Jerk chicken from The Bahamas packs a punch!

WEEK 21- The Bahamas 

Quick – what do you think of when you think of The Bahamas? Sunbathing on superb white sandy beaches, gently lapped by an impossibly blue, blue sea,  lined with palm trees? then you’d be right, The Bahamas is the original tropical island paradise, in fact one of the 700 islands is called Paradise.

Aerial view of Atlantis, AQUAVENTURE, The Cove and The Reef

Aerial view of Atlantis Resort

Where is it and a bit of history

Located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and east of Florida Cays, The Bahamas is a sprawling group of islands and cays located on a massive coral reef system. The Bahamas was where Christopher Columbus made landfall in the new world in 1492, probably on San Salvador. It became a British colony in 1718, who worked hard to eliminate its unsavoury reputation from piracy on the high seas and such infamous buccaneers as Blackbeard. Later it became a dumping ground for slaves and those descendants make up 90% of the population today.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

The Bahamas became an independent country in 1973 while still retaining its Commonwealth membership. Tourism and finance are it’s two main sources of income. Nassau the capital is a buzzing bustling place of cruise-ship stopovers, dubious off-shore banking, big-time duty-free shopping and crazy cabs called jitney’s.

What to see and do

The Bahamas is all about that fabulous water, with sun-bathing, swimming and all water sports at the top of the list along with cruising, shopping and partying on with sunset drinks at beach side shacks. There are some gracious pastel Georgian style old government buildings in Nassau and , a couple of really fascinating museums like the pirate museum and is right next door to the incredible Atlantis Paradise resort and water park.

Pirate Museum Nassau

Pirate Museum Nassau

This a huge themed water park spread over 41 acres and features a transparent water slide down through a shark infested tank! Awesome! All the resorts towering high-rise stuck on tiny sandy atolls are a bizarre sight themselves. Top of the list of must see is the  truly spectacular Thunderball Grotto (from the James Bond Film of the same name) the eerie Andros Blue Holes and the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Hole

Andros Islands Blue hole

Bahamian Cuisine

The food of The Bahamas reflects it’s location with an emphasis on its beautiful fresh seafood and coral reef fish, the conch in many different forms such as ceviche (raw seafood or fish ‘cooked in citrus juice) , escabeche (fish cooked lightly first then pickled), fritters, chowder or salads – is the national dish. Typical tropical crops such as coconut, taro, yams and sweet potato are traditionally grown, along with tomatoes and celery. Pidgeon peas, rice and peas are staples.

fruits

Tropical fruits

Popular flavourings obviously include the native chilli, allspice, cinnamon along with  fresh coriander, rum, native limes and garlic. Many varieties of exotic tropical fruits are used in both sweet and savoury dishes as well as many drinks. Mangoes, pineapple, guava, pawpaw, bananas, soursop and sapodilla and native limes.

 

 Chicken, pork and goat are the favoured meats and sometimes iguana!

Rum is king here, including an unusual coconut infused variety, cocktails with tropical fruits are big, a native limeade and locally brewed beer plus a liqueur – Nassau Royale made by Bicardi , a sweet rum base spiced with coconut and vanilla.

 

 JERK CHICKEN                         Serves – 4-6

 

Ingredients

  • I lime, juice & finely grated rind
  • 8 chicken legs or thigh fillets
  • 2 tsp McCormicks Cajun spice mix ( see below)
  • 1 hot red chilli, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp g allspice
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 tb dark brown sugar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 spring onions /scallions, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tb fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chicken stock/bouillon powder
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Pat chicken dry. Rub with lime juice and 2 teaspoons creole spice
  2. Heat oil in a frypan/sauté pan over medium heat, add onion, chilli, & garlic, sauté about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add nutmeg, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and continue stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to clump together.
  4. Remove from the heat and let it cool
  5. Place in a food processor or blender, then add rest of ingredients. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well blended
  6. Cover the chicken with jerk marinate, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Use gloves to rub mix into chicken.
  7. Preheat oven to 220°C/ 425°F. Drain chicken, reserve the marinade, place on a wire rack if possible,  over a lined baking tray, or on lined tray in a single layer.
  8. Bake chicken until cooked through and skin is crispy, about 30-50 minutes, turn chicken half way through.
  9. Simmer the remaining marinade for about 7 minutes till thickened. Serve with chicken.

Cajun or creole spice mix, if you can’t find this blend, you can make a simple version of your own –

  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh gr, black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb + 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix all together. Will keep well.

Rice n Beans 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 garlic clove crushed
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons creole spice
  • 2 cups uncooked long grain/jasmine rice
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 400 ml can  (1¾ cups) coconut milk
  • 400 gm can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder/bouillon (optional)
  • 1 whole red chilli (optional)
  • 1 teaspoons paprika

Instructions

  1. Rinse rice three times & drain.
  2. Heat oil in a medium  saucepan, add onions, garlic, thyme, and hot chilli, sauté for a minute.
  3. Stir in rice for 1 minute, add beans, then add rest of ingredients with 1 cup of water.
  4. Bring to a boil reduce heat, and cover. Simmer on low 12 minutes until tender.
  5. Don’t take lid off to check until 12 minutes. surface should be pocked if cooked. If too wet,  leave with lid on 10 minutes to dry out. If too dry and rice still hard, add little bit of extra water, cover and cook 5 more minutes on low.
  6. Stir gently to serve. Can be cooked half an hour ahead and will stay hot covered on stove top.

Jerk Chicken & Rice'n Beans

This tasty rice was yummy enough to enjoy on its own, but with the delicious jerk chicken was really terrific. We all enjoyed this meal, the chicken was particularly good and we would happily have this dish again. In future I’d make sure to marinate extra chicken , be great in a salad, on a sandwich, or tossed with fried rice.  Score 8.5/10

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Rwandan kebabs and HOT hot sauce

Week 16 – Rwanda

Hi everybody sorry for the lack of posts recently,we have been away from home on holiday. This week I was determined to make a fabulous dish that we would all enjoy, something a bit different.

ABOUT RWANDA

Located in Central East Africa in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; the country is covered in mountains in the west and savanna in the east, with numerous lakes all over the country. Three ethnic groups make up the population of Rwanda these are the: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa people. Rwanda was colonised twice in history; by the German’s first in the 19th century and then the Belgians during World War 1.

rwafrica

Rwanda is one of only two countries in the world which mountain gorillas can be visited safely; gorilla tracking, in the Volcanoes National Park, attracts thousands of visitors per year, who pay high prices for permits.

640px-Gorilla_mother_and_baby_at_Volcans_National_Park

Other destinations which attract a lot of visitors include: Nyungwe Forest, home to chimpanzees, Ruwenzori colobus and other primates, the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera, a small savanna reserve in the east of the country.

RwandaVolcanoAndLake_cropped2

Music and dance are very strong in Rwandan culture, drums are favoured and a highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country, including imigongo, a unique cow dung art.

RWANDAN CUISINE

Rwanda’s cuisine is based on staple foods that are produced by agriculture in local areas such as bananas, plantains, pulses, sweet potatoes, beans, and cassava. Living near a lake you have access to fish, tilapia is popular. Potatoes have been popular since German and Belgian colonialists brought them to Rwanda.

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Lunch is usually a buffet known as mélange, consisting of the staples mentioned above and sometimes meat. The most popular food when eating out in the evening is brochettes which are usually made from goat but sometimes tripe, beef, or fish. During some traditional rituals and ceremonies a traditional beer called urwagwa made from sorghum or bananas is drunk.

434px-Rwanda_IntoreDancers

 WHAT I MADE


Sadly the website we’ve been using to source a lot of recipes has shut down or something it not letting us access it at all, so I couldn’t get the recipe 😦 But I’ll tell you about it, the dish was spicy beef kebabs with hot hot sauce which I served with couscous salad (not exactly Rwandan whoops). The kebabs I marinated for a few hours were delicious and beautifully tender and had a lovely charry flavour, and the hot hot sauce was… HOT it had copious amounts of tabasco and finely chopped chilli, yum. For the couscous salad I used my favourite recipe by Jamie Oliver which I can link so if you love couscous salads click here → www.jamieoliver.com/turkish-style-couscous

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The kebabs were delicious and we all loved it and gave it a score of 9/10.

Bourbon and Chipotle Chilli BBQ Sauce

Smokin’ hot Bourbon & Chipotle BBQ Sauce!

Chipotle Watermelon BBQ Sauce

 

 

Ingredients                                  Makes about 2½ cups

  • 2 tb oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1x 400g tin tomatoes in juice, all chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika,  if you can get it
  • ¹/³ cup cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups watermelon, seeded/or pineapple if you prefer that. Does give a more distinctive flavour.
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 3 tb Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tb chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1-2 tsp salt & lots fresh gr. black pepper

Method

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion & garlic until onion is soft.
  2. Add ground spices, stir 1 minute then add vinegar and boil up, scrapping base of pan.
  3. Add rest of ingredients and simmer on low 30 minutes, stirring occasionally as it thickens.
  4. Process until smooth and check for heat and seasoning.
  5. Use as a baste to make BBQ roast or grilled chicken, ribs, steak, sausages etc. Serve extra with pork or beef ribs to double dunk in!

This is the best ever BBQ sauce and you will love it – tone down the chilli powder if you can’t take the heat. But don’t leave out the chipotle chilli in adobe sauce, that’s what makes this sauce so deliciously smokin’ hot! And the watermelon odd as it may sound, add sweetness and a hint of fruitiness to balance out all strong flavours.

This sauce freezes really well, and lasts 3 -4 days in the fridge should you have any left over!

So what to do with your fabulous Barbecue sauce? Well I mainly make it to go with my roasted Pork Spareribs, using it as a baste for the final charred blast, but it’s almost as good to cook chicken pieces in it for the best ever Chicken in BBQ Sauce (aka Chicken in Hot Sauce!).

Use it to give a real zap to grilled sausages, burgers, steak or lamb chops. Or spoon it over sour cream on top of jacket potatoes. Really tastes good with everything!

Bhutan – some like it hot hot hot!

BHUTAN: Kingdom of the Clouds

Bhutan The Last Shangri-la

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Hapai Hantue – Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Buckwheat Dumplings

Week 12

I’ve always dreamed of going to Bhutan, one of the most unspoilt and picturesque countries in the world -alas the cost is so prohibitively high, only the well heeled can afford it. Sadly I know I’ll never make it there. But I have been to Myanmar, which (in 1990) was also one of the most difficult countries to travel to. And that was very special, but still not as entrancing as Bhutan……..

Bhutan  Fact File

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been known as Southland  of the Herbs, the Sandalwood Country and the Land of Happiness. A high altitude land-locked country sandwiched between Tibet to the North and Northern Indian states to the West And South. It’s a land of towering high peaks, fast flowing rivers and deep valleys. Sub-tropical jungle in the south, it becomes Polar and snow-bound in the north, this allows it’s outstanding range of biodiversity. There are five seasons, spring,summer,autumn, winter and monsoon.

Bhutan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

Tradition is very strong in a country which was almost completely isolated from the modern world until the 1960’s and only allowed TV and the Internet in 1999! So it’s rich and unique culture has remained intact, the government decried that all citizens must wear traditional clothing when in public!  Thanks to the hefty mandatory charge of US$250+ per day per tourist, tourism will be limited and it will probably remain so unspoilt.

Sights to see

Palace at Thimpu

 

 

 

Religion is intrinsic to Bhutanese life, predominantly Buddhist with Hinduism practiced in the south. Some of the most spectacular sights are the precariously situated Dzongs (fortress) such as Punakha and Trongsa and the Taktshang Goemba (monastery)  and other historic buildings in the capital Thimpu. Check out fantastic wildlife, go on cycling tours, mountain treks, snow treks, fly fishing or admire spectacular alpine scenery.

The Food

Bhutanese Food

Heavily influenced by the proximity of Chinese culinary traditions and Indian cuisines, Bhutan has come to love the chilli as no other – so much so that they eat it as a vegetable not just a condiment! The national; and ubiquitous dish is a chilli and cheese  dip served with everything, rather like a sambal or pickle, called Ema Datsi.

Dairy mostly cheese and butter is a very important source of protein, from cows, yaks goats and buffalo. Buckwheat and red rice are the main grains along with barley and millet, all cool climate crops, and used to make breads, noodles, dumplings and biriyani style dishes.

Remembering many Bhutanese are vegetarian, beef and pork are commonly eaten and trout from their pristine rivers. Much is made of wild gathered food such as ferns, canes orchids, wild greens like radish and turnip tops, wild berries and especially adored are mushrooms such as Chanterelles. Many fresh herbs like coriander, dill and fennel are used  along with ginger,garlic and shallots. Of course lots of ‘Indian’ spices are used with Szechwan pepper, Perilla and poppy seeds particularly popular.

The food of Bhutan is often blisteringly hot, but as richly varied as this jewel of a country is itself.

Buckwheat Dumplings

Buckwheat Dumplings with Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Filling          Serves 4-6

 This recipe was taken from http://www.asian-recipe.com/bhutan/bh-vegetarian-recipes.html with some slight changes on my part – namely I made a mistake with reading the recipe, and I love Szechwan pepper! I think the combination of buckwheat with poppy seeds and boy choy is so interesting.

Ingredients

  • Filling
    • 1 bunch bok choy, washed, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
    • 2 medium garlic cloves
    • 3 cm cube fresh ginger
    • 1 small red onion
    • 1/2 cup crumbled farmer cheese or Danish Feta
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 60 gm butter, melted to golden brown

    Dough

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1 cup water
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting

 Method

  1. To make the filling, cook the bok choy in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
  2. Grind the poppy seeds and peppercorns with a spice grinder, or in a mortar.
  3. Process the onion, garlic and ginger until finely chopped. Add half the melted butter and the rest of ingredients and pulse briefly until just combined. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the dough, combine the flours in a food processor. With the motor running pour the water and the rest of the melted butter through the feed tube and process until the dough forms a ball. Dust the ball with flour.
  5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Roll out the remaining piece with a pasta machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, down to the second lowest setting, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Or rollout thinly with a rolling pin. Place the dough sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner.
  6. Cut the sheets, 1 at a time, into 4 by 2 inch [10 by 5cm] rectangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges lightly with water and fold the rectangles over to make squares, pressing the edges to seal them well.
  7. Cook the dumplings in batches in a saucepan of simmering salted water until they float to the top and are tender. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  8. Serve with Ema Datsi or if you’re pressed for time as I was – Chiu Chow Chilli Oil and garnish with fresh chilli and chopped coriander.

Chilli Chicken & Noodles

Chilli Chicken with Buckwheat Noodles          Serves 4-5

I made this dish with chicken mince not the more traditional pieces, as that was all I had on the night. The flavourings are very Chinese but with a twist, for the buckwheat noodles I used Japanese Soba noodles which are probably more refined than the more homey Bhutanese version.

I kind of combined two recipes, one for noodles from  http://www.peisch.com/photos/bhutan/Recipes and the other for the chilli chicken came from  http://www.chicken.ca/recipes/bhutanese-chili-chicken-with-red-rice

Ingredients

  • 500gm  chicken thigh fillets /breast or mince 
  • 1/4 cup cornflour 
  • 2 tbsp  sesame oil + 1 tsp extra
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • red onion,  sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 green chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedge
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 270gm packet of soba noodles
  • coriander,  chopped to garnish

Method

  1. Rinse 2/3 packet of noodles under cold running water, bring large pan of water to the boil.
  2. Add noodles and boil for 2 minutes, drain.
  3. Cut the chicken into cubes, season with 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and toss with cornflour making sure all pieces are totally coated. If using mince, sprinkle flour over.
  4. Heat oils over medium heat in a non-stick wok or skillet. Cook chicken until pieces are browned on both sides and slightly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Heat other 1 tsp of sesame oil, add sliced onion, minced garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add capsicum, chillies and shallots, cook another 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan, add sliced tomato wedges, season with soy sauce and heat through another minute.
  6. Add the noodles to the pan and toss everything together. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

My family enjoyed this meal, although making the dumplings was a lot of work, especially on a hot night – better suited for a cold winter night. Hubby isn’t fussed on buckwheat noodles and was fairly unimpressed, but Bunny and I loved these unusually spiced dumplings – I could have eaten a lot more of them for sure! Our Bhutan meal got a combined score of 27/40, the dumplings getting thumbs up from all but hubby.