Sunday, May 4, 2014

Savory and Comforting Stewed Lentils, A taste of Trinidad

Stewed Lentils, A Classic Trinidadian dish

This is one of my favorite ways to eat lentils and is a traditional protein. It's African in origin, food made by the descendants of the African slaves who were brought to the Caribbean to work on the sugar plantations. Trinidad's population is a kaleidoscope, or as we say in Trinidad a callaloo of peoples who have been brought here through history.

In addition to lentils, red beans, chicken and other meats are stewed. I have even seen stewed soya and stewed black eye beans. The method is unique; I saw a Trinidadian lady on the Food Network Show 'Diners Drive Ins and Dives' showing Guy Fieri how to stew chicken and he was rather confused, saying he has never seen sugar being burned like that before.

The 'Stewing' process involves heating a small quantity of sugar in some oil over a low to medium heat. It's not something that you leave the kitchen and come back, you have to keep an eye on the sugar so that it does not burn. The picture below shows the sugar almost halfway there, but the process is closer to completion when the bubbles are much bigger in size.

Stewing Process, Sugar being Caramelized
Almost to the Point of Burning
It's cooking on the edge as you take that sugar almost to the point of burning, any more and it will be burnt, any less and you will not get that rich taste and golden dark brown color. If the sugar turns black you have taken the process too far and it's better you restart the process; the burnt sugar will make the food too bitter to eat. Another issue with this process is ensuring that your pot is dry, any residual water will spit out, potentially damaging anyone in the vicinity.

Have a pot cover at the ready and a cup of water. As soon as you get the sugar to the desired stage, you will need to quickly cover the pot and add some water to stop the sugar cooking further. The pot will protect you from the water sizzling and splattering. If done correctly, stewing is a great way to cook any bean or meat dish. Remarkably, the dish will not be sweet, but savory. It's a delicious taste of the Caribbean and easy to replicate; the most important ingredient is sugar!

Not only that but this dish being made with dried lentils is economical and healthy. It's high in protein and low in fat. You can make this as soupy or thick as you want. I prefer mines soupy to soak up the rice I eat it with. I sometimes if I am lazy to cook rice, eat this with bread. The usually pairing for this is plain rice or fried rice. I actually also pair this with mashed potatoes, potato salad or even macaroni pie, another of my favorite Trinidadian classics.

I hop you like this recipe, and comments are welcome! :)


Cuisine:        Trinidadian African
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner
Category:      Side Dish, Protein
Time:            1½ hours (not counting soaking lentils)
Serves:         8
Skill:             Medium
Suitable: Vegetarian
Heat: medium if not use hot pepper


2 c          dried lentils.
2 tb         sugar
3 tb         vegetable oil
3             onions sliced
8             garlic cloves
3 tb         ketchup
1 tsp       soy sauce
1             hot pepper whole
¼ c         chive chopped
¼ c         celery stem and leaves chopped
2             tomatoes chopped
½ c         coconut milk (optional)
2 tb         parsley
2             leaves bandania or chadon beni chopped (cilantro can be substituted)
¼ tsp      black pepper
               salt to taste
                 hot water as needed.

Utensils:  Ensure the pot you use to caramelize the sugar has a suitable cover.


  1. Pick through the dried lentils for stones. This is important. You definitely do not want to be biting on a stone while eating.
  2. Wash lentils and let soak in water overnight. If you don't have the time, don't worry, the lentils will just take a bit longer to cook.
  3. Put lentils with fresh cold water in a pot and cook on a medium flame for about 40min to 1 hour.
  4. In meantime, cut up tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions.
  5. Take out a few lentils out of the put and check if cooked.
  6. When the lentils are done, heat oil in a pot on medium to low heat.
  7. Have a pot cover that will sufficiently cover the pot nearby and also a cup of water.
  8. Add sugar to the oil. Let sugar dissolve and make big bubbles, but do not let it get black.
  9. As soon as you get to that stage, cover the pot leaving a small opening for you to pour water through. Cover the pot once water has been poured.
  10. Once the sizzling has gone, uncover pot and add onions and garlic and sautee for a few minutes.
  11. Add ketchup and tomatoes and cook down.
  12. Add cooked lentils, celery and enough hot water to cover.
  13. Salt can be added at this point as well as soy sauce and a whole hot pepper if using.
  14. Let cook for about 15-20mins till flavors combine.
  15. Take off heat, add parsley, bandania and chives.
  16. Coconut milk can be added now if using.
  17. Test for seasoning and add black pepper.

Do's and Don'ts
  • Do check for stones. You don't want to break your teeth or your guest's teeth with a stone.
  • Don't raise heat on high to hasten stewing process, the sugar can burn in a few seconds.
  • Do cover the pan once the water has been added to the hot sugar.
  • Don't salt the lentils when you are cooking them the first time. 

© Chillibibi Food Blog  All Rights Reserved




Thursday, May 1, 2014

Get a 'Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant' and Impress Your Friends; An Article I wrote for Languages.Guru

A French Dessert *

I recently wrote two French languages articles for the website Languages.Guru. The second article has been published on the website and it is entitled "Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant" This article is in English, and it is written as a summary of the French terms and phrases that would help in all aspects of dining at a French restaurant. It starts with how to find a great place to eat in France, asking for directions, ordering food and the French words for basic staples such as chicken and fish. It ends with asking for the bill, hence it gives you a comprehensive list of phrases to draw from on your next trip to that hip new French Restaurant or on your next romantic trip to Paris.

A French Candy Store+

My recommendation would be to read the first article about pronunciation and grammar i.e "Sexy Sophisticated French Decoded" so that you can understand how French words are pronounced and then move on to the second article "Cheat Sheet for Dining at a French Restaurant".

So impress your friends the next time you dine at a fine French establishment and do let me know what you think via a comment on Languages.Guru or on Chillibibi.

* Picture from Pixabay/ By La Fontaine 
+Picture from Pixabay/kytrangho

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Addictive Potato Chips or French Fries that are Baked not Fried

Crispy Potato Cubes, baked not fried

I don't know about you but I absolutely love French fries. In Trinidad, no doubt due to our history of being a British colony, we call French fries 'chips', although with the advent of so many KFC outlets in Trinidad, the term fries has gained more popularity. A quick search online to find the origin of 'French fries' which seems to be obviously French led me actually to Belgium. According to Wikipedia, 'French fries' may have been mistakenly named by British and American soldiers because the Belgians spoke French, the soldiers assumed that they were in france and eating a French dish.

Whether it really was supposed to be 'Belgian Fries' and not ;French Fries', I know you will agree with me that fries are morsels of crunchy deliciousness. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There is a catch to all this exquisite yumminess, ah yes, the fact that these are usually deep fried.

That's what really great about this recipe, you get all the crunchy caramelized potato exterior and soft fluffy interior that you love in a traditional fried potato, but without all of the fat. What I love about this recipe as well is that there is no sitting and babysitting the pot, you leave for 15 to 20 minutes, and comes back, give it a turn. I don't even bother to peel the potatoes, I just scrub them really good with soap.

One thing though to remember is to wash the potatoes slices to take out the starch and dry them thoroughly afterwards. Otherwise you will be getting soggy potatoes not divinely crispy ones. Also lay them out in only one layer on your pan, don't overcrowd. If you follow the above tips, you will be on your way to crispy 'baked' fries that look and taste like they have been dunked in hot oil though all they have done was hung out in the oven.

I did potatoes cubes, but this recipe works for normal French fries and wedges, the only difference being the cooking time involved. If you want wedges but don't have the time to cook them in the oven, I recommend cooking them partially in boiling water and then slicing them in wedges and letting them finish cooking in oven.

I dipped my 'fries' in a mixture of ketchup, soy sauce and pepper sauce. Gosh so good! This is one of my favorite recipes, and if you give it a try, I guarantee you will not miss that deep fried French fry.

Cuisine:        Belgium or France 
Good for:      Lunch, Dinner, Snack
Category:      Side Dish     
Time:            1½ hours
Serves:         3
Skill:             Medium
Suitable: Vegetarian, Low fat
Heat: mild


6           Potatoes scrubbed clean.
5 tb       vegetable or coconut oil
             salt to taste
¼ tsp    black pepper (optional)
½ tsp    chilli powder (optional)
2 tb       parsley (optional)

  1. Slice potatoes either as French fries or as we say in Trinidad; chips, larger for wedges or if you want as cubes like I did.
  2. There is no need to peel potatoes if you have washed them properly.
  3. Soak slices in water and wash out as much starch from potatoes.
  4. Drain and place on a clean dry kitchen towel to dry.
  5. Once the potato slices are dried toss them with oil, salt and black pepper and chilli powder.
  6. Preheat oven to 400ยบ.
  7. Grease two baking sheets and add potatoes in an even flat layer. Ensure that there is space between potato and use an extra pan if necessary.
  8. Place in oven and bake for 40mins for french fries, 50-60mins for cubes and 1 hour 15mins for wedges.
  9. If you are making wedges, you can partially cook the potatoes by boiling before cutting into wedges to save on cooking time.
  10. Turn potato every 15 to 20 minutes so all sides can brown.
  11. Take out of oven when done and add more salt if necessary.
  12. Toss with parley and Enjoy!

Do's and Don'ts
  • Do dry potatoes thoroughly. If you don't your fries will not be crispy.
  • Don't overcrowd the pan, as your fries will steam.
  • Do turn occasionally as if you don't your potatoes will stick to the pan.


© Chillibibi Food Blog  All Rights Reserved




Sunday, April 27, 2014

Irresistible Hot Sweet and Sour Wings

Hot Sweet and Sour Wings

The first time I made these, was quite by accident just taking a bit of this and that from the kitchen and when I tasted it, it was just sooo good. Unfortunately, I did not write the recipe down, so this is my best attempt at recreating the greatness I achieved that day. It's not quite there just yet, but it is still really good.

This recipe is a bit healthier that normal hot wings because of the fact that these are baked not fried. If you want you can omit the butter in the sauce, although the butter really helps temper the heat of the hot sauce, but if you are a trini, I am sure you can handle it. You can cut down the heat by using less hot sauce, but if you really love mild food this is really not for you. I rate this as 'Mother in Law' hot, and if you have ever tasted 'mother in law' you will understand. For those non-trinis (non-Trinidadians), 'Mother in law' is a Trinidadian-Indian really hot vegetable condiment/pickle made from karelli, onions, garlic, carrots and lots of hot pepper. It's very popular at Indian weddings in Trinidad, it's name being a reference to how badly 'mother in laws' usually treat their son's or daughter's spouses.

So please do try this recipe and let me know what you think!

Good for:      Lunch, Dinner, Snack
Category:      Appetizer      
Time:            1½ hours
Serves:         2 (2 wings each, these were large wings) or serves 1 if you greedy!
Skill:             Medium
Suitable:       No peanuts
Heat:            Mudder in law Hot!



4           Chicken Wings washed with lime


1tsp salt (less or more depending how small/large your wings are)
1tsp garlic rough chopped
1 tb herbs; chadon beni, parsley rough chopped
1tsp congo pepper rough chopped (optional)

3tb vegetable oil        
1 tb        Chilli powder

Hot, sweet and sour Sauce

2tb        butter
¼ c       good hot pepper sauce
2tsp      garlic minced
¼ tsp    black pepper
1 ½ tb   vinegar
1 ½ tb   sugar
1tsp      soy sauce
1tsp      Worcestershire sauce
pinch    or more salt as needed 
1 tb        fresh chadon beni or parsley chopped

Garnish with shadow beni, parsley or chives

  1. Wash wings in lime until the fresh smell is gone.
  2. Pat wings dry. Combine marinade ingredients and mix into wings.
  3. Marinate in fridge for a few hours, minimum a hour at room temperature.
  4. Let come to room temperature and brush herbs and garlic off wings. You do this so they don't burn in oven and wing's skin get crispy.
  5. Brush wings with vegetable oil and sprinkle with chilli powder.
  6. Bake in a 350 oven for around 1 hour until crispy on the outside. Placing wings on a rack then baking sheet will help with this.
  7. Turn over a few times to ensure both sides are get crispy.
  8. While chicken cooks, heat butter on medium heat and add garlic and let infuse in butter. Take off heat.
  9. Add hot sauce and rest of ingredients.
  10. When chicken is done, take out and toss in sauce.
  11. Garnish with herbs and serve immediately.

© Chillibibi Food Blog  All Rights Reserved




Friday, April 25, 2014

Fry Bake, Crispy on the outside, Soft on the inside

If you are not a trini, then you would find this bread rather contradictory; how can a bake be fried? I am not sure what the origins of this fried bread are, it could be Indian as it is usually eaten with things like tomato choka, or it could be African in origin as it is eaten with buljol, salt fish and shark. Bake and Shark is a Trinidadian institution.
It's a fish sandwich famously available at Maracas Beach in north Trinidad. The sandwich comes as the name suggests, with 'Fry Bake' and 'Fried Shark' but what takes it over the top for me are the vegetable toppings and condiments. Vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, shredded mango, shredded cucumber, pineapple chunks and cabbage and condiments such as chadon beni sauce, pepper sauce, mayonnaise, garlic sauce, mango kuchela, tamarind chutney and old standbys ketchup and mustard. It's definitely a Trinidadian invention and absolutely a must try if you visit Trinidad. Richard's Bake and Shark is a popular Kiosk in Maracas Beach, I've had quite a few from Richard's; they usually have the longest line and are really good.
Fry bake also makes a great trini breakfast and can be paired with tomato choka, fry aloo (potato), saltfish buljol and bygan choka. My favorite is bake and fry tomato or fry aloo. Fry Bake could almost be an indian puri, although it's a bit bigger and thick enough that it has a pocket inside to put yummy fillings in.
Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian
Good for:      Break fast, Lunch, Dinner
Category:      Bread      
Time:            1 hour
Serves:         4
Skill:             Medium
Suitable:       Vegetarian

2 c           white flour (or combination white and whet
2 tb          baking flour
½ tsp       salt
1 to 1½ c water
                vegetable oil for frying
  1. Mix flour, baking flour and salt.
  2. Make well in middle of flour. Pour water a little at time while mixing until you get a semi-dry dough.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes until you get a smooth ball.
  4. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Divide dough into 8 balls and knead these into smooth balls and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Heat oil in a frying pan, oil should be 1½ to 2 inches in depth.
  7. Roll out a ball of dough till around 4-5 inches diameter using a rolling pin.
  8. If a small piece of dough sizzles, oil is ready.
  9. Drop a flattened dough into the hot oil. Let cook on one side for a few minutes and then on the other side for a little less.
  10. If it puffs up, even better as it's easier to make a pocket inside the bread after it has cooked.
  11. Take out and drain on adsorbent paper.
  12. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

© Chillibibi Food Blog  All Rights Reserved

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.

Traditional Trinidadian Dhal

Dhal and Rice

I cannot tell you how many times I have eaten Dhal and Rice; this is an indian staple, a nod to my indian origins. Its usually accompanied by a curried vegetable such as bhaji which is a cousin to spinach and a spicy fresh chutney like my coconut chutney or a hot anchar, (a spicy condiment). 

Dhal and rice is a traditional sunday lunch in a trinidadian indian household. It was almost a daily meal for my ancestors where meat was an expensive protein and dhal was a cheap and nutritious alternative. Dhal is actually a yellow pulse called split peas. The resulting soupy broth is also called dhal. Dhal can be made from other pulses such as urad dhal, toor dhal, mung dhal etc. But in trinidad, the most popular dhal is made using the yellow split peas pictured below. 

Yellow Split Peas (Dhal) after it has been rinsed

The one thing really different about cooking this staple is the cooking process. It was only after watching too many food network cooking shows that I realized how unique this process was. I have never encountered this process in either an cook book, indian or otherwise. 

Chunkaying Process

The dhal is boiled with onion and tumeric until soft. Then comes the strange part, oil is heated in a large pot spoon over an open flame and minced garlic, whole geera (cumin) and maithee (fenugreek) seeds added to the oil. The garlic and geera are cooked till they get really black, burnt almost. This hot contents of the pot-spoon are then added to the soupy dhal and the pot is covered as soon as possible to prevent the hot oil from splashing and hurting someone. This process is called chunkaying, and it is used a lot in Trinidadian indian cooking, like in my Bygan Choka. The burning of the garlic is a unique technique, but it adds smokiness and a bitterness that balances the creamy dhal.

Dhal is usually paired with rice, and my favorite type of rice to eat with dhal is basmati rice which you can learn to make in my Basmati Rice post.

Traditional Trinidadian Dhal Recipe

Cuisine:       Trini Indian
Good for:     Lunch      
Time:           1½ hour
Serves:        5
Skill:             Easy
Suitable:       Vegetarian, Vegan


1½ c           yellow split peas, dhal
1 tsp           turmeric powder
½                onion chopped
2                 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp           geera seeds (cumin)
½ tsp          maithee seeds (fenugreek)
1 tsp           salt
3tb              oil

  1. Soak dhal overnight or for a few hours.
  2. Place in a pot with water about a few inches above the dhal. Add tumeric and boil for 45mins to 1 hour till soft
  3. Heat garlic, geera (cumin), maithee (fenugreek) in a pot spoon with oil.
  4. Cook till they are black. 
  5.  Add carefully to pot of dhal, covering immediately to protect yourself from the oil splattering.
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