Thursday, 15 January 2015

Chicken Tropicana

I'm lucky enough to go on holiday twice a year, this is usually a weekend/city break and a longer holiday, usually to the Caribbean. Last year I visited the very cosmopolitan, vibrant, young city of Miami (as part of my Caribbean cruise) and could not leave this city without purchasing a cookbook (it's a new thing for me every time I go on holiday) which reflected on the area that I visited. Unfortunately as I was in Miami for 2 days, I did not sample, in my opinion traditional Floribbean food, the harmonious flavours of Florida, the Caribbean and Latin America, which is infectious as you walk along a street and hear Spanish or creole spoke, but luckily I was able to do this through this book.
A recipe that really caught my eye, was "Chicken Tropicana", just the name Tropicana sounds exotic, and for me, revokes memories of lying on Copacabana beach, Rio. The reasoning behind the name, I can only presume it is the Caribbean spiced chicken, mango, cooked in coconut milk and served with fluffy rice and the obligatory fried plantain. You see, with flavours like this, you could take yourself to Miami, The Caribbean and Latin American in one meal. This dish, was mouth watering, I personally think any meat seasoned well, cooked in coconut milk is an instant winner, but for me, what made this dish standout more so than others, was the combination of the savoury chicken with the delicate sweetness of the mango. Perfect for mid-week meal and to explore new flavour combinations. 
Here is how my Chicken Tropicana turned out:
Chicken Tropicana

Chicken Tropicana

Chicken Tropicana cooking and fried plantain.

Miami Spice
Recipe for Chicken Tropicana

Serves 4
1 chicken (about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 even-size pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger or fresh ginger
2 cups of coconut milk, or canned, unsweetened
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 cup dried fresh papaya
1 cup died fresh pineapple

1) Wash the chicken and blot dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Brown the chicken on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and pour off all the fat.
2) Melt the butter in the pan. Saute the shallots, garlic, and ginger until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the coconut milk, marmalade and salt and pepper.
3) Simmer the chicken, uncovered, until almost cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the fresh fruits and cook the chicken through, about 5 minutes more. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. 
4) Transfer the chicken to a bowl or platter and spoon the sauce and fruit over it. 

Serve with basmati rice and fried plantain.


Monday, 22 December 2014

Carib Grill

As a lover of Caribbean food and restaurants, I was estatic when a deal became available on Groupon which featured Carib Grill restaurant. Carib Grill is located in the leafy cosmopolitan area of Moesley in Birmingham. The deal that really caught my eye was: 1/2 jerk chicken, rice and peas & rum punch for two people for the barginous £16. I knew that there would be no way I would be able to stick to that budget, not least because having viewed the menu online, the starters and desserts looked tantalising. Birmingham is no stranger to a large selection of Caribbean restaurants and I have covered a couple here on the blog. But every restaurant is different, different presentation of food, flavours and atmosphere, so I promptly decided to visit this restaurant. I was initially impressed with the bold exterior, this must be the first restaurant I have visited which is covered in red and green; it certainly stood out on the high street. The colourful exterior was matched by the colourful interior, there were flags from the more well-known Caribbean islands. There was also softly played reggae and calypso music played in the restaurant and reminded me of a restaurant that I visited in St Maarten. 

Our table was booked for 8pm one rainy Friday, but for one reason or another (poor time planning on my part), my amigo and I arrived at 20:40. Fortunately the waiter greeted us with a beaming smile and ushered us to our seats. Once we were seated and gave the Groupon voucher, we were quickly served our rum punch. I love rum punch, but I was not expecting it to contain soooooooo much rum. It was a good job I was not driving as I would not be able to finish of my tropical rum punch, which was served with nutmeg for that additional flavour, due to the high alcohol content.  I was impressed with the presentation of the rum punch, especially the umbrella, it was, as they say in Jamaica, it was "irie".
Rum punch
Next up, was the main event 1/2 jerk chicken with rice and peas (£10.50) , oh and a side order of fried plantain (£3.50) . I could smell the jerk chicken whilst I was chatting to my amigo, the infection barbecue smell swept through the restaurant, so when it was served I was anticipating great things. The jerk chicken was beautifully presented and tasted pretty awesome. The distinctive jerk flavour was there; the chicken skin was crispy and well seasoned, the chicken meat tender, moist and juicy. In fact, although the portion size was huge, I wanted more, yes more jerk chicken because this was the BEST  jerk chicken I have tasted outside of Jamaica. The rice and peas was filling and tasted delicious too, the peas was gungo peas (my favourite) and presumably cooked in coconut milk, due to the rich creamy taste. With every jerk chicken that I order, I have to have an accompanying side dish of fried plantain: my favourite side dish, sweet, addictive and divine. My only criticism of the fried plantain is it was slightly dry, I like my fried plantain to be fried in oil, lots of it, I suspect that there was restraint with the oil used.

Jerk Chicken

Fried Plantain
I almost always have two courses when eating out, either a starter and main or a main or dessert, I decided with the latter. Having recently returned from my annual Caribbean break, I sampled the most amazing Tortuga cake from the Cayman islands and greatly anticipated to try this cake again, as this was on the menu. I was very disappointed, almost distraught that the Tortuga cake was sold out because apparently, this is brought in batches from the restaurants owners trips to the Caribbean. After some consolation, I ordered the chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice-cream. This was a wonderful second choice, the slice of cake came straight out of the land of the giants. Most importantly was the taste, chocolatey, rich, gory, delicious, moreish and moist, this was the perfect slice of cake for me.

I would definitely visit again, the restaurant had a friendly relaxed Caribbean vibe and more importantly the food represented true Caribbean cuisine and superb value for money. In fact, it was a "home from home".

Positives: Excellent food, excellent service, great atmosphere.
Negatives: A dish that I wanted to order was not available.

This restaurant gets a 4 star rating by Food Glorious Food.

Food Glorious Food Restaurant rating index.
5 Star - Excellent: loved the food, loved the restaurant, loved the service, Already booked my next visit.
4 Star - Overall good: food was delicious will visit soon.
3 Star - Average: food was nice, but improvements can be made. No rush to return.
2 Star - Below average: nothing special, in no rush to visit again.
1 Star - Inadequate: Do not go, you have been warned.

Disclaimer: I reviewed this restaurant because I love eating out, as always, all opinions are my own.

Carib Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 November 2014

MSC Divina and Caribbean islands

I love reminiscing about holidays and all the memories that I have, good and bad. I recently went on a cruise, this was my second cruise but my first big cruise. Back in 2012 I went on a mini P & O cruise to Belgium and Guernsey. But this cruise,  by MSC, for those who want to know stands for (Mediterranean Shipping Country) I visited numerous Caribbean islands. I said adios to the West Midlands and Ola to the East and West Caribbean islands: Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Mexico, Bahamas, Miami, St Marten, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk. 
What I did not realise at the time of booking is that MSC cruises is an Italian cruise line, so there was lots of Italian food, which during week 1 is fabulous, not so great for week 2. There are seated allocation for the two main restaurants on board MSC Divina: The Black Crab and Le Muse. There were several other speciality restaurants including Eataly steakhouse and Ristourante Italia. These speciality restaurants came at a cost, the same as a normal a la carte restaurant so, in my opinion did not represent value for money.
As time is of the essence, I was in two minds on what to review on my blog, should I review every island and my experience there and bypass my experience on the cruise. Or should I share my experience on MSC cruise and limit the time given to the beautiful Caribbean islands. I've come up with a wonderful solution to this, which is share the food on the cruise ship, alongside food whilst visiting the islands. With the occasional beach snap just for good measure.
Here are some of my favourite dishes served on MSC Divina. These include: waffles, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, spaghetti cabonara, chicken and ribs, smoked salmon and bagels.

Food MSC Divina

Food MSC Divina

Food MSC Divina

Of course, the whole idea of cruises is to visit different places during one holiday and on this cruise, wake up in a different place every day. I had to go traditional when in Jamaica and when I visited the popular fast food chain Island Grill ordered jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried festival and salad. A trip to the Grand Cayman, I decided to continue with somewhat of a traditional theme ordering jerk chicken wraps instead of the burgers that were on offer. 
Jerk chicken

Chicken wraps

Cayman coconuts
I've held a strong view of what Mexican food is like and what better way of trying traditional Mexican fare by ordering a Mexican platter in Mexico. My Mexican platter consisted of steak, chicken, fish, tortillas, guacamole and a spicy habernero sauce on the side.
Mexican platter

The Bahamas, Great Stirup Cay was a private island and the food served on this island was provided by the catering staff on the cruise ship. I do wish there was an opportunity to sample traditional Bahamian food, but unfortunately it was not to be.
The following day, I had a culinary delight in Miami. Visited a restaurant in Little Havana to have some cappuccino to keep up my strength, followed by a trip to Buba Gump shrimp company. Anyone who has watched Forest Grump will know the history of the link between Buba Gump shrimp company and the film.

Fried chicken, mash potato and corn on the cob.

Next up St Marteen the half French and half Dutch island. I visited Big Woodside Grill, beachfront restaurant. The restaurant menu consisted lots of lobster specials which as much as I love, felt was a bit too indulgent for lunch so I chose the more familiar BBQ chicken with rice and salad.

BBQ chicken with rice
The penultimate island stop was Puerto Rico. Due to a delay in the excursion times, there was insufficient time to visit a restaurant for lunch. I did manage to quickly buy the most amazing chicken empanada for 2 dollars.

Grand Turk Coconut

Grand Turk

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Turtle Bay Caribbean restaurant

I love Caribbean food, it's the food that I grew up on as a child and often with foods of our childhoods, they bring back fond memories. Caribbean food has recently seen a revival in the UK with Levi Roots putting the cuisine on the map, alongside featuring Caribbean flavours on talk shows. Turtle Bay is the first (to my understanding) chain of Caribbean restaurants in the UK, what a welcome this has been throughout cities in the UK. I have visited two of their restaurants in Leicester and also in Birmingham and I hope there is a restaurant soon opening in my local city, Wolverhampton. 
Vibrant scenery with Caribbean art work, tasteful Caribbean music. The restaurant in Leicester is somehow superior to the restaurant in Birmingham as there are two floors. The deco is bright, which is perfect for not only not having to squint but also to share beautiful pictures from the restaurant. 
Staff are attentive, able to offer choices, friendly a real Caribbean atmosphere.
It was only right that I share the foodie delights from my two visits, and will share more dishes during my next. I definitely feel that if you have not tried authentic Caribbean food, Turtle Bay is the place to go for authentic food and drinks and you will soon fell you are in Jamrock (or Jamaica if you have never heard of the Damian Marley song Welcome to Jamrock).

Let's start with drinks; there is a fabulous deal at present, 241 (£6.85) cocktails during happy hour, first up rum punch, a Caribbean classic, perfect for those who like their cocktails heavily dosed with rum. Another cocktail I tried was a koka colada , a cocktail that must be related to pina calada, creamy and rich this is perfect drink to go with the spicy meals.
Rum punch
Pina Colada
The first visit at Turtle Bay was lunchtime and I went the whole hog, ordering a Caribbean platter (£12.95) for my friend and I. This scrumptious platter includes: jerk chicken wings, pepper roti, sweetcorn fritters and garlic and herb flat breads.
Caribbean Platter
Caribbean platter
All lunchtime menus are a barginous £6.95 and I chose the Jamaican classic, jerk chicken with rice and peas, spicy succulent and tender wings paired with the mellow rice n peas and crunchy slaw. My friend chose pulled pork brioche bun which was served with fries. I'm not sure how authentic this dish was, but it certainly looked appetising.

On my second visit, I ordered the curry, shrimp and mango curry (£9.65) which was a flavour explosion. Th tenderness of the shrimp paired beautifully with the sweetness of the mango and the fiery flavour of the curry. The accompaniment of the rice and peas ensured this was a true Caribbean delight.

As I love food, I mean really love food and vast quantities of it, I love to order side dishes and I'm a fan of sweet plantain (£2.35).

On to desserts or puddings or sweet treats as we may call them: all are a reasonable £4.85. I've tried two puddings from their menu, the rum and raisin pudding and banana and toffee cheesecake. The rum and raisin pudding won,hands down I absolutely adore the rum and raisin pairing, rich, decadent, fruity and sweet this was a pudding that should be crowned as a must try dish.

Pros: Delicious authentic Caribbean food, good value for money, attentive staff and hearty portions.
Cons: There was a slight delay in receiving our main course at Birmingham restaurant.
Overall: I'm due to visit in September, I loved it so much.

Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon Turtle Bay on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: I chose to review this restaurant as this restaurant is the real deal.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Jamaican breakfast: Saltfish and bacon

I love the food of my heritage, the traditional Caribbean recipes and methods of cooking, to making modern twists on Jamaican classics. My saltfish and bacon is my Anglo take on a classic Jamaican ingredient and in my opinion is perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast. It may seem odd to eat saltfish for breakfast, but this is normal in the Caribbean and many islanders will eat saltfish for breakfast, especially in Jamaica where the national dish is ackee and saltfish. I could easily just have the saltfish on it's own, but as I love bacon, I thought I would add a classic British breakfast item, bacon to this dish. I think the saltfish and bacon compliment each other beautifully, the creamy and chewy texture of the saltfish, alongside the crispy and slightly salty taste of the bacon, with the cooked peppers is a match made in Anglo-Jamaican heaven. This dish is on the table within 30 minutes and will be enjoyed by all who like Caribbean cuisine. Luckily, there are no excuses not to try this dish, saltfish is readily available in all major supermarkets that have a special world foods aisle. I serve my saltfish and bacon with a variety of I enjoy this with roasted breadfruit, shop brought harddough bread and of course, my favourite Jamaican accompaniment fried plantains 
Here is how my saltfish and bacon turned out:
Saltfish and bacon

Saltfish and bacon cooking

Saltfish and bacon cooking

Plantain cooking
Recipe for saltfish and bacon

3 rashers of lean back bacon
250g packet of boneless saltfish
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed
large griddle pan

Open the packet of saltfish and place in a pan of cold water, leave to soak overnight. If running short of time you can boil the saltfish for around 30 minutes - but be prepared your kitchen will smell fishy! It is important to soak the saltfish to remove the excess of salt from the saltfish. Once the saltfish has soaked overnight or boiled empty the contents of the water and slice the saltfish in small bite size pieces.
Heat the griddle pan and add the 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Slice the rashers of bacon and add to the pan, leave to cook for around 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the peppers and onions and whilst the bacon are sizzling, add the peppers and onions to the pan. Also add the bite size pieces of saltfish to the griddle pan and leave everything to cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fried fish, truffle mustard infused Jollof rice, with fried plantains

As many of my loyal blog/Facebook/Twitter followers, I love Caribbean food, it's the food I grew up on as a child and continue to regularly eat this cuisine as an adult. As I grew into my teen years I realised that a large amount of the Caribbean dishes that I eat are actually of an African origin. This is likely due to the slaves who were transported from Africa to the Caribbean who brought along dishes from their native country. Take fried fish and fried plantains for example, these are two dishes which are regularly eaten in West Africa and throughout the Caribbean. Jollof rice, on the other hand, to my knowledge is a West African dish which I discovered a few years back and will be sharing my take on this classic dish later on in my blog post.
Fish is eaten traditionally on Easter and my fried fish with truffle mustard infused jollof rice & fried plantains is what I ate on Good Friday. The fish, lightly seasoned with all-purpose seasoning, fried and a tomato, pepper, onion mixture added to the fish, otherwise known as "cook up fish"is one of my favourite ways of eating fish. The jollof rice, was delicious, a different way of eating basmati rice and the addition of Maile truffle mustard allowed me to ditch the traditional use of chilli in this dish and replace with a creamy and luxurious taste of this mustard. The fried plantains, my ultimate Jamaican snack needs no introduction, the addictive nature of these fried treats says it all.

Here is how my fried fish, truffle mustard infused jollof rice and fried plantains turned out:
Fried fish, jollof rice, plantains.

Fish frying.

Mustard added to the jollof rice mixture.

Sauce for jollof rice.

Jollof rice cooking.

Fried plantains.

Recipe for fried fish Serves 4
8 thick slices of hake fish
1.5 tbsp all purpose seasoning
oil for frying.

Recipe for truffle mustard infused jollof rice serves 4
 1 cup of rice
1 3/4 of water
1 tbsp truffle mustard
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 red pepper
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 onions
2 tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt

1 red pepper
green pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper (seeds removed)
3 tomatoes

For fried plantain - serves 4
2 plantains
oil for frying

Method for the fried hake
Wash the fish and pat dry with kitchen towel. Sprinkle over a large pinch of all purpose seasoning on each hake piece, leave this to marinade for a minimum of 10 minutes.  Heat a large amount of oil (enough to shallow fry) and ensure the pan is red hot. Add 4 pieces of fish at a time over a high heat for around 7 minutes on each side, or until each side is lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining 4 fishes. Whilst the fish are frying, slice the tomatoes into quarters, slice the peppers into strips and the scotch bonnet pepper, ensuring the seeds are removed. When the fish is cooked scrape any remaining of the fish that has stuck to the pan and add around 2tbsp oil. Add the tomatoes and the frying pan for around 10 minutes (to ensure the peppers are cooked properly) and add the fish to the pan to cook with the tomato pepper mixture for around 5 minutes.

For the Jollof rice.
Slice the red pepper, onions and  tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper and place into a bowl. Add a good dollop of Maille truffle mustard, all purpose seasoning to the mixture and stir. Place the mixture in a food processor and blend until all the mixture is liquidised. Meanwhile, wash the rice and place the rice in a pan, add the water, salt and the tomato mixture. Cook the jollof rice for 20 minutes.

For the fried plantains
Whilst the rice is  cooking, get on with the plantains. Slice the plantains  and heat enough oil in the frying pan to shallow fry.

Disclaimer: I was sent two Maile Products to review including the truffle mustard.


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