Friday, 27 February 2015

Jamaican Ginger Cake

The first great thing about this cake it how easy it it. Mix everything in a bowl, bake and then sprinkle with icing sugar and serve. I love finding cakes which don't need any kind of icing or fancy decoration, because it's so much less work :) The rich taste of this cake doesn't need any icing, glaze or drizzle - it's perfect just how it it. The second great thing about this cake is that it tastes like a million dollars in your mouth. It's got a double it of ginger - fresh and ground - and luscious molasses to give it that dark and sticky quality. The flavours are reminiscent of gingerbread, but the consistency is soft, moist and sticky. It looks plain and unassuming, but I think it's probably my favourite of all the cakes I've made for all the countries I've featured (that's a big call, but I'm making it!).

Jamaican Ginger Cake
Adapted from Feast Magazine Issue 35 (September 2014)

160g vegan margarine or butter
200g dark brown sugar
90g castor sugar
2/3 cup apple sauce
4-5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
100g blackstrap molasses
100ml oat or soy milk
300g plain flour (I prefer wholemeal, but you can use either)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
Pinch salt
Powdered sugar, to serve

To Make
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Lightly grease a 22-23cm cake tin and line with baking paper.
2. Beat margarine and both sugars together using electric beaters for about 5 minutes, until smooth and thick. 
3. Add the apple sauce a bit at a time and beat in. Then beat in the molasses, grated fresh ginger and milk. Fold in the flour, bicarb soda, baking powder, salt and spices. 
4. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool slightly in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. 
5. Sprinkle the cool cake generously with powdered sugar. If you like an extra ginger hit, mix a pinch or two of ground ginger in with the powdered sugar that you sprinkle on the top. 
6. Eat it. Preferably with a cup of tea.

Makes 1 x 23cm diameter cake. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Jamaican Lemonade

It's wonderful to make your own lemonade - at least that way you know what goes in it! I absolutely loved the Limoonada (Egyptian Orange Blossom Lemonade) that we had for Egypt month, so I jumped at the chance to make another variation from another culture. This Jamaican lemonade is fantastic, the dark brown sugar and molasses make for a much less sickly sweet drink with a bit more of an adult flavour. It goes fantastically with a shot of rum mixed through, but mostly we just appreciated it on ice because the day I made it was so hot and we were running around cleaning the house. It seriously hit the spot!

This recipe fills up about 3 x 750ml bottles, so great for a party. If you're just making it for yourself at home, you can use a half or third of the recipe or just bottle it up and drink it over the course of a week or two. Those 3 bottles we made, they didn't last for long!

Jamaican Lemonade

10 limes (if your limes are not very juicy you may need a couple more)
2 lemons
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 (generous) tsp molasses
10 cups cold water

To Make
1. Juice the lemons and limes. Combine the juice with the brown sugar, molasses and water and stir until all the sugar and molasses has dissolved.
2. Pour into bottles and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes about 3 x 750ml bottles. May be more or less depending on how juicy your lemons and limes are.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Gizzada - Jamaican Coconut & Brown Sugar Tarts

Even after so many years cooking it is so lovely to keep learning new tricks and techniques. I was really impressed with the traditional Jamaican method of making these lovely stand alone tart shells, they save you needing to have lots of mini tart pans around the house - plus you don't have to wash up all the pans! They make such a lovely little star shaped tart and are so beautiful filled with this traditional Jamaican filling of coconut and brown sugar.

Gizzada - Jamaican Coconut and Brown Sugar Tarts

2 cups flour (I prefer wholemeal), + extra for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp margarine (or vegan butter)
2 cups iced water

1 coconut, flesh grated (makes between 3 and 4 cups fresh grated coconut)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp margarine (or vegan butter)

To Make
1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl or food processor. Cut margarine into small pieces into the flour. Rub with fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or, if using a food processor, simply pulse a few times until mixture resembles the same). 
2. Add ice water a little at a time while you mix (or process) until there is enough liquid for the dough to start to form into a ball. Once the dough is wet enough to stick together in a ball but not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers when you touch it, it is enough liquid. Once you've reached this stage form your dough into a nice smooth ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
3. While the pastry is in the fridge, make the filling. First, grate the coconut either using a special coconut grater or by cracking open the coconut into as many pieces as you can and then gently prising the pieces away from the skin (the flesh will have one brown edge, don't worry - that's fine). Once you have it in pieces you can grate it on a standard box or plane grater. 
4. Combine the sugar and water in a pan and place over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let simmer until it starts to thicken slightly (between 5 and 10 minutes). Once it has thickened a bit add the grated coconut, nutmeg and allspice. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes and then add the margarine. Continue to cook until the mixture has no more liquid and the margarine is dissolved and then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Remove the pasty from the fridge and cut in half. Roll out half of the pastry until it is about 1/4 inch thick (don't make it too thin or the tarts wont be able to stand up by themselves). Cut circles using a 5-6 inch diameter cutter or bowl. Pinch each circle as in the pictures below to form the star shaped tart shells. Make sure you pinch firmly so the dough sticks together well and doesn't simply come apart.

7. Continue making the tart shells until you have used up all of the pastry. Place them on a tray lined with baking paper and prick the bottoms of each one with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the tray halfway to ensure even cooking. Remove and allow to cool slightly so you can fill them.
8. Fill each casing with plenty of the cooled coconut filling. The shells can hold quite a lot, so you shouldn't have any trouble using up all your filling. Return to the tray and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the pastry is just golden and the filling is slightly crispy on top. Remove and cool before eating. 

Makes about a baker's dozen gizzada (this can vary depending on how big your cutter is).

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Jamaican Peanut Punch (Peanut Milkshake)

I can't resist trying some of the more unusual recipes which come up in my research, because I think it's great to try things a little out of your comfort zone. This traditional Jamaican drink is flavoured primarily with peanuts, which is certainly a new experience for me. It is sometimes made with sweetened condensed milk, and sometimes with regular milk sweetened with honey or sugar. I've used home made oat milk and sweetened it with lovely dark brown sugar. It was actually really nice.

It's not part of the traditional recipe to blend the peanuts twice but I wanted to get as much peanut-y-ness out of them as I could. I ended up saving the peanut mush I was left with and I'm planning to throw it into my next cupcake batch.

Peanut Punch

1 cup chopped roasted peanuts (unsalted)
2 cups oat milk
3 cups water

2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (more or less to taste, depending on how sweet you like it)
1 tap vanilla extract
1/4 tap nutmeg, plus extra to sprinkle on servings

To Make:
1. Place the peanuts in a blender with 1 cup oat milk and 1 cup water and blend thoroughly.
2. Strain the liquid into a jug or bowl and then return the peanut mush back in the blender with the remaining oat milk and water and blend again. Strain again and then discard the peanuts.
3. Rinse out your blender and return your strained liquid to the blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend again until frothy and serve immediately. Or, store  in the fridge and blend or whisk just before serving. Serve sprinkled with some grated nutmeg.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Jerk Tofu & Pineapple Skewers

The cornerstone of Jamaican savoury food is Jerk seasoning, used on just about anything (although mostly meat!). I've made some jerk tofu to get us started on Jamaican month and made it into BBQ skewers with pineapple. The photograph here is from before they were cooked, because after they were cooked they were gobbled up immediately :)

Jerk Tofu & Pineapple Skewers

375g hard tofu, drained and pressed and cut into cubes
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into cubes
2-3 shallots, cut into 1 inch lengths

Jerk Marinade:
2 shallots, chopped
2.5 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 scotch bonnet chilli (if you don't like it hot, use only a quarter)
3 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp oil

To Make:
1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor (or mortar and pestle) and purée into a smooth paste.
2. Pour the marinade all over the tofu cubes and mix well. Marinade overnight, or for at least a couple of hours. Mix or toss the tofu every so often to make sure the marinade is coating all the tofu.
3. If using wooden skewers, soak in water while you get all the ingredients ready to thread.
4. Cut your pineapple and shallots and thread these onto the skewers with the tofu. Once finished drizzle any marinade left all over the skewers.
5. BBQ until the tofu is browned and starting to go crispy and the pineapple is golden brown and starting to caramelise. You may need to add a little oil to the BBQ if it is too dry. Eat straight away while they're hot.

Makes approximately 17 skewers.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Jamaican Rum Punch

Getting back into exploring the lesser-known cuisines of the world this month with the first featured country for 2015 - and it's Jamaica! I've been keen to get to the culinary delights if the Caribbean, so I'm very excited about this month. Since it's hot as anything here at the moment and I'm dreaming of being on a beach in the Caribbean as we speak, I thought I'd start us off with a cocktail.

A classic Caribbean Rum Punch has a basic formula, which is fun because it leaves you with lots of room to experiment with different flavours and combinations. Here are the basic guidelines:

1 measure Sour
2 measures Sweet
3 measures Strong
4 measures Weak

Quite straightforward and nice and easy to remember. The sour is usually lemon juice or lime juice, the sweet is usually raspberry syrup, grenadine or cherry syrup, the strong is rum (of course!) and the weak is where you can get creative. A lot of people just use water as their weak, which is ok but makes for a pretty weak flavoured punch. You can use juice, especially of tropical fruits. You can use lemonade or ginger beer. Some people use beer. I've used apple cider and it was so delicious, you can also use sparkling apple juice instead.

I've used a standard 30ml cocktail measure for mine, which serves two. If you're making a big bowl of punch, you'll probably want to use cups as your measure

Jamaican Rum Punch

1 measure fresh lime juice
1 measure raspberry syrup
3 measures rum
4 measures apple cider

To Make:
1. Mix all ingredients together. Fill 2 glasses with plenty of ice and distribute punch between them.
2. Garnish frivolously with slices of fruit or superfluous drink umbrellas.
3. Sip & feel all your worries fade away.