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.
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.
Makes 20 Tamales
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!