Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dishes from Caribbean Vegan

I've been enjoying cooking my way through Taymer Mason's Caribbean Vegan the past few months. While the history of the Caribbean has a lot of awful parts, it's created incredibly rich culinary styles and traditions. In these recipes are ingredients and methods from West Africa, France, India, Spain, Britain, and elsewhere. I would be interested to know how much survives from indigenous cultures as well.

I've loved every dish I've made from this cookbook, and I have drafts of several of those unsatisfying "this-was-awesome-but-I'm-not-going-to-include-the-recipe-because-I've-realized-intellectual-property-is-important" posts. This is the first one.

The Bajan seasoning is a must, as it goes in many of the recipes in the book. I took a picture, but it looked like green-brown sludge, so instead, I'll describe it: I've never made anything quite like it. It's not a pesto, it's not like chimichurri sauce (about which, more soon!). It's not like an Indian-style mint chutney, either. Nor is it like harissa. But it is a thick, very aromatic paste, a base of onions and herbs spiced with citrus and vinegar and full of heady spices like cloves. It's incredible.

The Caribbean pickle is also delicious: a mixture of grated cucumber and onion mixed with herbs, chilies, and salt; it only gets better with time. This kept for at least a month in my fridge while I ate it with/on everything: on ploughman's sandwiches, with braised tempeh, as a side dish to a hearty stew, etc. This might be a good time to mention that HOLY CRAP scotch bonnet peppers are hot!! I love spicy food, but these recipes were plenty spicy even when I cut back the amount of scotch bonnets by half, or switched in serranos instead.

I made a version of the Bajan beef stew using tempeh instead of TVP, and it was marvelous. Worcestershire sauce and the Bajan seasoning gave this stew a wonderful complexity, and it was really hearty.

The eggplant and seaweed accras were perhaps the best and worst thing ever. A vegan take on a seafood fritter using eggplant for fishy texture and nori for fishy taste, these fritters were delectable. They were perfect. And while the recipe says "Serves 10," Devon and I ate all of them.

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