Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 152! Saint Vincent and The Grenadines - Guinness Bottle Chicken Stew - Up Next, Samoa

This was one of those weeks where life got in the way of cooking much of anything. Between spending a full day in the emergency room with my son, following up with an ear, nose and throat doc who informed my happy 16 year old that he'll probably have to get his tonsils out, our elderly cat disappearing, as well as various other commitments, this flavorful and spicy Guinness Chicken Stew from Saint Vincent and The Grenadines had to go on the way back burner. But now it's Sunday and I'm not letting another thing get between me and my kitchen. Peace at last.

An Island country in the Lesser Antilles, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines is a Windward Island that sits on the southern end of the eastern border for the Caribbean Sea. The main island is Saint Vincent, the northern portion of the smaller chain of islands stretches from Saint Vincent to Grenada. To Saint Vincent's north is Saint Lucia and to the east, Barbados. This beautiful tropical tisland was originally inhabited by the native Caribs, who fought mightily against European colonization, until 1719 when the French over powered their resistance efforts. Once established, the French developed coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton and plantations that were largely worked by African slaves.  From 1763 until 1979, the island changed hands many times from French to British rule and back again, ultimately gaining independence to become its own parliamentary democracy. The country's mountainous terrain and tropical climate create ideal conditions for volcanoes, and hurricanes which have caused many deaths as well as environmental and agricultural devastation over the years. Despite unforeseen natural disasters, however, the island is offers visitors gorgeous beaches, exotic plants and wildlife, wonderful food and warm hospitality and a strong and vibrant culture. 

Cuisine in Saint Vincent and The Grenadines is generally hot and spicy. Meat stews, curries, shellfish, pickled and salted fish fish are typical to island cooking. Cassava, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions and bread fruit are staples as well. One of the island's specialties is Callaloo, a dish that is cooked with spinach or dasheen leaves and coconut milk. Arrow root, a thickening agent used in soups, stews and gravies is grown on the island, as well as a wide variety of tropical fruits such as bananas, citrus, mangoes, papayas and one of my favorites, passion fruit.

Guinness Bottle Chicken Stew (Recipe Adapted from Caribbean Choice)

2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 10 oz. can or bottle of Guinness Stout beer
1 cup chicken broth
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. chilli powder

Combine flour, salt and pepper on a plate or paper bag. Toss cubed chicken to coat.
In a large pot, heat oil, then add chicken and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
Pour off oil until about 2 Tbsp. remains, then add onion and garlic and saute for 4 mintutes.
Add Guinness, then reduce by half, then return chicken.
Add broth, tomato paste, peppers, parsley and chilli powder.
Let simmer covered for about 15 minutes.
Serve over rice.

Final Assessment: This was a wonderfully satisfying and easy to make dish. The addition of Guinness gave the stew a rich, full-bodied flavor with a great kick from the chilli powder. Served over a bed of rice with a nice cold beer, this a perfect lunch.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 151! Saint Lucia - Baked Stuffed Bread Fruit - Up Next, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

1262 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA
Never before has a recipe required the assistance of so many friends to come to fruition. Many, many heartfelt thank yous to high school friends, Lynnette and Marylou for their good-natured and tireless efforts to find the fruit, and special mention to Yves-Rose for sourcing the breadfruit at a local store I never knew about. Girl-friend fist-bump to Lulu for schlepping to Cambridge to get the fruit on a 100 degree day, then driving it out to my house in a cooler lined with freezer packs to avoid spoiling. Lulu, if BPS doesn't find you a good teaching job soon, you may want to consider organ-donor transport as a new career. Finally, extra special thanks to Susie, the owner and proprietor of Tropical Dimensions, located in the heart of Inman Square, Cambridge for stocking this usual and difficult to find fruit! Without everyone's persistent sleuthing to find the illusive breadfruit, also known as lam veritab in Haitian and fruita de pan in Spanish, Tonight's Baked Stuffed Breadfruit from the beautiful Caribbean of country of Saint Lucia could never have happened.

Located in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary of the Atlantic Ocean, Saint Lucia is a Windward Island Country. Named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse, the island is part of the Lesser Antilles, which sits north/northeast of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. In addition to this island's beautiful climate, beaches and historic sites, it is also home to two Nobel Laureates: Arthur Lewis, the first black man to win a Nobel Prize in Economics (other than in the Peace category); and, Derek Walcott, a poet, play-write, writer and visual artist who won his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. First inhabited by the Caribs and Arawak Indians, the island was colonized by the French in 1660. For the next decade, England fought France for control of the island, during which time the island changed hands seven times. Finally, on February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state. The country now celebrates this momentous date as a national holiday.

Cuisine in Saint Lucia is influenced by British and French traditions, as well as by the bounty of tropical fruits and vegetables indigenous to the island such as mangoes, oranges, tangerines, avocados and breadfruit. One of Saint Lucia's most famous dishes is bouyon, a dish that can be cooked using fish, chicken, meat, plantains, bananas, yams, dumplings and coconut water and/or milk. Garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, parsley, cloves and allspice are frequently used spices.

A few words about breadfruit. Interestingly, the fruit grows on a flowering tree that is in the mulberry family, Moraceae. Breadfruit grows on many Caribbean islands, as well as in South East Asia and Haiti. The fruit got its name as many believe that when cooked, it imparts a potato-like flavor that tastes and smells like freshly baked bread. There are many ways to eat breadfruit, which vary from country to country - everything from boiling, to baking, to frying and mashing. We thought it tasted like a cross between a potato and a baked apple, with a starchy texture slightly similar to cassava. It was very good, but I think it would have been better if I'd had a tutorial from someone who cooks regularly with the fruit. Regardless - it was tasty, fun to cook with - not to mention thrilling to located!

Peel, parboil, core and stuff breadfruit

 Make Filling

Island Jerk Spice

Baked Stuffed Island Spice Breadfruit (Adapted from

1 large breadfruit, (full, but not ripe)
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 lb. ham, minced
1 cup onion, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 medium tomato chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tsp. Island spice Jamaican jerk spice (recipe below)
2 tbsp. canola oil
  1. Peel and parboil breadfruit whole in salted water; remove from water and cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a baking pan.
  3. Lightly fry chopped onion, scallion and tomato in oil; add minced meats and jerk seasoning and cook until meat is almost done.
  4. From stalk end of the cooled breadfruit, cut out the core and scoop out enough of the pulp to make room for the meat stuffing. 
  5. Fill the cavity with meat mixture.
  6. Bake in oven till soft and of a nice golden brown color, about 50 minutes. If pan appears dry, add a little water.
Island Jerk Seasoning (Adapted from

2 tsp. dried minced onion
2-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

In a small bowl, stir together all spices. Store in airtight container.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 150.5 - Homemade Lemonade Pie

This recipe was inspired by a song I dreamed about last night. Yes, I know, I'm nuts, which by now, has been well established and documented. It is said that "the dream is the dreamer", and although I have no idea who said it, I believe this to be true. Therefore, not to do something creative with the vivid imagery and song in my waking hours would be to ignore whatever it is my dreamy subconscious was trying to work out. So work it out I will - in the kitchen, naturally.

I often dream songs, and Judy in Disguise (which I thought was Judy in the Sky when I was kid), by John Fred and his Playboy Band, contains some of my favorite, albeit obtusely psychedelic lyrics. Makes me kinda wonder what John Fred and his Playboys were doing when they wrote these trippy lyrics:

Judy in disguise, well that's what you are
Lemonade pie and a brand new car
canteloupe eyes, come to me tonight
Judy in disguise, with glasses.

If you watched the video, then you understand how I came to make Lemonade Pie. Now, Although there are many, many fine recipes for lemonade pie, all of them (that I could find) call for canned frozen lemonade and Cool Whip (including the one I adapted below), which is fine, except that I'm one of those freaks who derives absolute pleasure from making as much as I can from scratch. Admittedly, there are plenty of things I simply can't make because they're way beyond my bandwidth - still, I do like to try. But, seeing as I don't especially care for Cool Whip (except when Stewie on Family Guy says it) and since I know I can approximate frozen lemonade, I set out to make this pie from scratch, which I think I did.  Behold - Lemonade Pie I think John Fred and his Playboys would dig with or without glasses.

Juice Lemons and Make Candied Lemon Zest

Make Graham Cracker Crumb Crust

Make Filling

Freeze Pie Overnight

Lemon Simple Syrup and Candied Lemon Zest (this is a 2-for recipe)

3 lemons
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (strained through a fine sieve)
2 cups sugar

  1. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice through a fine sieve.
  2. Gently scoop out as much of the pulp and and white inner layer as you can using a sharp pairing knife and/or spoon.
  3. Slice into strips, then trim away as much of the remaining white pith from the zest as possible.
  4. Bring water and lemon juice to a boil in a small non-reactive pan, add lemon zest.
  5. Boil for about 5 minutes, until lemon peels are tender to the touch.
  6. Remove zest from water and stir in sugar.
  7. Bring syrup to a boil, add zest and boil until translucent.
  8. Drain zest and spread out on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
  9. Allow to air-dry before storing in an airtight container (depending on humidity 3-24 hours)
  10. Place syrup in a freezer safe container (uncovered) and freeze until very thick and slightly slushy (it won't completely freeze).

Use leftover lemon simple syrup in martinis, margaritas or for sorbet or sherbet.
Use left over candied zest in cakes, scones, ice cream or anything else that calls for candied citrus zest.

Homemade Lemonade Pie (Adapted from a recipe by the Neelys on

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 2 packages)
1/4 cup sugar
7 Tbsp, sweet unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a food processor, whirl graham crackers until finely ground (I used a resealable bag and rolling pin and crushed them with the same result and no clean-up)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press firmly on bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Bake for 7 minutes and let cool completely.

Lemonade Filling
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup slushy lemon simple syrup (recipe above)
1 tsp. candied lemon zest

  1. In a medium bowl, whip cream  and 2 Tbsp. sugar until soft peaks form. Add chilled sweetened condensed milk.
  2. Gently fold in frozen lemonade syrup-slush, until blended.
  3. Pour mixture into pie crust and freeze overnight.
  4. Garnish with candied lemon peel.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 150! Thailand - Durian Ice Cream - Up Next, Saint Lucia

A rich, butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds, but intermingled with wafts of flavor that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry and other incongruities. The more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop. 
~Alfred Russell Wallace, 19th century Naturalist

Bread Fruit
The plan was to make a meal from Saint Lucia using breadfruit. After days of scouting, sourcing and sleuthing, I finally got a line on breadfruit at HMart (think BJ's or Cosco but Asian) from my go-to-foodie-friend Ben. With the kind of adrenaline rush gamblers must experience when they hit a jackpot, I hurried into the huge produce section, scanning each bin for the spiky fruit. Unable to find it, I asked one of the produce guys, but he said he'd never heard of it. Still, I persevered. Suddenly I spotted jackfruit, an immense, watermelon-sized fruit with spikes and right next to it, a freezer case of durian (which I mistakenly thought was another name for breadfruit)! Totally psyched, I picked up the mesh bag that held the fruit, and instantly impaled my finger on the porcupine-like quills, which just added to the durian drama of finding this exotic fruit.

Once home, I decided to spend a little more time researching durian, only to discover that durian and breadfruit are not one and the same at all. It turns out that durian is quite specific to Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, while breadfruit, which is round, smaller and less dangerous, makes its home in the Caribbean islands. A big shout-out to my Facebook friends who helped me sort out the Durian v. Breadfruit confusion. Special thanks to longtime friends, Lynette and Lulu,  for locating breadfruit in one of Boston's tropical markets. I hope to cook a Lucian meal with Breadfruit later on in the week. Phew!

So...since I'm totally improvising due to the fact that I have durian (imported from Thailand and very perishable) - not breadfruit, I decided to jump ahead to the beautiful country of Thailand and make durian ice cream - plus it's 95 degrees with matching humidity, so I just can't turn the stove on. A quick word about the smell of durian (aka The King of Fruits). It is reported to have a strong, acrid odor, especially to westerners. I personally didn't find it offensive, although it is unique and does permeate the house. The smell definitely doesn't hint at the sweet fruit that is so well guarded by the spiky armor exterior. The flesh is creamy and custard-like in appearance and texture, and has a lovely sweet, delicate, somewhat nutty flavor, which is imparted to the ice cream. The addition of cream and just a tiny bit of sugar makes it rich and decadent - again hard to compare to anything I've had before. For most westerners, durian ice cream will probably be an acquired taste, but I highly recommend abandoning your western sensibilities, and giving this incredible fruit a try.

Located at the center of the Southeast Asia, Thailand's existence dates back 40,000 years to Paleolithic times. Officially, the country is known as the Kingdom of Thailand, and borders Burma, Laos, Cambodia, the Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, and the Andaman Sea. The country is governed by a constitutional monarchy, where the king holds the titles of Head of State, Head of Armed forces, Upholder of Buddhist Religion and Defender of Faiths. Seventy-five percent of the country is ethnically Thai, 14% Chinese, 3% Malay, the remaining being Mon, Khmer and hill tribes. Known as an exotic tourist destination, the country also attracts a fair number of ex-pats The official language is Thai and 95% of the country are Buddhist.

Thai cuisine is grounded in the philosophy that food should be lightly prepared and balanced so that all the taste senses should be experienced in a meal: sour, sweet, salty and (optionally) bitter. Thai food tends to be hot as well. Dishes vary by region, geography and climate, and are influenced by neighboring countries such as Burma, the Chinese Province of Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Aside from a huge variety of vegetables and exotic fruits too numerous to list, Thai cuisine uses a diverse array of herbs and spices to season food, including, but not limited to: Thai basil, mint, lemongrass, cilantro, Kaffir lime, shrimp and fish sauces and paste and Thai chili peppers. Rice, noodles and seafood are staples in the Thai diet as well.

Cut open the durian with a very sharp knife

Separate the seeds from the flesh

Blend the flesh in a mixer to break up the fibrous fruit, then force through a sieve

Make the custard

Blend in an ice cream maker until set, then freeze in an airtight container

Durian Ice Cream (Adapted from a recipe on

1 large durian, cut, pulp and seeds removed and separated
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar (or more to taste, although Durian is already quite sweet)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Cut the durian down the middle and remove the seeds and pulp.
Put the pulp in a blender and puree until smooth.
Press the pureed paste through a fine sieve - you should have about 4+ ounces. Then chill.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and sugar.
Bring the milk and cream to a near boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low. Pour in the egg mixture, stirring constantly to thicken. Take care not to let the mixture boil, or the milk will curdle. (if bubbles form at the edge, remove from stove).
Allow the custard to cool for at least 4 hours.
Gradually whisk the durian paste into the custard mixture, a tablespoon at time until completely blended.
Add mixture to ice cream maker and blend until set.
Freeze in an airtight container to avoid crystallizing.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved