Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Shopping: Caribbean night

Bright fruity Scotch Bonnet peppers. The only way to tell if they are genuine Scotch Bonnets, according to Catherine Phipps, is by making a tiny incision with your thumb nail (when the stall holder isn't looking) and smelling. The fakes smell like ordinary red peppers, whereas the Scotch Bonnets smell fruitier, darker and more flavoursome. 
Yesterday morning, hot summer weather flooded the streets of London with sunshine on a March day, and I went shopping around Shepherd's Bush market with Catherine Phipps. This is literally one of my favourite activities: shopping in foreign markets or supermarkets. I think you learn so much about a culture by looking at what they sell, what they consider utterly essential in the home. We chatted happily with shop keepers and even passersby on the street joined in "that sounds good, can I come?" when we excitedly discussed our menu.

Saturday's Menu:

Sorrel Punch
Planter's Punch
Lime, Cinnamon and Rum Punch

Salt fish fritters
Plantain fritters

Scotch bonnet and red wine dipping sauce
Tamarind dipping sauce

Green Papaya and Mango Salad

Callaloo, Plantain and Coconut Soup
Savoury Coconut Bread

Sorrel and Ginger Granita

Stuffed Crab Backs

Roasted breadfruit fried in butter
Christophene and ginger gratin
Spiced pumpkin
Black eyed peas in coconut milk  

Ginger cake with spiced rum & raisin icecream, mango meringues

Ginger and coconut crackles

I really love Green Seasoning, I put it in sandwiches. It's an unusual mix of green herbs such as Thyme, coriander (or Chadon Beni if you can get hold of it) and spring onions originated in Trinidad. Caribbean cooking is so much more varied than the better known Jamaican jerk chicken style. 
Bread fruit. We'll be buying it closer to the time as it won't last till Saturday.
Catherine choosing tamarind. There are two types: sweet and sour. 
When buying salt fish, choose skinless and boneless, it's possibly not as tasty as the  type with skin and bones but it's alot easier to work with.
We stood outside a rum shop and a Caribbean lady in a mobility scooter talked about her favourite rum.  You can also buy 'Overproof' rum which has an alcohol content of 63%. Catherine and I did a taste test at home, comparing white rum, golden rum and overproof. Catherine preferred the overproof "lovely in a Cuba libre" which was too strong for me.

Green paw paw or papaya. You can get three types of this flexible fruit: unripe, semi-ripe and ripe. The first is for savoury dishes, the second can be used in sweet or savoury recipes and the ripe can be used in desserts.
Catherine choosing the best christophenes, a vegetable I have never used before,  also known as Cho Cho or Choyote.
Some of the breadfruits are so large; these are almost a metre long. 
Book here if you want to come to this Caribbean feast.


  1. Looks amazing!!! My mouth is actually watering as I type this. Have fun.

  2. Looks AMAZING! My mouth is literally watering as I type this comment! Have a wonderful supper, Ann-Marie.

  3. I so wish I could come -- this looks like exciting food and a great evening -- but I am lead cooking at the crack of dawn at the Food Chain and hence I've chained myself to my radiator.

    I would love to learn to cook with some of the more exotic tropical produce you're working with, e.g., christophene (used a lot in Mexican cooking too, I think), breadfruit, which I've always been somewhat nervous of, etc. Might you do another Carribean night? Would you want free cheerful help?

  4. Hey! This was a lovely an interesting post. I have tried many Asian foods and visited the shops as well but been unable to shop anything due to my lack of knowledge :S I once bought a package of Tamarind and it´s still in my cupboard. No one could eat it! It´s aweful! :P Do you know how it´s supposed to be eaten? I thought it´d be like dried dates or plums, but it was nothing like that. Is it supposed to be prepared somehow?

    Thans for your great blog love to read your messages :)

  5. Hi Maria,

    What kind of tamarind did you have? Was it in a block with with seeds still in it? Or just a paste?

    If it still has seeds/strings intact, you need to cover the lot in hot water, mash it up and strain through a sieve, adding more hot water as necessary. You'll then have tamarind pulp which you can use in lots of different ways, but it's especially good at adding sourness to curries, especially if paired with coconut milk to balance it out. Look for recipes from the Far East or the Caribbean for ideas.

  6. This looks amazing! So sad that I won't be in town to come along. All the best!

  7. Sounds fantastic, but please can I also have Brown Stew Chicken with Rice and Peas???

  8. Thought I'd pop by to say hello Kerstin- I have put that hen pic up on my blog!

  9. I just love the colour of the Scotch Bonnets. You have captured them really well!


I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)