges. My first roti was square too!

Cuisine:        Trini-Indian
Type:             Bread
Time:             2 hours
Serves:         6   (Makes 6 dhalpourie)
Skill:              Difficult
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan

 

Ingredients:

Filling:

1c uncooked dhal, washed with stones removed
4 garlic cloves minced
½ tsp salt or more to taste
2tsp powdered geera (cumin)

Dough
:
3 tsp baking powder
2 ½ c white flour
½ c whole wheat
½ c or more oil, ghee, butter or a combination 
 
 
Procedure:
 
  1. 
    trinidad indian bread
    Dhal before cooking
    Pick through dry dhal for stones. No one wants to bite down on a stone, so don't skip this step. Rinse dhal and boil until cooked but still firm. Drain and leave to cool.
  2. When dhal is cool grind in a food mill, or a blender until fine. Add garlic and geera and salt to dhal and combine. This is your filling for the dhalpourie.
  3. For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and add water until you get a ball of dough. Knead on a floured surface until you get a smooth ball. Separate into six balls.
  4. Fill each ball with around 3 to 4 tablespoons of filling. To do this place the filling in the middle and then close the ends of the dough around the filling.


How to stuff dough with dhal mixture
 

5. Heat the tawa while you roll out the dough. Your tawa or saucepan had to be bigger than the size of the roti.

6. Flour a chowkie or a clean falt surface to roll out dough. While flouring regularly to prevent sticking roll out dough to around 7-8 inches in diameter, or around 1/8th inch in diameter.

7. Place the oil and butter in a bowl. Taking a napkin, dip it in the oil or butter and the paste the surface with the oil.

8. Place the roti on top the hot tawa. Repeat pasting the surface of the roti with oil.

9. Wait this there are bubbles on top of the roti, flip the roti, while buttering the tawa again.

10. If the roti begins to rise thats great. Press the ends of the roti so that it cooks.

11. Flip again, and fold in half so that the ends cook for a few minutes. Fold in quarters. Take off stove and repeat with rest of dough.










Monday, August 26, 2013

Bygan Chunkayed in Choka!

 
 
Bygan is the hindi word for eggplant and this is a really short relatively easy dish that is staple in an indian household in Trinidad. Other vegetables can be made into a "choka" such as tomatoes and potato (alloo).
 
What's a bit strange about this is that you actually cook the spices and garlic in oil till it gets really black in a process called "chunkaying". This identical process is used to flavor dhal. Somehow getting the garlic and geera to this blackened stage makes bygan taste really good.
 
When made right and eaten hot, this is really delicious eaten with some sada roti with butter and if you have on hand some kuchela or anchar.
 
Cuisine:        Trini-Indian
Type:             Vegetable
Time:             30 mins
Serves:         4 
Skill:              Easy
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan
 
 
Ingredients:
 
 4                eggplants whole
½                onion sliced
1tb              garlic minced/chopped
¾ tsp          whole geera (cumin)
¾ tsp          salt
¼ tsp          pepper minced (optional)
2-3tb           oil
 
 
Procedure:
  1. Roast eggplant whole on an open flame on your stove until the outside is a bit charred and the inside is soft.
  2. Peel off skin of eggplant and scoop out flesh and put into a bowl.
  3. Add sliced onions and half of garlic and mix.
  4. Get a sufficiently large pot spoon that can hold all the oil. Have the geera and the garlic ready. Put the pot spoon with the oil over an open flame on your stove top and wait till oil is hot.
  5. Add the reserved garlic and geera. Cook until at least most of it gets black.
  6. Pour this hot mixture over the eggplant in bowl being careful since this is hot oil.
  7. Add salt, pepper and mix.
 

 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best places to get Tofu in Trinidad

Tofu in Black Bean Sauce from Chinese Dragon, Debe, South Trinidad

 
Being vegetarian is more prevalent these days and the options in Trinidad have much improved over the past two decades. I used to be vegetarian for over 10 years and I can vouch for this fact. One of the best vegetarian ingredients that I love is tofu. I love it in Chinese sauces and I also love it barbequed. I have a recipe for barbeque tofu on this blog.
 
There are many great places that I have had tofu that I would like to share with you. I can't really chose an absolute best from these, each is unique.
 
 

1.    Chinese Dragon, Debe (South Trinidad)

 
 
Pepper Tofu Special from Chinese Dragon, Debe
 
Contact: 647-8139
Directions: Starting in south Trinidad, Chinese Dragon is located along the S.S Erin Road, about 10 mins after Debe if you're coming from San Fernando.
 
What I love about them: is the taste and the price which is an average of $35-40 per person. You can get a "Tofu special" which is rice or noodles, tofu in a sauce of your choice and vegetables for $35 TT ($6US) and it tastes really good and will serve around two people. If you want portions you can get a 1/4 portion of tofu for the same $35. I recommend their tofu and broccoli in black  bean sauce, it was sooo good and their sweet and sour and pepper tofu are great also. If you're not vegetarian, their chicken and broccoli is my favorite and I think that retails around the same. Their pepper shrimp is a must try if you like seafood. I had a lime with four friends and the bill came up to $200TT which really was a bargain as some of that bill was take out.
 
I usually only do take out at Chinese Dragon, I have only eaten in three times. The interior is clean and spacious, suitable for a lime with friends but not say for a very special occasion. The service is decent and the food when I ate in the restaurant was delivered quickly.
 

2.      Valpark Chinese Restaurant, Valpark

Vegetarian Platter, Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, Rice, Vegetables
 
Contact: 662-4540
Directions: Valpark Chinese Restaurant is located at Valpark Shopping Plaza in Valsayn along the Churchhill-Roosevelt Highway.
 
What I love about them: is the taste, the ambience and the price is not bad, although not as cheap is say Chinese Dragon. The vegetarian platter (around $70 TT) consists of tofu, rice or noodles and vegetables. These are some of the biggest cubes of fried tofu that I have ever been served. The pepper tofu was my favorite, but the black bean is one of my friend's favorite. They are good for a special occasion or a date. The service was very good
 

3.0    Jenny's Wok & Steak House, San Fernando

Contact: 652-1807
Directions: Is situated on Cipero Road in San Fernando. At the light at Cross Crossing in San Fernando turn right. Keep driving for 10 mins, Jenny's is on your right. There is parking available on your left.
 
What I love about them: Their food tastes amazing, their vegetarian and the meat items as well. The price is around the same price range as Valpark. I ate there with my family and had a few limes as well and the food was always fantastic. I like their vegetarian platter which has tofu as well as their tofu portions. They are good for a date, a special occasion, take out or a lime with friends.
 

4.0    Sincere's Chinese Grocery, San Fernando 

Contact: 652-0688
Directions: Drive up Cipero Street, Sincere's is on your left.
 
What I love about them:
Yes, you didn't read wrong, I said Sincere's Chinese Grocery. Its a little known gem in a south vegetarian's culinary universe. Don't be fooled by the Grocery exterior, they sell a variety of vegetarian food, all totally vegetarian and with decent prices. There is a dizzying array of tofu and soya choices and also vegetables in Chinese sauces. Three dishes make a small box for $25 and four make a $35 box. What I love is their variety, to me more than a regular Chinese restaurant and they only sell vegetarian food. There are only a few table available inside the grocery and not much parking outside so this is really better for takeout. And you can get your Chinese soy sauces and prunes on your way out!
 

5.0   WOK 'N ROLL, Grand Bazaar

Contact:  674-2697
Directions: Grand Bazaar Mall, inside Pizza Boys
 
What I love about them:
They have a vegetarian special with either tofu or gluten for $35TT that tastes really good. They also have a vegetarian thai option for around $50.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Amaretto Chocolate Fudge (Review)



This Amaretto-Chocolate fudge is from the Café Caribbean Sweets kiosk. It is located at the bottom of High Street San Fernando on the left hand side of road after KFC at the entrance to a food court. The kiosk sells a huge variety of fudge in addition to the amaretto-chocolate; mint chocolate, amaretto coffee, orange chocolate, guava and others and retails between $4 to $5TT (less than $1US).

These are some of the best fudge I have had. I have sampled the mint chocolate and amaretto chocolate and they don't survive more than a few minutes after purchase. The one pictured was lucky to arrive home in one piece. I don't know how they do it but it was soft not rock hard like fudge normally is. Once you taste it you just keep eating.

The kiosk also sells other types of sweets, kurma and toolum. I have tried their kurma though and I wasn't impressed but the fudge is a definite hit.

 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

To Tobago, with Love

 
Location: Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago

I love Tobago, its just not just Trinidad's much better looking smaller sister, its also has a much more relaxed vibe. Its makes Trinidad look all uptight and fast paced in comparison. There were a few places I loved when I took a recent trip with my family to Tobago that I'd like to share.
 
FOOD

 
The Original House of Pancakes

Location:        Crown Point, Tobago
Cuisine:          Pancakes and Omelets
Meal:              Breakfast, starts 7:30am
Price:              $45-$50 TT per person
Verdict:          Very good
Service:          Good
Website:         Could not find a website, this a link to the TripAdvisor Page
 
 
Chocolate Pancakes
 

We went to The Original House of Pancakes for breakfast based on the recommendation of my cousin and it was amazing. I had the basic breakfast the first day which consisted of pancakes, bacon, eggs, tea and a fruit cup. It was really good. My sister had the coconut french toast which was a hit; french toast made with flakes of coconut and a choice of pancake syrup and nutmeg syrup. My cousin had one of their many interesting omelets which got the same rave reviews. The next day, I had the chocolate pancake pictured and although I was a bit apprehensive that the chocolate flavor would be a bit overpowering, it was just the right intensity and sooo yummy.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Next time I will try their English Breakfast; it was not available the day I went.

La Cantina, Tobago

Cuisine: Authentic Italian Pizza
Location: Store Bay , 639-8242
Meal: Dinner, but I believe they are open for lunch as well
Price: $80-$100 TT per pizza (feeds between two and three people)
Verdict: Very good pizza
Service: The best service we encountered in Tobago
Website: http://lacantinapizzeria.com/
 
I scoured TripAdvisor and this really cool Tobago site called MyTobago for reviews of the best restaurants and La Cantina was on top of many a list so my family and I headed over. I had initially tried to make a reservation a few hours prior but was told that they were not taking any. I think that was probably because I called them pretty late and when we arrived I understood why; they were packed.
 
We wanted to be seated inside as it was rainy and so we had to wait till the room inside was vacated. Our party was pretty large, about nine people. The staff was courteous, and kept us informed of the table's status. Apparently the people inside had paid the bill but were still sitting and ole talking and the staff. A while later to our amusement, we saw a huge battalion of trinis walk out, still ole talking. We were then promptly ushered into a small room with a wooden “U” shaped table and wooden chairs.
 
We ordered four pizzas; Quattro Formaggi (four cheese), Funghi (mushroom) pizza, Marinara pizza without cheese, and Italia. Sorry for the lack of pictures again, but we were really hungry and the pizza was really good and the service before, during and after was exceptional. I definitely will recommend La Cantina in Tobago, but you should make a reservation.
 
Store Bay, Food Court
Cuisine: Typical Tobagonian fare
Meal: Lunch
Price: $45-$50 TT per person
Verdict: Very good, especially the Curry Crab and Dumpling
Service: Decent
There is a nice little food area with chairs at Store Bay, and about four or five food kiosks all lined up next to each other. I had the crab and dumplings from the second kiosk from the right (can't remember the name) and it was fantastic. The price was I believe $50 for crab and dumplings and $45 for chicken with rice or lentils etc. Sorry I don't have a picture, the crab and dumplings finished that fast!
There was also a lady selling sugar cake and fudge that was divine. To me the sugar cake we bought at Store Bay was better than the sugar cake I bought at Crown Point when we were leaving. I paid around $5-8TT for a bag.
 
BEACHES
 
Pigeon Point

 
 
Even though I had to pay $20 for the right to bath at Pigeon Point, which initially I thought was ridiculous, the benefits made up for the cost. A clean beach that was not overcrowded, beautiful sand and crystal clear calm waters.
 

 

Store Bay, Beach



Store Bay was a few minutes from the house we had rented. It was beautiful, the water clear albeit not as calm as say Pigeon Point where we went later but no where near as rough as Maracas Beach on Trinidad's north coast.


 

 




 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Good Coffee Icecream

Coffee Lover's Only, at Cold Stone Creamery, Price Plaza

What is it about ice-cream, that makes it so irresistible on a hot day. Emancipation day holiday was no exception, the sun seemed to have been invited to the celebrations and was beaming down with an exuberance; perfect for icecream.
 
I had the Signature “Coffee Lover's Only” at Cold Stone. It was coffee icecream with a Heath bar, almonds and caramel in a waffle cone and it was divine. What I loved was the the fact that it was sweet but just enough. The heath bar was chocolate and caramel and together with the nuts adding a nice crunchiness and pops of flavor which complemented the coffee icecream. And the caramel sauce just tied it all together. The waffle cone was a nice addition, adding another dimension of flavour with a mild nutty accent to the creamy icecream. Lets just say, coffee is not my first choice but this was so good, I will definitely have this again.

Another good place for really good coffee icecream is More Vino. They have a lunch special for $100 which is a soup, sushi and icecream. The coffee icecream below was part of that lunch special and it was a great end to a good meal. More Vino has two locations, one in San Fernando and one in Port of Spain.


 



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

These Beans are on Fire!

 
Think I have been hearing too much election campaigns lately. By the time I post this, I believe the people of Chaguanas would have decided on a member of parliament for Chaguanas West. Elections are great affairs in theory; reality is a whole other ball-game. While you want to get all your facts and hear what each candidate has to offer, more often than not the campaign becomes sidelined by how bad the other candidate is, leaving little room for the real issues. Hopefully one day we will get the “new politics” that we have been promised in Trinidad.
 
In the category of beans and legumes there are many great candidates; red beans. black eye beans, channa, pigeon peas, mung beans, urad dhal, green lentils, lima beans, red lentils, pinto beans, soya beans, the normal yellow dhal that we use in Trinidad to make dhal etc.
 
Beans in general are great sources of protein and if you’re vegetarian, like I was for over 16 years, your major source of protein. When you’re vegetarian, you really start to appreciate beans in all their glory. In Trinidad, the beans most used are red beans with lentils a close second followed by black eyed beans and pigeon peas when in season. And with respect to dhal, the average trini would only think of the yellow kind, since this has been used so much to make dhal, it’s even called dhal! The older folks will remember urdi dhal and mung but nobody really uses these varieties as much anymore.  

When it comes to beans one of my favorite is red beans, and I love it stewed. You can find stewed red beans all over Trinidad, it’s a popular staple eaten with fried rice, stewed chicken, macaroni pie and callaloo for lunch.  When it comes to dhal, my favourite would be mung beans. They are light and easy to digest and the washed split version cooks in 10 minutes. Urad dhal looks like black mung beans, and take much longer to cook but have a rich flavour and silky texture.
 
You can make these with the canned red beans or you can soak the beans for a few hours to overnight and the boil them till soft. Make sure you boil them as red beans have some chemical that is neutralized when boiled. This red beans recipe is easy and quick if you have already cooked red beans on hand. I ate mines with slices of zaboca (avocado) and buttered toast. I was too hungry to boil rice but it tasted great anyway. The avocado was a nice idea as it added a lightness to balance the rich coconut milk. You don’t have to use coconut milk, it will taste great without it. Enjoy!



Makes 5-8 servings
Time 1 ½ hrs beans cooking time + 45 mins
Skill Easy
Cuisine Trini, vegetarian, low fat, vegan
Difficulty: Medium
 


Ingredients
 
2¼ c     red beans cooked
2tb        vegetable oil
2tb        sugar
1 ½       onion minced/sliced
5           cloves garlic minced
2           pimento peppers minced
1           whole congo pepper
2           tomatoes diced
2tb        chives chopped
1            sprigs thyme
    2tb       ketchup
    5          splashes Worcestershire sauce
    3tb       coconut milk powder (optional)
    1/4tsp  chilli powder
    Pinch   black pepper
  1. If using dried red beans, soak beans overnight or for a few hours, and discard liquid. Add beans to a pot and cover with water and boil until soft. Alternately use canned red beans. 
  2. Put a dry saucepan on medium heat and add oil and sugar. Have a ½ cup of water on hand and a pot cover that will cover the saucepan.
  3. Lower heat and wait till sugar caramelises and makes big bubbles. Cover pot leaving a space where you can pour the water into the pan so that of the oil splashes the cover will protect you.

  4. When the pot stops sizzling, remove cover and add onions and garlic and cook down. Add tomatoes and pimentos and cook for a few more minutes. These veggies will cook down and melt and make a thick sauce for the red beans. Heat some water to boiling in a kettle.

  5. Add beans now to pot and worcestershire sauce, chilli powder and black pepper and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add hot water, just enough to cover beans and stir. 
  7. Add sprig of thyme and whole congo pepper at this stage. 
  8. Let simmer on low heat for ½ hour, adding more water if necessary.
  9. When the sauces looks thick and almost done, mix the coconut milk powder with a little water and adds to pot and mix. Or use fresh coconut milk if you have.
  10. Take off heat and add chives and bandania if you have. I didn’t have bandania (chadon beni).
Tips:
  • Dont add whole congo pepper with onions and garlic. You don’t want to fry the pepper as it will get hotter. Also unless everyone who will eat this loves hot pepper, keep it whole during the cooking process.
  • Add chives at the end do they stay green and crisp and keep their bright flavour.






 

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Hilarious Experiment with Hummus


 
 

Hummus is a dip or spread made from cooked chickpeas (channa) that have been blended with spices. It is arabic in origin and totally addictive when made right. You can eat hummus with corn chips or spread it on bread, or even roti. Of course if you have pita bread that would probably be more authentic but to me sada roti and pita bread look alike and taste quite similar.

What I like most about hummus besides the taste is its nutritious-ness (if that's a word) Its yummy and cool enough to be eaten as a dip but its also high in protein and low in fat. Its also super easy to make; it only takes a few ingredients and requires no huge amount of work and fancy spices. If you're a trini, you can get geera (cumin) in any supermarket in Trinidad. The only snag you will come across though will be the tahini which is sesame seed butter. There are some supermarkets that will stock it but unless you plan to make lots of hummus, a huge bottle of tahini makes no sense at all. The cheaper and more practical alternative is peanut butter. Its nutty and although sesame seeds have a distinctive nutty flavour, I find the nuttiness of peanuts an acceptable substitute.

What got me interested in making hummus, was its use of channa. Being trini-indian, I have eaten my share of channa mostly curried channa and aloo. If I did not eat it at least once a week when I was growing up, I definitely would have eaten it at an indian wedding or prayers. Indians in trinidad do love their channa. They also eat deep fried channa as a snack. Curried channa is also a major component of the trini invention “doubles” Doubles is basically a “sandwich” of bara, a fried bread and curried channa. Its the cheapest breakfast in trinidad retailing at an average of $4 trinidad dollars (less than a dollar US). Although there is a place in Penal which sells $2 doubles and aloo pie which is pretty good.

Anyway hummus seemed to be a new way in which I can enjoy channa. My first attempt at making hummus was a disaster; I had tried to make my own tahini and that did not end well for me or the hummus. It also came out rather bland tasting. I think this was due to my unevenly blended sesame seeds, it lacked that depth of flavour that comes from smooth tahini. My other strike was using canned chickpeas, which taste so bland and boring.

This time I gave up on the tahini since I had peanut butter in the fridge and I used channa that had been soaked and cooked in a pressure cooker, not canned. The use of cooked channa made a huge difference in taste, there was a deeper channa-ey flavour and a much more rustic texture. I also wanted to bump up the favour so I added some caramelized onions; I love onions. This time there was no way my hummus was going to be described as bland.

So I assembled my ingredients all excited in front of the blender thinking that in a few minutes I would be munching on hummus. I dropped all my ingredients except the onions in the blender and get a cup of water. Without thinking I drop all the water and press “pureeeeeeeeeeeee”, but a split second before I do this a thought flashed in my mind. “Thats a lot of water for so little channa”

A few “whizzzzzzzzzzzzzes” later and my fears are confirmed, Its hummus soup!
I was a bit distraught staring at the brown liquid while my belly growled in disapproval. Well I decided that I was going to get my hummus one way or the other. Since I had already planned to top my hummus with caramelized onions, I started working on cooking my onions and then when they looked just right I dropped all of my hummus soup into the pot and stirred like crazy. The mixture boiled down to a decent consistency after a few minutes and then I added some chopped parsley and took it off the stove.

Dropping some into a bowl I eyed my creation warily then go in armed with a cracker. My strange hummus tasted amazing, full of flavour and rich and spicy. Success... :)


Hummus Recipe

Serves              3
Skill                 Easy
Time               Channa cooking 1 hour, Assembly 30mins
 Cuisine           Vegetarian, vegan, arabic



1 c channa (chick peas)

3 pinches salt

1 tb peanut butter

juice of ½ lemon

2 garlic cloves

2tb olive oil

1tb parsley chopped

½ onion sliced

1tsp ground geera (cumin)

½ tsp or more chilli powder

pinch black pepper



  1. Soak the chickpeas for a few hour or overnight. Drain the water. Cook for an hour or till tender.
  2. Chop up onions, parsley
  3. Drop cooked chickpeas, garlic, peanut butter, 1tb of olive oil, salt, lemon juice, chilli powder, black pepper, cumin into a blender and whizz till smooth, adding water judiciously until you get a good consistancy
  4. Add remaining oil to pan and caramelize onions and then add to hummus. You can whizz the mixture again or leave the onions. If you wanted you could try my version where you drop your hummus in with your onions and cook. Not sure if thats the reason my hummus tasted so rich and had a deeper flavour. Either way will be yummy.

Tips

  • I cannot give you a good estimation of how much dry channa you will have to cook to get 1 cup of cooked channa, so boil a few cups and cook it and whatever you do not use freeze till a later date.
  • Channa spoils quickly so when making hummus, make ionly what you need.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My tumultuous love affair with Bygan




Eggplant Pumpkin and Bodie in Black Bean Sauce

So on Saturday around lunchtime I was feeling really hungry which meant making something quick and easy. Its taken a lot of practice though to get this to come out quite right, Chinese food is a skill and I honestly cannot claim mastery as yet.
I usually make versions of this depending on the veggies on hand and this time, my usual veggies being carrots, green peppers, mushrooms and cabbage. However this time, I wanted to experiment with other veggies like bygan (eggplant) and pumpkin.
I had really wanted to try Tyler Szechuan Eggplant from the Food Network but I decided to stick to what I was comfortable with and that’s how the eggplant ended up in the black bean sauce.

Eggplant and I have a tumultuous history dating back to when I was a little kid. Being in a traditional Trinidadian Indian family, when I saw eggplant (hindi name is bygan) on the table it was either in bygan choka or curry bygan, neither of them I was particularly fond of then.
Bygan choka is where the bygan is roasted on an open flame until soft and then tempered with spices, or as we would say in trinidad “chunkayed”. Curry bygan is as the name suggests, bygan that has been curried with most likely a ready made spice mixture. Gone are the days in Trinidad where people made their own curry powder. Now is either “Chief” “Turban” or “chatak” who doing that for us. Its a pity since the mix of spices really gives the curry a different flavour. The ready made versions though convenient gives a generic taste and the flavor is not as robust as it would be if the spices were roasted whole and used immediately.
Well as I was saying, it was never love at first bite for me and the humble eggplant. You would never have caught me calling that purple vegetable a favorite and the only way I would eat bygan choka was when it was right off the stove steaming hot. Don't talk about curry bygan, yuck!
But things have changed, I see bygan in a new light these days, its actually become a vegetable that gets a lot more respect from me of late. I think a defining moment was me seeing Jamie Oliver a few years ago make what he called “Poor Man's caviar” on “The Naked Chef”. The caviar being eggplant! He roasted the eggplant on the stove, scooped out the cooked flesh, tempered the mixture with geera and added some green herb which was either parsley or cilantro. Well as far as I was concerned he made bygan choka. He placed a dollop on a small piece of thin bread that he toasted like little appetizers. He made bygan choka look sexy and he seemed to think it tasted fantastic!
Yes after that fateful day it would never be quite the same between me and the purple eggplant. More recently a colleague of mine told me he had eggplant for breakfast and it wasn’t in Bygan Choka, I was intrigued. He grilled his eggplant and topped them with cheese. All I could think of was yummy. I had to check myself, this was eggplant I was thinking about. And then my relationship just got better; I visited a restaurant in Trincity and had their Ratatouille. Until that point the only Ratatouille that I loved was the movie. It was moist, fragrant with a complexity and depth of flavor that I had previously not taught the eggplant was capable of.
Now I want to try bygan in everything, from italian to chinese. I fried eggplants coated in breadcrumbs one day and they were delicious in a sandwich. (I really had wanted to use them in Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti, but didn't get that far.)

This recipe I have is great and quick and it came out delicious. You can add fried tofu or cubed chicken if you like, just make more sauce to compensate. The black bean sauce is quite salty together with the soy sauce so be careful with adding any more salt.

Vegetarian
Servings 4
Skill Kinda Easy
Cuisine Trini Chinese
Time: 1hr
 


3/4 pack if spaghetti
1 tb salt for spaghetti water
 
1 c bodie chopped 1in pieces
1c pumpkin cubed
1c bygan (eggplant) cubed
1 green pepper cut in chunks
1 onion sliced

Sauce
1tb black bean sauce
1tb hoisin sauce
1tb sesame flavored oil (less if using pure sesame oil)
1tsp mushroom flavored dark soy sauce (more of using light to taste)

1 tb Worcestershire sauce
1tsp corn starch (optional)
Water about ½ or more cups (to thin sauce out)

pinch chilli powder
pinch black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tb chive chopped
1 leaves of one strand of thyme

Procedure
  • Cook spaghetti or any kind of noodles as indicated and drain and reserve.
  • Chop up all vegetables and herbs as indicated.

  • Sauce: Combine Black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame flavored oil, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Mix the corn starch in a little cold water first to dissolve and add to the previous mixture.
  • Heat a wok on high heat. Add the hard veggies first like carrots and sautee ,mixing very often. If the carrots are very hard you can add some water, lower the heat and cover the wok and let them steam a bit. Add a pinch of salt to every new vegetable you add to the pot. Add the pumpkin and saute, mixing regularly. The high heat will cause the bottom to burn if you dont mix often. Then add the bodie, green peppers, onions and the garlic. Adding the garlic before would have resulted in it burning in the high heat.
  • When all the veggies are tender but still crisp add the reserved sauce and heat through thoroughly for a few minutes adding more water if you want a more watery sauce.
  • Add chilli powder and black powder.
  • Add spaghetti and toss to coat in sauce. Take off heat and add herbs and toss.

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