Sunday, March 27, 2011

When you’re sick, eat Mashed Potatoes

Hi all. I wish I could be greeting you in the best of health, but for the past few days I have been fighting with a very strange cold virus that has been bumping about the office. The fever was the worst part, and it’s taking more than my prescribed meds to keep it in check and presently I’m also the not-so-happy owner of a lingering cough that has me sounding like a refugee from the old Caura hospital in T&T.

My precious appetite has also decreased. My diet for the past few days has been Lucozade, tea, cheese, toast, Dixie biscuits and the odd egg. I forced myself to eat some sada roti with a scrambled egg for lunch yesterday, but today, I’m at home with some leftover fried shark, and I’m desperately seeking some accompaniment for it. It was just then I happened across a can of lentils on my kitchen shelf and my fridge yielded up a few (still firm) potatoes, which brought back memories of Granny mashing some hot potatoes to feed me whenever I felt ill. (I know, usually sick people want soup, but not the members of my family!)
Therefore, today calls for some of my Granny’s Snuzzy mashed potatoes to make me feel good. So, let’s get started.

First, get yourself a handful of potatoes.

Peel them well. I like to cut mine into sixes, just so they cook a bit faster. Don’t forget to take off any black bits you find.

Put them in a pot of cold water and add a good pinch of salt to them, or my favourite thing, a couple of Maggi cubes. It gives the water an extra punch of flavour and potatoes are great at sucking up whatever seasoned liquid they happen to be cooking in.

Let them boil for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender – that means it doesn’t give any resistance when pricked with a fork or the tip of a knife.

Drain them well.

Get your potato masher and start to mash them while they’re still steaming.

Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of Blue band butter.

Let the heat of the potatoes melt the butter as you continue to mash them.

Next is Granny’s secret ingredient, condensed milk. I know, it seems weird to bring something sweet to a potato but paired with the saltiness of the butter, it works a strange kind of magic. A couple tablespoons should do the trick.

Continue to mash... Now taste… and voila! Just like Granny used to make it.

Now for some lunch… this is just a saucer-ful. Told you, my appetite isn’t what it’s normally been lately, but I am happy because it’s comforting. Oh, you want the recipe? Here you go…

Granny’s Mashed Potatoes

About 5 or 6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into six or eight pieces each
6 to 7 cups water (for boiling)
2 Maggi Vegetable cubes or 1 large pinch of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons Blue Band butter
1 or 2 tablespoons condensed milk

  1. Boil the potatoes in the water flavoured with the 2 Maggi Vegetable cubes (or salt) over a medium high flame for 15 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Drain the potatoes. Mash while hot, using a potato masher.
  3. Next, add in 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter and continue to mash.
  4. Add in the condensed milk (start with one tablespoon first) and mix it well until the potatoes become nice and creamy, yet look firm.Taste.( If you like, another spoonful of condensed milk can go in.)
  5. Serve warm and enjoy.
One of the main things I love about these potatoes is that you can do even more with them, including adding some roasted garlic to them, or sprinkling in a few chives… don’t worry, we will try more potato magic as my blog continues. For now, I will be remembering Granny as I eat and relax. With any luck, they just might bring my appetite back, hahahaa!

So you all take care, have a great day, and like I always say, doh forget to mind de pot. Much love and many hugs. :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When Callaloo leads Sunday Lunch

Living in Trinidad and Tobago means that you will inevitably either partake or create a Sunday Lunch, which is always a highly structured affair.
Almost every household – cultural differences aside – has some component of the Sunday lunch on their plates (once time and energy permits). Meat is a must, unless you are a vegetarian. I’ve seen people gorge on stewed or roasted (or barbecued) chicken, pork, beef, lamb and various types of fish. However, for a Sunday lunch to be called just that, it usually has three main components: (1) macaroni pie (a casserole of boiled macaroni that’s baked in a lovely mix of flavoured cheese, milk and eggs), (2) potato salad (which we love to create from boiled, cubed potatoes, green peas and carrots and tossed with flavoured mayonnaise) and (3) callaloo, a unique blended dish made from the leaf of the dasheen plant (or taro), ochroes and coconut milk and sometimes cooked with crab (a regular treat in Tobago).

Today was no different in that I’d planned to have all three parts to accompany my Sunday lunch of rice, boiled ripe plantains and stewed chicken (helped along with a little cucumber salad). The potatoes and carrots were waiting in the fridge. The macaroni was ready to be snapped. The callalloo bush and extra ochroes were on standby. However... I did not feel the vibe to do all this work. Maybe if I had done my usual Saturday prep of cleaning and seasoning, grating and pre chopping … but no. I was left with a decision to make, and I decided that there would be no pie and no potato salad today. Thus, I cleaned and seasoned half a chicken, placed two plantains to boil and washed the rice and started preparing the callaloo with as much love as I always did. Question… would it still be a "proper" Sunday lunch with only callaloo? You tell me…

Now this is how I usually buy my callaloo, pre packaged to save time. The leaves are already cut, so all you have to do…

Is wash the leaves well...

And put them into your pot.

Cut up the pumpkin pieces and add them in,

Then slice half a large onion and chop 10 large ochroes…
Add two whole cloves of garlic (as you can see, this one was beginning to sprout),

Two pimento peppers, cut into thirds...

followed by three crushed up Maggi stock cubes (your preference; I’m using vegetable cubes here) and a hot red pepper! (Doesn’t that pot look pretty?)

Next comes the coconut milk powder, another time saver. Though we live in the tropics, we can’t always find a coconut to grate and extract our own milk now, can we?

Just mix it according to the package directions and POUR on the LOVE!

Cover, put the pot on a medium flame and let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes to start.
After the first 8 minutes, the green leaves at the bottom will wilt a bit as the coconut milk bubbles away. Give it a good stir and cover again.

About 10 more minutes after that (and a reduced flame) the pumpkin begins to break down and the hot pepper begins to deflate. A word of caution; resist the urge to flatten that pepper with your spoon… the HEAT will be crazy! Taste for seasoning and add a little salt if you like.

Five minutes later, we have a cooked callaloo! The liquid is thick and leaves nice slimy trails when dropped from your spoon. The ochro seeds have also changed colour, which is one of the things my Granny always told me to check.

Now for the blending. First, take out the pepper, for obvious reasons…

Get your blender and pour in half of the callaloo...  (Don’t worry; I grew up using a swizzle stick to blend my callaloo back in the day. The blender saves time and is less stressful… trust me!)

And always remember, when blending hot things, remove the centre cap from your blender's cover and place a cloth over the opening so the the steam will go into it. This way, there won't be a build-up of steam inside.

Pulse it until the texture is to your liking. I like mine a bit chunky in parts, so this is good for me.

Pour into your serving dish...

and place the hot pepper back in. All Done!

Here’s my happy plate of stewed chicken with baked beans, white rice, boiled plantains, cucumber & tomato salad and my lovely callaloo, which I polished off with a glass of LLB. Yum!

Here's the easy recipe...
Simple Callaloo


One callaloo pack from your local grocery. (Note: These have pre chopped bush, 2 pieces of pumpkin, 4 or 5 ochroes and 1 hot pepper. However, you will have to purchase extra ochroes… they never pack enough.)
¾ to 1 cup peeled and cubed pumpkin, cut into cubes
8-10 ochroes, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
2 gloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic paste)
1 or 2 pimento peppers, sliced
2 stalks chive (optional)
1 red, yellow or green hot pepper (left whole)
1 packet coconut milk powder (mixed with 2 cups warm water)
2 Maggi stock cubes, your preference
Salt (optional)
Black pepper (optional)


  1. Wash the callaloo bush and place into your cooking pot. (Do not add water).
  2. Add the cubed pumpkin, ochroes, sliced onion, garlic, pimento peppers, chive and to the pot.
  3. Crumble the Maggi cubes and sprinkle them over the vegetables and place the hot pepper in the middle.
  4. Prepare coconut milk powder by mixing it with 2 cups of warm water and stirring until dissolved. Pour slowly over the vegetables.
  5. Set the pot on the stove, cover and cook for 8 to10 minutes, stirring the pot and making sure not to bruise the hot pepper. Taste for salt.
  6. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes until the callaloo bush is tender and the ochro seeds have changed from gray to a pinkish colour.
  7. Remove the hot pepper and process the mixture in a blender by pulsing it. Do NOT liquefy – the mix must still have some “bite” to it.
  8. Pour into your serving dish and enjoy with your Sunday lunch!

Now you tell me, was that a nice simple Sunday lunch or not? I mean, from the looks of the plate alone, I doubt that a macaroni pie and potato salad was necessary here at all; it would have bordered on gluttony, hahahaa! My point was that a Sunday Lunch is whatever you make of it, whether you have all three items or just one. Once the food is made with love and enjoyed, there’s no way you can go wrong.

So, I hope you enjoyed a peep into my Sunday cooking and I look forward to hearing your take on the Sunday Lunch phenom. Take care of yourselves and families in the meantime and like I always say, doh forget to mind de pot! Love and hugs! :-D

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Pillsbury Crescent Adventure

I had wanted to try these easy bake crescent rolls for months. I love crescent rolls. Here at home we can buy them pre-packaged in cling-wrapped batches of 20 or have serving ladies pluck them from their displays on the bakery shelves and hand them to you – for a price, of course! From hors d'oeuvre size to those as big as your hand, they’re eaten plain or baked with cheese and ham or created into sandwiches packed with turkey, tuna or chicken salad (with the obligatory lettuce and tomato).

Obviously, I do have recipes for crescent rolls, but they are time consuming. However, on my recent trip to the grocery I decided to jump in with both feet and purchase these. (By the way, don’t you just love the commercials featuring the little Pillsbury Doughboy? I just love that sound he makes when you rub his belly… “hoo-hoo”… but I digress.)

Now you know me; before I even attempt to use things like this, I read the instructions, then re-read… and re-re-read. Then I do as the packet or box says and realise that the instructions don’t always correspond to what I call “Trini Conditions,” which are how our climate and cookware behave with many foreign products.  With that said, there are a few main things you should know about we Trinidadians and Tobagonians when it comes to food…

1) Our chicken must be browned…
2) We don’t like our meat “rare”...
3) Seasoning isn’t just salt and black pepper…
4) Baked pastries must not be pale when they come out the oven.

So, with number four echoing in my head, I wondered how my Pillsbury adventure would play out in my tiny kitchen…

I extracted the cylinder of Pillsbury crescent roll dough from the fridge…

Had a hard time busting it open because the pull tab just tore off instead of sliding down the side. Ended up stabbing it with my knife, only to have dough pour out like toothpaste, hahaa! One good whack on the counter cured that, though.

Unrolling these things are not easy, so don’t laugh at the display here. :-)

So, after preparing my hot dog sausages and (extra) cheese, I put them on the bottom edge of the pastry, then rolled them up, one by one.

Transferred them to an ungreased sheet pan.

For the Halcie touch, I sprinkled on some Italian seasoning. Nice!

Baked them up for about 15 minutes or so… didn’t take them out until I was happy with the colour and saw that they were nice and flaky. (Notice how the cheese seeped out and caked up on the pan... of course, I ate those!)

Selected a couple for me and a couple for my boy. My daughter tried a couple as well, but without the sausage, lol!

The rest went to the fridge for another day.

Sampled. One word… DELICIOUS!! Recipe? Sure.

Hal’s Sausage Crescents

1 package Pillsbury Crescents (yields 8)
4 hot dog sausages, cut into halves to make 8 pieces
4 three inch slices of cheese, cut into two (extra cheese was in mine as you saw)
Italian Seasoning for sprinkling.


  1. Open, unroll and separate the crescents.
  2. One by one, place a sausage half and a piece of cheese at the bottom end of the crescent and roll it up like a little package. (You can seal the edges if you like by pinching them together.)
  3. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes (or slightly longer) until puffed, golden brown and flaky to the touch.
  4. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then enjoy!

I realise that I deviated from the standard baking time (as is the norm with me). The package directions say 11 minutes, which is not nearly enough time, since they were still a bit uncooked and pale. Go to about 15 to 18 minutes tops and you’ll be rewarded for your trouble. Eating them was a pleasure. So soft and pillowy… going to repeat the recipe with different fillings in future, that’s a promise.

Off to rest the brain and later, work on my cookbook. Thinning it out, actually… but not to worry. It’s all about marketing, packaging, etc. If it helps, I’ve already chosen my cover pic, which features the ingredients for popular side dish, which will be in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned! I know you are all anxious for the completed product – as am I – and I do not want to disappoint. As my Granny always said, “Good things come to those who wait!”

Till next posting, be safe, take care, and doh forget to mind de pot! Ah gorn! :-)