30 November 2011

God Bless Bim

Today is Barbados Independence Day! 

Our lovely little island became its very own nation state on November 30th 1966.  We didn't have a silly war or anything... we just asked politely like the decent folk we are. So today we mark the 45th anniversary of Independence. 45 might be middle-aged for human beings, but for a country I'm pretty certain its the equivalent of being a teenager. Which means we're still cool and fun; no back pain or arthritis.

To celebrate I'm bigging up some fabulous Bajan talent! Here's Cover Drive's Twilight. Nothing to do with vampires, don't worry.

I must say, Amanda is looking fairly sweet in this one. Boys looking nice too. Hope everyone is waving their blue and yellow today!

28 November 2011

A slightly different sort of muppet...

TWO muppet posts within a week?! Too good to be true? These aren't the Jim Henson kind though. Catchy song, fun video, but probably not appropriate for the wee ones...

This made me smile. Hope it's had the same effect on you!

25 November 2011

Chocolate Salami

This is one hell of a way to get your chocolate fix!

I've been wanting to try out this dessert for ages and finally gave it a go last week. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take any photos of my own. So I've stolen some from here. Truly it was incredibly easy to make and is perfect for dinner parties as you can prepare it well in advance and it keeps really well, as long as it's cold.

I got the recipe here, which you'll find is in Italian but Google Translate does the job. All the recipes I found for this suggested "Oro Saiwa" biscuits. I'm assuming these are a typically Italian kind of biscuit as I've never heard of them and couldn't find anything with that name in the supermarket here. I used malted milk biscuits and they worked very well (That's Shirley biscuits for those in B'dos). I also used rum for flavour instead of coffee. I think that it requires a hell of a lot of rum though, as I was quite generous and you couldn't taste it at all in the end product.

I would highly recommend this dessert. It's easy, beautiful, and absolutely delicious! It is the perfect thing for all those hundreds of holiday parties coming up.

23 November 2011

Life's a Fillet of Fish... Yes it is!

Here's a video that put a great bit smile on my face.

Kermit the Frog is one of my all time favourite celebrities and probably always will be. He and my Dad share the same Birthday so I kind of feel a special connection to this wonderful green amphibian. Bret McKenzie is also pretty funny. I hope this made you as happy as it made me. Anyone else excited for the Muppets Movie?

21 November 2011

The Grinch who told the truth about Christmas adverts

Charlie Brooker's rant about this year's Christmas adverts in yesterday's Guardian has become quite the talk around town! He's titled his article: "This year's Christmas adverts aren't adverts, they're 'events'. Ghastly events", and added a tagline that pokes fun at all the sappy cry-babies in Britain: "The John Lewis commercial doesn't make me cry. It's just an advert for a shop". You know, after all the emotional hype about this John Lewis advert that literally had grown men admitting to tearing up in front their teles, I expected more of a backlash against Brooker's witty cynicism. But No! People love it! Only days after tweeting away about how that advert "changed their lives", Britain has changed tune to laugh along with Charlie at the ridiculous spectacle of it all. I don't mean to call the country a bunch of hypocrites, not at all. Rather, I think it's the perfect example of how ready Brits are to laugh at themselves. It's a great quality and one that is characteristic of this country.

But Brooker doesn't restrict judgement to just John Lewis. Oh no, everyone get's a hit! Littlewoods, for openly advertising the "truth" about Santa Claus; Morrisons, for the inappropriate sexualisation of British food (not to mention cricketers); and Marks and Spencers, for cheap exploitation of momentary celebrity. He's harsh but he is hilarious!

Morrisons has got to be my favourite! I'm very curious to know whose idea it was to start this Christmas advert with a reference to a [very bad] Kevin Costner film from the 80s?? "If you build it, they will come!" Now, I know there is often a cultural confusion of the two sports, but the people at Morrisons do know that baseball and cricket are not the same... right? In fact, I'm kind of insulted by the comparison. And if you were in doubt about Brooker's interpretation of this ad as overtly sexual, take a closer look at the busty butcher making eyes at Freddie over the "British Beef". Yup, there's no two ways about that; food = sex. Can't say I completely disagree, but it's an unconventional and amusing representation of the Christmas Spirit.

The icing on the cake in this article is Brooker's shock and awe over who managed to produce the most appropriate advert this Christmas: Iceland! Well there's an ending no one was expecting! Well done Charlie, witty and refreshing as ever. 

5 November 2011

Onion and Courgette not-so-pie-like Pie

Well I'm posting on Saturday this week instead of Friday. Mostly because I've been battling a silly Autumn-cold for a while now and yesterday I just felt totally rubbish! I woke up with the worst headache in the world, which is never a good start to the day, spent the morning coughing up my lungs, and then decided I couldn't stand it any more and drugged myself up with all the flu-related medication I had at hand. This consequently sent me into a zombie-like state of something between consciousness and an acid trip. And I was still in a bad mood. So truly, had I chosen yesterday to tell you about my kitchen adventures, all you would have got was an incoherent stream of negativity (more so than usual). 

But today I am feeling much better! So here is my "pie":

So this is the Bajan version of pie that is explained here. So no pastry in this one. But looks good, eh? That is bubbling, crispy, delicious cheese on the top there. Mmm!

Actually, this really didn't come out how I wanted it to, but it was tasty anyway. Here is a semblance of a recipe.

One courgette, grated
One and a half large onions, roughly chopped
A big knob of butter
Equal amount of flour
Lots of grated cheese
An egg
Garlic powder/salt

The first thing to do is grate the courgette. I use the medium size holes on the box grater but its really up to you what size you want it to be. Once it is grated, put it into a colander and cover it generously with salt. Let that sit for about half an hour and then press out any extra water you can by pressing down on it with a kitchen towel. This is to help draw out the water. Courgette will spring a lot of liquid in the oven and that would make the pie really runny, which is not a good thing. 

Then chop up your onions. Again, size isn't important. Cook these on a low heat with a bit of butter just until they are soft and white. You don't want them caramelised, and remember they will cook more in the oven. 

Now you have to make a roux. This is actually a lot easier than it is often made out to be. Melt a big knob of butter on the hob at medium heat. Then add an equal volume of flour to butter. Stir this in until the flour is dissolved in the butter and you've got a paste. Then turn the heat to low and add some milk. Stir continuously making sure that the paste is combined completely with the milk. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat off. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens. This can take a while but I promise it will thicken so just be patient. At this point add a bit of black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. You can add a bit more salt but be stingy because remember the courgette is already doused in it.

Beat an egg and add a drop of milk just to make the texture a bit smoother. Make sure the white sauce has cooled a bit, to almost room temperature. If it's too hot it will scramble the egg and that's just gross. Stir in the beaten egg, and half of the cheese. Seriously, put as much cheese as you want. Put a lot if you like cheese, and whole lot if you love cheese. If you don't like cheese at all, see a therapist. 

Then dump in the courgette and onion and give it a mix. Pour the whole mixture into a buttered baking dish and cover with lots more grated cheese. Again, the more the merrier. 

Put this is an oven at about 180C or 350F for around 15 mins or until all the cheese on top is melted. Then put it under the grill/ broiler for 5 more mins to crisp up that topping!

This is how mine came out:

Yeah, doesn't look so appetising, does it? But it was YUM, I promise. Really my problem was that my ratio of sauce to veg was wrong. I needed more veg, less sauce, for it to be a bit sturdier. The egg helps with getting a good texture, too. 

2 November 2011

Cultural Conundrum of Pie

Pie = Delicious, Right? I love pie. And I love to say that I love pie because it could mean totally different things depending on what country I'm in. 

When the Brits say pie this is what they're talking about:

Hairy Bikers' Steak and Ale Pie
Or some variation on this; steak pie, pork pie, fish pie, whatever! Essentially, a yummy savoury filling covered in yummy buttery pastry. I love pie! Nom nom nom.

But ask the Americans for some pie and this is what you'll get:

Shop.Cook.Make. Apple Pie

Good Ole American Apple Pie! or Cherry Pie or Pecan Pie or Pumpkin Pie or French Silk Chocolate Pie... and now I'm drooling. So yes, the key ingredient in American pies is sugar. Drop a sweet seasonal filling on a crispy pastry crust and you've got yourself a pie. I love pie!

But should you land your two feet in Barbados, stumble into a rum shop and order some pie, this is what you'll be served:

Proper Bajan Macaroni Pie
No pastry, no crust, just mouthfuls of starchy, cheesey bliss! This is the definition of PIE in our homeland: a brick composed of some long macaroni and a mob-a-ton of cheese. There are some other ingredients too; here's a recipe. I love pie!

Macaroni Pie is indeed our holy grail of all things pie. But we also do corn pie, yam pie, sweet potato pie... A pie is anything starchy, covered in some kind of white sauce and/or cheese, and baked in the oven. These are all standard side dishes in any meal. 

My mother is naturally one of the best cooks I know (aren't all Mums?). But Macaroni Pie isn't her speciality. Instead she does an Onion Pie. This isn't really keeping in tradition with real Bajan pies as being super-starchy. But it is a hell of a lot closer to Bajan than the Brit or Yank versions. It is the same concept as a Macaroni Pie but the onions replace the pasta. I LOVE onions and I LOVE this pie. 

I've recently tried a variation on Mum's Onion Pie. Thus was born: Onion-Courgette not-so-pie-like Pie. Photos, recipe, and war-stories from the kitchen to come...

If you want recipes for the pies on this page you can find the Brit one here, the American one here, and the Bajan one here. Now you're craving pie aren't you?