2 December 2011

Caribbean Christmas

This is the first year that I will not be going home to my little island in the sun for Christmas. This year will be new and different and exciting all the same. But there are a few things that I'm certainly going to miss from home. Most of them are food... surprise, surprise. These are the things that define Christmas at home for me.

Ponche Crema
Mmm... Ponche Crema! This is a little bit like American Eggnog, but very very alcoholic and infinitely more delicious. It is rich and creamy, and with a perfect sprinkling of nutmeg it just tastes like Christmas! You can find a recipe here. I must stress that it wont be any good unless you use a proper West Indian dark rum, preferably Cockspur. Don't even try to use Bacardi! Throw that shit down the drain!

Mmm... Pastelles! So this is a Trini/Venezuelan dish. There is a similar Bajan version called Conkie that you can read about here. Really I prefer the Trini version (and this is the only time you will ever see me admit to anything from Trinidad being better than Barbados). The filling is a mix of meats, heavily spiced and finely minced. It's then covered in a cornmeal casing and wrapped in a Banana leaf. From mid-December to mid-January my family eats these for breakfast at least twice a week. Pastelles really make me feel Christmassy!

Parang Music

So I really love traditional Christmas songs- Jingle Bells and Let it Snow and all the usuals. But these songs don't really tend to be party songs. No one ever jumped up to the dance floor for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. At home we need something to dance to! We always need party music and Parang fills this space for the Christmas season. Most Parang songs, just like Calypso, are filled with suggestion and innuendo. Parang is funny, fun, festive... oh I just love it! 

Ok, so Cadbury biscuits obviously are not West Indian. Or even very Christmassy for that matter. But this very tin of biscuits means Christmas to me. You see, my family is a bit obsessive about presents. We're all pretty much grown, but still are up before 7 on Christmas morning to see what's under the tree. This means that there is no time at all to make or eat breakfast. Instead, a nice big tin of Cadbury Biscuits gets opened and we all gorge ourselves on chocolate while wrapping paper and ribbon gets torn to shreds!  

Christmas Ham
Mmm... Ham! Turkey is not the holiday meal of choice at home. It's ham. A nice big pig leg, honey glazed, covered in cloves... my mouth is watering just thinking of it. My Dad has one of these electric carving knives that whirs and buzzes as he carves our ham. The noise of the knife plus the smell of the ham is like a magnetic pull to the kitchen. We often eat it faster than he can carve!

Of all the things that mean Christmas to me, of all the delicious things that I love, none compares to my absolute obsession with sorrel. I LOVE sorrel! This beautifully red, fragrant juice is the most wonderful thing that December has to offer. A glass of sorrel with my pastelle in the morning, a vodka-sorrel to match my party dress in the evenings, sorrel-tinis getting mixed up on Christmas Eve... oh my oh my oh my. Many of you know what I'm talking about, but for those of you who have never had the pleasure of this beautiful drink, I cannot even describe to you how nice it is! It's like nothing else I've ever tasted. And if anyone reading this can tell me where I can get sorrel in London you will be my new best friend! Seriously, I'll bake you something delicious. 

If you're looking for more delicious Caribbean eats, head over to Skip to Malou* today for some more perennial dishes!


  1. - just want to point out that the parang is trini too! and i will be eating some delicious pastels for you :)

  2. There are a few Caribbean supermarkets in London that sell sorrel concentrate in a tin! :)I've also seen it in a bottle, keep an eye out for it! X