Jamaican Peanut Porridge Recipe from Vegan Beans from Around the World

Sharing about cookbooks is one of my favorite aspects of food blogging. I love posting about the books I find interesting and supporting the art and the authors. I have a long list to post about over the next few weeks, but I still want to make sure I share plenty of my own recipes. I’ve decided that Fridays will be cookbook review day throughout the summer. So if you have a love of cookbooks be sure to swing back by for plenty of new ideas and recipes. 



Even after several trips to Jamaica, I have never heard of peanut porridge. I know this because if I had ever encountered anything similar I would have written about it several times by now. 

Thank goodness for the cookbook, Vegan Beans from Around the World by Kelsey Kinser. Without it, I may have never been introduced to this rich and creamy warm breakfast.


Peanut porridge in a bean cookbook? Yep. Because they are legumes, of course. In fact, this handy cookbook is full of bean dishes that go way beyond a slow cooker full of soup or stew. Chickpea Fries, Lebanese Spiced Lentil Pilaf and Korean Red Bean Soup are a few examples. 

You know I’m food photo crazy when it comes to cookbooks, but this is one book that inspired me even without them. It reminded me of several basic recipes I should return to, while also giving me an array of brand new ideas. 

What caught my attention about this porridge goes beyond how much I love Jamaica and the foods from there. It combines so many of my favorite ingredients. The cooking technique is interesting as well. You combine freshly ground peanuts and finely ground oats with other ingredients to form a batter which you then then pour into boiling water to cook. 



It is similar to a peanut oatmeal, but the flavors are deeper and more complex. Another bonus is no sugar. The coconut sweetens it just slightly, but not enough to take over the rich flavor of the peanuts and nutmeg. 

Just a note, the recipe says this serves 1 to 2. When compared to my normal servings of oatmeal this would be about 3 servings for me, so plan on large portions or having a little extra for leftovers. 

Jamaican Peanut Porridge

© 2014 Kelsey Kinser. Reprinted with permission from Ulysses Press. 

From the book:
Peanuts are common in a lot of African cuisine, and they made their way over to the Caribbean due to this. For an American unfamiliar with this type of dish, it’s a wonder to stumble across. If you like peanut butter, you’ll like this porridge. It’s basically peanut butter–flavored oatmeal served hot for breakfast. It’s high in protein and a yummy way to start your day the Jamaican way. You will need peanuts for this; peanut butter just doesn’t work the same.

Serves 1 to 2

1 cup oatmeal (quick cooking is fine; instant is not)
1 cup shelled raw peanuts
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1⁄8 teaspoon fresh grated mace or nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup coconut milk
water as needed

In a food processor, grind the oatmeal into a powder. Set aside. In the same food processor, grind the peanuts until they are almost a smooth peanut butter.

In a small pot, bring 1 cup of water to a boil with the salt.

While the water is coming to a boil, mix together the flour, powdered oatmeal, peanuts, mace or nutmeg, and cornmeal into a medium-sized bowl.

Using a spatula, stir in water (not the boiling water) until a loose, liquid paste is formed, which will take about 1 cup of water or so. This paste should be wet enough to be able to be poured.

Pour this paste into the boiling water. Stir until no lumps remain.

Reduce heat and cover partially, cooking on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking to the pot and burning.

Remove the lid and add the vanilla and the coconut milk. Cook on medium-high heat until the porridge no longer has a taste of raw flour and is the consistency you prefer, at least another couple of minutes. Serve.



Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to write about it and received no compensation for doing so. 


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Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales

This is the fourth in my series of Cookbooks for Christmas. Be sure to check out The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking, The Vegetarian Option and How to Cook Indian.

Before I moved to Kentucky, country ham was nothing more than the step-child of meat options on the Cracker Barrel breakfast menu. I had no idea why someone would select ham over bacon or sausage despite the fact that they all came from the same animal.
Then I moved to Kentucky. Suddenly country ham is everywhere. There are country ham biscuits as party appetizers and skillet-fried country ham for breakfast. It is a regular offering in the meat case at my local butcher, and my most recent job exposed me to a youth agriculture program where the kids made their own country hams to auction off at the local stock sale.
See, I told you. It’s everywhere.
My first encounter with country ham had me gasping for a drink of water. Salty. Very salty. Things haven’t changed much since that first impression, but I have found that I like country ham in things. Meaning, those things it is in helps balance the salty flavor.
A few weeks ago I got a copy of the cookbook Ham: An Obsessionwith the Hindquarter by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I never knew there was so much one could do with ham. The book contains 100 unique recipes from the around the world.

Guess what is featured from my part of the world. Yep, country ham.
As I flipped through I saw recipes for Collards and Country Ham, Country Ham Butternut Squash and Chile Stew, and Country Carbonara. That doesn’t include all the things that don’t use country ham such as Steamed Ham Buns and Roasted Fresh Ham with Apple Wheatberry Salad.
If you’ve read a cookbook by Weinstein and Scarbrough before you know it’s as much about the text as it is about the recipes and photography. It is part comical novel, part recipe book. I was immediately sucked into the story about the taking of their pig from farm to market.  

So back to this country ham.

One thing that I wasn’t expecting (nor would most Kentuckians), was to see country ham Caribbean-style with a side of Mexican cuisine thrown in. The second I turned to page 151 I knew what I was making.

Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? Not only was I excited about these flavors, but this was my very first time making tamales. As with post things I put off, I was left thinking – why in the world did I wait so long?
These tamales are simple to make. The construction takes a little time, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.
Now, let’s talk about these flavors. The spices, pineapple and rum are just what the country ham needs. The tamales are sweet with just a touch of saltiness. With all of the spices, the flavor explodes in your mouth with each bite. This recipe is such a creative representation of Kentucky meets Caribbean!

Jerk-style Country Ham and Pineapple Tamales
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books

Makes 20 Tamales

Call this Bruce’s culinary free-for-all: a Caribbean filling made with American country ham and served as a Tex-Mex delicacy in corn husks. There’s not much more I can say, except they freeze well. Make them in advance, then wrap them individually in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months; thaw on the counter for 30 minutes before steaming as directed.

20 large, dry corn husks for tamales
6 ounces dried pineapple
10 ounces cooked country ham, rind removed and discarded, the meat cut into little cubes (a little less than 2⁄3 cup)
3 medium scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup dark rum such as Myers’s
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups instant masa harina
3 cups very hot water
2⁄3 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1. Put the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Set them aside to soak until soft, about 30 minutes. If they all won’t stay submerged, place a little plate over them in the bowl to force them down into the hot water.
2. Meanwhile, put the dried pineapple in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander set in the sink. Chop the pineapple into tiny bits.
3. Transfer those pineapple chunks to a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the ham, scallions, rum, ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, 1 teaspoon cumin, the coriander, oregano, thyme, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne, and garlic powder. Pulse until well chopped and thoroughly blended but not pureed. This is the filling for the tamales, so you want some tooth in the thing—in other words, no baby food.
4. Mix the masa, hot water, oil, onion powder, and remaining 1 teaspoon ground cumin in a large bowl to make a wet dough.
5. Take a corn husk out of the hot water and spread it on your work surface so that its natural curl faces you. Spread a generous 1/4 cup of the masa dough into the corn husk, smoothing it out but also keeping it near the thicker bottom of the husk, like a little bed of dough for the filling. Spread the dough out to the sides a bit so that when you roll the husk closed the long way, that dough will encircle and even cover the filling.
6. Place about 11/2 tablespoons of the ham mixture in the center of the dough in the corn husk.
7. Fold the sides of the husk up and over the filling, thereby also bringing the masa dough up and around the filling inside. Make sure the sides overlap and fully close, holding the filling tightly inside. Fold the wider bottom up over the husk and do the same with the narrower top. Tie these in place with butchers’ twine so the tamale will stay closed.
8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 with the remaining husks.
9. Set up some kind of steaming contraption: either a large vegetable steamer in a large saucepan with about an inch of so of water in the bottom, or a couple of bamboo steamers placed over a wok with a similar amount of water in it. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
10. Stand the tamales up in the vegetable steamer or lay them in the bamboo steamers. Cover, reduce the heat, and steam for 40 minutes, checking the water occasionally and adding more if necessary. In no event should the water rise and come in contact with the tamales. You want the water gently simmering in the pan or wok but not boiling vigorously. Once steamed, set the tamales aside for 5 minutes before serving, just so no one gets a steam burn from the incredibly hot filling inside. And don’t be a Gerald Ford. In the 1976 presidential race, he tried to eat a tamale still in the husk while campaigning in Texas. He lost the state. Unwrap the husk and fork out the tender filling inside.

Caribbean-style Pumpkin Soup

When we travel to Jamaica we always look forward to the pumpkin soup. Although the version I make at home uses the same squash, I like the pumpkin soup of the Caribbean much better. It has taken me a long time to figure out what exactly makes the difference in the flavors.
First of all, there are the spices. Despite the fact I use pumpkin in all sorts of dishes, the temptation to put in a seasoning such as cinnamon or nutmeg is a force I can rarely overcome. After years of only eating pumpkin pie and bread it’s as if my brain says – there’s pumpkin, must add some variation of pumpkin pie spice – even when it’s a savory dish.
Second is the heat. I never added any type of hot peppers to my version, but I now believe that is what makes a pumpkin soup outstanding. It isn’t spicy; it’s just a mild, warming heat in the back of your throat after each bite. That’s accomplished with Scotch Bonnet peppers which I just happened to grow in our garden this year. They came on late, but I have a nice bag full in the freezer to pull from for occasions like this one. 
On one of our recent trips I picked up the cookbook, Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke. Inside is a recipe for Pumpkin Lobster Bisque. Now pumpkin I had, but lobster I did not, so I tried modifying the recipe hoping it would turn out like the pumpkin soups we’ve had while traveling. 
It’s definitely the closest I’ve come and much better than my standard version of winter squash soup. In this case, I think it’s the closest I want to get. Sometimes you want to make sure that there is still plenty of reason to travel for the real thing. 
Caribbean-style Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Pumpkin Lobster Bisque from Eat Caribbean
2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups roasted pumpkin flesh, mashed
3 tbsp of tomato sauce (or 2 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
1 ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup cream or half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small soup pot over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pumpkin and tomato sauce. Next, add the thyme and scotch bonnet pepper. 
Pour in the stock, stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stir occasionally. If you want more heat, gently pierce the scotch bonnet pepper as it cooks. 
Remove the thyme and pepper and discard. Remove the soup from the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree all the ingredients. Or you can transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth. 
Stir in the cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Return to low heat if necessary to heat the soup through. Serves 4-6. Garnish with croutons if desired. 

Island Food – Jamaica

We always plan to take one vacation a year.

Now, if you are a regular reader you are likely wondering what I’m talking about considering posts about South Carolina and Ireland have already popped up this year. This requires that I share some definitions with you.

We travel a lot. I wouldn’t have my life any other way. In fact, since we returned from Brazil we haven’t traveled nearly enough for me. I have to have travel. I’ve been known to say I like the airports, the lengthy flights, the squeezing all my liquids into a little baggie. That’s because in return I get incredible food, gorgeous scenery and a glimpse into other cultures.

Those trips that require hotel hopping, scheduling sight-seeing, going so fast that you come back more exhausted than you left; that’s travel and I love it.

But I also love vacation.

Vacation is what we did over Labor Day weekend. We headed back to our favorite tropical location – Jamaica. We floated, ate, drank, read, watched sunsets. Aside from a couple squash matches and walks on the beach, we did absolutely nothing. That’s vacation.

To adequately achieve this definition of vacation, we go for all-inclusive resorts, specifically Sandals. Despite mixed feelings on this type of vacation from travelers, we have never been disappointed. Its true relaxation and every bit of the paradise we want.

So we headed back to Sandals Whitehouse which is tucked in on the southern coast of the country; secluded with no planes overhead, a gorgeous beach, big pools and peaceful sunsets. All this along with our favorite martini bar, a nearly 24-hour pastry café and the best you can get of actual Jamaican food in a resort setting.

So here’s the part you are waiting for. The food and drink! Enjoy and I’ll be back in the kitchen soon.

Our welcome Rum Punch in the lobby.

Appetizers and martinis every night before dinner at the martini bar. This one has smoked marlin.

Appetizer tasting with smoked salmon, squid and octopus.

Fried calamari with a Greek salad.

Seafood ravioli.

Seafood stew in a white sauce, one of our favorites.

 
Fresh juice in the mornings, this one with melon and pineapple.
 

 
Red Stripe on the beach, enough said.
 

 
Our favorite lunch, blackened red snapper sandwich on coco bread with jerk mayo.
 

 
It may not look all that good in the photo, but Jamaican Pepper Pot soup is our favorite.
 

 
Jerk chicken, not as good as what you’d find from a street vendor, but still tasty and spicy.
 

 
Curry goat was the special one day for lunch, again may not look great, but tasted amazing.
 

 
Did I mention that cafe?
 

 
Every afternoon was just like this, pastries and a cappuccino.
 

 
Pumpkin Cheesecake and that’s Carrot Cake behind it.

 
 
Crepes for our final breakfast before boarding the bus to the airport.
 
I also took the garden tour offered at the resort and was introduced to some wonderful flowers and trees. These are seagrapes and we did get to taste them, nice and sweet with a huge seed in the middle.
Indian Almond, only about 10 plants or trees were native to Jamaica the rest have washed up on the shore over the years.
 
Soursop, our guide was so surprised when I knew what this was. What can I say, we travel a lot.
 
 
Jamaican Ackee, not yet ripe, but we saw ripe ones all over on the drive to the resort. When it ripens the big black seeds will become exposed.
 
 
Noni, which I had not heard of before but apparently it goes for a pretty penny in the States as a remedy for cancer.
 


Back Home in Jamaica

Welcome home!

That is always the first response we hear when we arrive in Jamaica. Well, after they ask us how many times we’ve been there. This time was number five and after traveling to Antigua for our yearly Caribbean trip last December, I was glad to be back on one of my favorite islands.

If you’ve read my blog for a while you know that the trip we just returned from last night (delayed and minus one bag) is one my husband and I have taken since our honeymoon in 2003. We moved the date to December which happens to be an awesome time because there is nothing like Christmas ornaments and palm trees in lights in the middle of the tropics.

We switch resorts each year and often islands as well. While we consider most all of our other trips travel (which to me means exploration), this trip is vacation. We sometimes do go off the resort like our private tour of Antigua last year, but this year, we just sat, and read, and ate and drank.

Did I mention we ate?

The weather was unlike anything we have experienced in previous trips. We only had a few days of sun, lots of clouds and some pretty fierce wind. Despite that, it is hard to be disappointed when you can watch the ocean, touch the sand, talk to people of one of my favorite cultures, and eat amazing food.

We aren’t buffet people, but depending on the resort are sometimes forced into that at breakfast. Breakfast is where we have to exercise the most restraint and pace ourselves. If you are too tempted by breakfast, then you won’t be hungry for a jerk patty at lunch. If you eat too much at lunch then say good-bye to enjoying your 4 course dinner.



Jerk Chicken Caesar Wrap 



Jamaican Beef Patty and a Red Stripe

I guess one could say we’ve learned over the years and try to avoid rookie mistakes. Passing on pancakes is well worth Jerk Pork Roti or Beef Wellington stuffed with spinach and mushrooms and paired with grilled shrimp.



Caesar Salad with a Jerk Chicken Toast



Beef Wellington, Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables



My photos are a mix those taken with good light, bad light, a point and shoot and my DSLR. For what it’s worth, enjoy!

I’ll be back in the North American Christmas spirit and baking away as soon as I get the suitcase unpacked!



Singapore Sling
They make a great one in Jamaica.



Pina Colada with dark rum



Chicken Curry with Poppadom and Mango Chutney



Fish and Chips



My favorite dessert – Coconut Bread Pudding with Ice Cream. Followed closely by…



Coffee Cheesecake with finely ground coffee baked into the top.




Bloody Mary in the morning. My favorite drink because it is made with the amazing
Catch A Fire Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.



My husband’s favorite – 15 year El Dorado Rum on the rocks. Goes nicely with the Christmas decorations.



Chips with Curry. Yes, we had a lot of curry.



My favorite lunch. Salad with a little jerk pork and chicken on the side.



Every day needs a little Rum Punch.

*****************

Now, those of you who entered last for a chance to win the Oh Nuts gift certificate and have been waiting patiently.

The winner via Random.org is #2, Cynthia! I’ll contact you via email. Congrats! Thanks to all those who entered. 








Pastured Sausage and Jalapeno Pizza

When we were in Antigua last December our resort had a lunch restaurant with a wood-fire pizza oven. Well, it wasn’t just a lunch restaurant it was actually open until about 5:00pm. The pizza was delicious, and I’m not going to lie, there were some fourth-meals consumed in the afternoon between lunch and dinner.
A few days before we departed we decided to try the Messicana pizza. This is a bit of an inside joke because everything supposedly Mexican in nature is “Mexicana” in Brazil, which is actually pronounced “meh-sh-cona”. So it is interesting to see what some cultures associate with Mexican cuisine. Trust me, we aren’t the only ones who completely screw it up. For example, the Mexicana pizza where we lived in Brazil often had Doritos on it. I rest my case.
This pizza in Antigua was topped with sausage, and jalapenos. At first I wasn’t incredibly motivated to try it, but once we finally did (very late in our trip) we were beating ourselves up that we hadn’t ordered it sooner. Such a simple combo, but it is so good.

This past weekend when my parents were in, I made my Brown Biscuits with the pastured pork sausage I got from Pike Valley Farm. I held some of it back to use later in the week for this pizza. Fortunately I also had some pizza crust in the freezer so it was a quick meal.

I don’t have a favorite crust at the moment. I typically use the recipe on the back of the Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat flour bag and substitute White Whole Wheat Flour to make it a little lighter. Turns out great.

For the sauce, I use tomato puree in my basic marinara and usually add a little more crushed red pepper to spice it up a bit. Although with the jalapenos on this pizza, that wasn’t really necessary.

Sausage Jalapeno Pizza

2 pizza crusts, about 8 to 9 inch
½ cup pizza sauce
¼ lb. pastured pork sausage, browned
1 cup cheese, shredded (I like cheddar with this combo)
½ cup sliced jalapenos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I know I’m a bit odd with this, but I don’t like my pizza dough to be uncooked or soggy in the middle. The only way I’ve been able to master this with at-home pizza is to bake it for about 5 to 7 minutes before adding the toppings.

Divide the sauce and spread on each pizza. Top with the sausage (with pastured you won’t need to do any draining or rinsing), then the cheese. Next spread your jalapenos evenly on each pizza. Bake 7 to 10 minutes more until cheese is browned and bubbly.

Tasting Antigua


“What would you like for lunch?,” our guide asked.

“Something local,” my husband and I said in unison.
I think our guide was a little surprised. There are a lot of food choices available on the island of Antigua, especially considering its rather European history. I had, however, read up on some of local, native foods of island before our trip and had been looking forward to trying them for months.
For the past several years we’ve taken a vacation in the Caribbean the week before Christmas. This year we made our first visit to the island of Antigua. We stay at Sandals resort, which we love, but as we’ve traveled more and more we find it important to get off the comfy resort and learn more about the places we are visiting. That, of course, also means having some local food.
This year we hired a private driver, a local named Roger. He took us out driving for the day and taught us so much about the history of his island. Probably due to the focus of my questions a large portion of what we learned was focused on food. For starters, he showed just about every fruit plant that grows in the area. I tried to make a list of the things we saw, but I’m sure I missed a few.

Sorrel, breadfruit, pomelo, lemon, lime, cacao, guava, passion fruit, pomegranate, custard apple, pineapple, banana, soursop, mango, avocado, ackee, papaya, tamarind and coconut.
That’s a lot of tropical fruit for one small island! In fact, Roger told us that many fruits such as the lemon and mango simply go to waste because they aren’t used in a lot of local cooking.


Midday we passed a few roadside stands selling fresh fruit, the highlight being the Antiguan Black Pineapple. Roger assured us that it would be the sweetest we’ve ever tried. I was skeptical considering all the delicious pineapples we were able to try in Brazil, but Roger was spot on. The flavor rivaled those of South America.

As you can see the pineapple isn’t black at all. It is small in size with a dark, golden skin when ripe. The owner of the stand we stopped at prides herself on only selling the Antiguan Black Pineapple. We got a plate of the pineapple and some finger bananas (as they were being called). The bananas were much like the banana maça we used to get in Brazil, but I’m not sure that they are the exact same variety. What a plate of nature’s goodness!


Roger came across as a natural, unprocessed food advocate and we had a lot of interesting, informative conversations throughout the day. He told us that because Antigua is so small many foods are imported. That also means that many food trends come along with it. For example, he said when he was growing up they made their own sea salt harvesting it from the water around them. Then all of a sudden they started receiving shipments of table salt and it began showing up in stores.

They began eating that type of salt being told that it was better, likely because of the iodine. Of course, today the focus is back on sea salt because of its beneficial mineral content. So what they had done as kids turned out to be the best practice.

I think we can all relate to that. Food trends whether for health or taste always seem to upset cultures and often healthy practices whether it be a large landmass or a small island.

For lunch we ended up at a small restaurant called Caribbean Taste. The best way to describe it was a home-slash-restaurant. Family and friends came in and out while we ate and groups of women sat in the main area of the building eating and preparing more food for cooking.



I was hoping to get to try the sorrel drink which is made around the holiday season, but they had not made it that particular day. Instead, we got some homemade ginger drink. This stuff was amazing. I’ve had ginger beer before which is carbonated, but this was like lemonade, but made with ginger instead. It was sweet with that spicy burn specific to fresh ginger root.


When I found out there was only one order of Ducana left for the day I quickly decided what I wanted. I had read about it prior to our trip and Roger explained it to us on the tour as well. Made of sweet potato, flour, sugar, coconut and spices it is a dumpling steamed in a banana leaf. Mine was served with salted cod in a red sauce and chop-up which is a mixture of veggies most prominently spinach. A delicious sweet and savory combination.


My husband tried the curried goat. Okay, I did try it. Since I had pet goats growing up and my parents still raise them I have a really hard time enjoying goat as a meal. However, I do understand the fact that it is a common protein source for many cultures. So in the spirit of being open to foods and culture I tried a bite.

I can’t say I loved it and that had nothing to do with the fact that it was goat. It reminded me of a roast like my mom used to make when I was growing up. Kind of fatty, but with tender yet slightly chewy meat. The flavor of the sauce was great, but I didn’t enjoy the meat, however, I think my husband would order it again for sure.

Along with the great food out on the island, the food at the resort wasn’t too shabby either. I will say we were disappointed that more local foods didn’t make the menu. We talked to Roger about this and he expressed that he wished the people of Antigua would demand that local foods be used on the menu. I’m speaking of local dishes/recipes here, not necessarily local ingredients. Apparently in Jamaica it is a priority so although you may not have something truly authentic it is likely you will find a version of escovitch fish, jerk chicken and ackee and salt fish even on the menus of all-inclusive resorts.

The one exception was the Caribbean rock lobster for which Barbuda (part of the same country as Antigua) is known. We had grilled lobster many times during our visit. I also had a bit of fungi for breakfast one morning which is a cornmeal similar to polenta. This version was formed into patties or cakes and served with okra.

Sushi with spicy crab

Fried Calamari

Seafood Chowder

Curry Lamb

Paradise Punch from the swim-up bar

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Deconstructed Tiramisu


I love foods of the Caribbean and Antiguan cuisine was no exception. If you find yourself there, head out and explore the island and eat some fantastic food while you’re at it!

Need a guide when you are there?
Our day with Roger was fantastic!
Roger’s Taxi & Tours
(268) 764 -6331
rogertaxitours (at) gmail (dot) com

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee: A Review and Recipe

I have two favorite things when it comes to the islands of the Caribbean.

One is rum.
The other is coffee.

Both of my favorites come from the island of Jamaica. I did just get back Saturday from a wonderful week in the Caribbean, an annual trip for us. However, this year we spent our time enjoying Antigua. One trade off of seeing a new island paradise was that I didn’t get to bring home any of my favorite 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Lucky for me, just a few days before we left I got an email from C&C Specialty Coffee asking me if I’d like to review their 100% Grade 1 Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. I don’t make a habit of doing too many reviews here, but as you can probably guess, my answer was a resounding YES to this request.

Great timing too. And here I was worried I’d be going through my fave coffee withdrawal this January.
I received a 1lb bag of whole beans. I wasn’t home when the box arrived so I went and picked it up from our apartment office. As soon as I got back in my car I had to use the key to open it up. I just couldn’t wait! The second I turned up the flap on the box the aroma filled my senses. There is nothing like it.

Just to share with you in a bit about this particular variety of coffee. It is grown in a specific region of the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and its cultivation is monitored by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. A few years ago, my husband and I took a bike tour through the Blue Mountains and were able to see these coffee plants first hand. It is known for having a mild flavor and a lack of bitterness. It is pricey because of its quality and because the small area means less is produced, but in my opinion it is worth every penny.

I opened the coffee yesterday and brewed myself a couple cups. It was dark, rich and full of flavor. The quality was what I’ve come to expect for this special coffee that I consider the best in the world.

As good as it was, of course, I couldn’t just drink it. I had to make something with it. It took me a while to decide just what. Now, I’m not trying to bombard you with biscotti given that it is what I also posted about on Friday. However, when I came across Kathy and Matthew’s (A Good Appetite) Spicy Double Chocolate Biscotti, I was inspired.

I wanted to find a way to keep most of the flavors Jamaican in nature, but all I could think of was jerk chicken! Then it dawned on me – Jamaican Allspice. I used whole and ground it myself and then ground the coffee beans into a fine espresso powder. I had a lot of walnuts on hand so I decided to use those as the nuts.

The biscotti are rich and chocolaty and the second it touches your tongue you can taste that slightly spicy, cinnamon flavor of the allspice.

Jamaican Coffee and Spice Biscotti 
Adapted from Spicy Double Chocolate Biscotti from A Good Appetite
 
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee beans, finely ground (I used that from C&C Specialty Coffee)1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground allspice
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or pieces

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Whisk or beat the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, ground coffee, baking soda and allspice. Gradually incorporate this mixture into the eggs and vanilla. Finally stir in the nuts and chocolate.

Grease a baking sheet with butter and divide the dough in two. Using buttered or floured hands shape each half into a log or rectangle side by side (leaving an inch or two between for spreading during baking) on the cookie sheet about 1 ½ inches in thickness. Bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into ½ to 1 inch wide slices using a serrated knife.

Place each piece back on the baking sheet with cut side up and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the pieces and bake another 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack. (Note: The original recipe instructs to lower the oven to 275 degrees F before the second baking, however, I forgot. Oops! Mine turned out fine, though.)


About the source:
C&C Specialty Coffee sells 100% Grade 1 Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and 100% Kona Coffee. They pride themselves on providing a quality product to their customers in a timely manner for competitive prices. So much so that they offer free shipping on all orders in the continental US. The coffee cost is $38 per pound with slight discounts for higher quantities. You may also choose medium or dark roast based on your preferences.

Once you get yours be sure to check out their recipes page. There are all kinds of interesting drink ideas including Coffee Eggnog.

A special thank you to C&C Specialty Coffee for providing the product for this review. As I’ve said before, Blue Mountain Coffee is worth the splurge. If you are a coffee lover, once you try it you will be hooked. And if you are not a coffee lover, it just might convince you to become one.

Have you tried 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee?

Disclosure: This coffee was sent to me free of charge by C&C Specialty Coffee. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. Thoughts and opinions are my own, as well as my love for Jamaica. 

Beachside Food Frenzy

Travel and food. The two just go together for me. Half of the excitement of travel for me is exploring new foods and interesting combinations.

I consider myself to be more of a traveler than a tourist. We like to seek out the not-so-visited places that are out of the main tourist scene in most of the locations we travel.

We are pretty successful at this, but there is one trip per year where we like to completely relax and be catered to a little. We don’t want to walk far for good food or drink and a beach and pool are important.

Since our honeymoon 5 years ago we have managed to make it to the Caribbean each year. We stay in the all-inclusive resorts of Sandals. Many people have mixed feelings about AI resorts and for good reason. There are many out there that are just buffets that lack character and any local culture whatsoever. They cater to large groups and getting the most for your money.

We’ve never had this experience before. Ours has always been complete paradise. This trip was no exception. The food this time was especially excellent. The only thing missing this time was a stop at a roadside stand for real Jerk Chicken. We got it at the resort, but it isn’t exactly the same thing.

There were so many good things it was difficult to narrow down my favorites. At the risk of making you read for days I did manage to pick the best of the best either because we loved it or because it was something unique. Some of things I hope to recreate in the future.

Most of our favorites ended up being from the Asian restaurant at the resort.
The Salmon Sushi Roll was especially tasty. It was more like a hot roll that had been deep fried a bit and the salmon had been cooked.

My husband loved the Papaya and Cashew salad. It had sliced papaya, bell peppers and was topped with chopped cashews. It was incredibly spicy so I can only assume there were some Scotch Bonnet peppers (a very popular ingredient in Jamaica) added to it.


The salmon dumplings were similar to the sushi just in dumpling form. The best part was that they were served with a really spicy chili sauce on the side. The combination was so great.

Our first day, the resort held a cooking class. I made sure to go, but it turned out to be more of a demonstration. Despite the lack of any hands on activities we did get to watch the chef prepare Jerk Chicken and Escovietch Fish. The fish is fried and topped with a combo of bell peppers and onion. They can’t make Jerk Chicken as it really should be due to environmental restrictions on the resort grounds. However, this sample was the best tasting I have had next to what we have gotten at a roadside stand.

Pepper pot soup is another traditional Jamaican dish. I have to find the recipe for this. It was almost like a mix between a potato soup and an Italian wedding soup without any meat or pasta. We had this the same night we enjoyed the Surf n Turf – an excellent filet with Caribbean lobster.

My husband always has to try escargot if it shows up on the menu. This isn’t my favorite, but he enjoys it.

Our crab cake has to win the award for presentation. The cucumber-lettuce tree made an impression. The crab cake was full of meat and balanced with the perfect amount of spices. It was served with a melon salsa.

The Crème Brule is probably the most unique dessert I have had. They served it floating in a bowl of strawberry granita and topped it with a coconut bon-bon like candy. The flavors were really interesting and the presentation was something I’d never seen before.

Each culture has a version of what I call “fair food”. It usually isn’t the healthiest option, often fried and high in calories in fat. But let’s be honest, these foods are worth a once or twice a year splurge. In Jamaica it is the Beef Patty. I can’t get enough of these things! It is a flaky pastry filled with beef and jerk seasonings. They are usually pretty spice and the best snack or lunch around. They also make a chicken variety which is seasoned with curry. It is good, but nothing beats the beef patty for me.

One day at the pool I overheard one couple asking another if they had tried the beef patty. They told them yes and indicated that they really didn’t like it. I seriously almost gasped out loud in shock!! Oh well, more for me!

I’m sure more things will be post worthy when I go through all my pictures. I still have to talk about all the amazing drinks. I’ll let you enjoy these pictures for now. They all tasted just as good as they look. I already can’t wait until next year’s trip!