THE CEREAL WITH LEGS #CORNMEAL PORRIDGE WITH COCONUT MILK

It’s back to basics for yours truly. It’s so ironic how certain things can bring back nostalgic feelings and memories. You see, a few mornings ago, a gush of cool and refreshing air brought back childhood memories of the culinary type. I guess I wanted something warm and comforting for my stomach and palate. It has been quite sometime since I last enjoyed a creamy dish of cornmeal porridge and I decided to pay a revisit.

As a child growing up in my domain (Jamaica), rain or sunshine, sizzling temperatures (well, most times) or Blue Mountain and Caribbean cool breezes, a pot of cornmeal porridge was up front and center on our stove early in the morning. When you have multiple mouths to feed, this hot cereal was the way to go. Like it or not, that was the cereal doled out by Beryl, my dear mom.

They say that mothers know best. And, my mother was on top of her culinary ‘game’ and knew how to stretch a dollar. Cornmeal has ‘legs’. As such, a little goes afar way. Mom knew it; and she made it happened. Any given morning, a stockpot simmered with a golden/light yellow goodness.

Cornmeal porridge is one from the grassroots in Jamaica. My siblings and I were brought up on the hot cereal. Most Jamaicans will state so as well. Cornmeal is a meal that is milled from maize (corn) with a fine, medium and coarse finish.

When it comes to nutrients, cornmeal is loaded with a very high amount of carbohydrates which includes fiber. It is no wonder our bellies were satisfied for hours. Iron is also another beneficial nutrient that is found in cornmeal which provides great energy. And, without a doubt, we (siblings/playmates) needed that energy to play for hours on the outskirts.

So, it was with warm nostalgic feelings that I made my morning’s cereal. I tried to replicate my mom’s recipe by incorporating fresh coconut milk. My mom used mainly the medium and coarse texture of cornmeal; however, I used the fine counterpart.

SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS FOR CORNMEAL PORRIDGE
SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS FOR CORNMEAL PORRIDGE

Ingredients:

  • Cornmeal (1/2 cup)
  • Coconut milk (1/2 cup)
  • Water (21/2 cups)
  • Salt (pinch)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Vanilla (1 teaspoon)
  • Cinnamon (1 teaspoon)
  • Condensed milk (sweeten to taste)

Method:

  1. In stockpot, add coconut milk, water, salt, and cornmeal.
  2. Use whisk or bamboo spoon to dissolve meal in liquid until smooth.
  3. Slowly bring to a bowl and simmer under low heat for about 20 minutes with lid on.
  4. Add spices and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk or stir occasionally to prevent lumps.
  6. Sweeten with condense milk or any sweetener.
  7. Ladle in bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Most times, my dear mom used to sweeten our cornmeal porridge with brown sugar. There was no need for condensed milk as the coconut milk produced a silky and creamy finish. I’ve decided to use condensed milk as the sweetener. Like many dishes, everyone brings a different spin and make it their own. It’s no different with cornmeal porridge. Some cooks do thicken their porridge with the addition of flour. I didn’t.

Oh, by the way, it was close to the eighties on the outskirts, (quite a warm day for Fall, but, it’s South Florida weather). As I spooned my fiber and iron-rich porridge, I was brought back to a sweet, satisfying and mouth-watering place. I will be revisiting very soon.

BIG LOVE…PERFECT CULINARY FELLOWS! #ESCOVEITCH FISH/SPINACH

When it comes to my culinary needs, I’m pretty liberal. I allow my palate free-rein to explore. She knows what I desire and if I don’t concur initially, we often come to a compromise. Ultimately, our needs are satisfied in the long run. So, the week-end was one of those when we were on similar pages from the ‘get-go’.  I didn’t resist and went with the flow.

I was in a rustic mood. There was no need to julienne and cut my root veggies for the pickles on my fried snapper fish. I was aiming for flavors and great spices. I allowed my knife and cut board to do the talking. They produced sizeable portions for my pickle sauce made up of vinegar, splash of water, pinch of sugar, salt, black pepper, pimento (all spice).

After simmering my onions, carrots, scotch bonnet peppers and other ingredients I placed these on my fried snapper fish along with a squeeze lime. My escoveitch fish stood out with their usual bold, spicy and mouth-watering flavors.

It was back to basics for my callaloo (Jamaica’s spinach). It didn’t assume a power struggle with its bold counter-part (escoveitch fish). In general, callaloo knows where it stands in my kitchen. The fact is, I could use this fiber loaded vegetable day-in day-out.

I’m always intrigued with the way it comes alive as the heat hits it. As usual, it didn’t disappoint. It held on to its green hue and even shone even brighter. After softening my onions and clove of garlic in a drizzle of olive oil, all I had to do was to administer a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste.

I combined my two dishes and they fed off each other in a beautiful way. The callaloo (spinach) was tender but was not overly cooked. Moreover, it balanced out the spicy flavors of the escoveitch fish. They provided me and my palate great satisfaction that lasted the for hours later.

ROASTED CITRUS CHICKEN AND BLACK BEANS

When you cook chicken a ‘million’ and one ways, one has to devise  other ways to enjoy the feathery one. Had a few oranges that were heading down south. You see, although the calendar says autumn, the temperatures still feel like summer in Florida. As a result, my precious perishables carry shorter shelf lives. I had no intention of tossing out what I consider ‘big bucks’.

I was elated that to my culinary mind wasn’t in a ‘foggy’ mood. I  was able to come up with a plan. Decided to cook a roasted citrus chicken with a few  thighs and drumsticks. The previous night, chicken pieces were marinated with crushed garlic, minced onions, thyme, black pepper and salt to taste.

About three to four hours before cooking, chicken was soaked in a combination of orange, lemon, and lime juice. These were removed and dried on paper towels; then, drizzled with olive oil. Chicken pieces were topped with orange and lemon slices and then roasted in 360 degree oven for 50 minutes (turning once).

They were then brushed with a simmered citrus sauce which included a sprinkle of sugar and along with salt and drizzle of soy sauce. Roasted citrus chicken was served with black beans, jasmine rice (not in pic) and a corn/sweet potato salad. My stomach and I were quite happy and satisfied.

CITRUS CHICKEN, BLACK BEANS AND CORN/SWEET POTATO SALAD
CITRUS CHICKEN, BLACK BEANS AND CORN/SWEET POTATO SALAD

BRAISED HEINEKEN OXTAILS

In Jamaica, there’s an old adage that says, “Patient man rides donkey.” And, as I prepped and cooked my braised Heineken oxtails, I knew for sure that the whole process entailed precious time. I had some to spare; so I was perfectly happy to execute this Jamaican dish with my twist.

Typically,  beer is not part of the braising liquid; however, I wanted to put a somewhat different spin on the dish. And I did so by adding a half bottle of Heineken beer. This gave additional robust flavors that didn’t rob the dish of its traditional taste.

Oxtails were braised (stove-top) for approximately 3 hours under low to medium heat until fork-tender. Approximately 15 minutes before completion, bow-tie dumplings (spinners) were added. And close to the ending of dish lima beans (butter) were added.

I rode my donkey alright. The final dish was succulent. Just as I desired, the oxtail pieces were tender and delicious. The beer greatly enhanced the thick brown sauce and meat to another level.

BREAKFAST ON MY BACK PATIO #JAMAICAN ACKEE/CODFISH

Sunday morning found me in quite a beautiful place. Fall was in my presence. I allowed the fluttering breezes and the comfortable air to snatch me. Finally, South Florida is experiencing Fall (Florida-style). Yes, temperatures were flirting in the upper 60’s and early 70’s.

Of course with splendid weather as that, I switched off the air-conditioning and flung open my windows and doors. I was in heaven. There was one major thing on my mind as I breathed in fresh and cool air. I decided to indulge in all the splendor and have breakfast on my back patio.

In my humble kitchenette, I whipped up a small can of Jamaican’s favorite and national dish, ackee and codfish.

JAMAICAN'S NATIONAL DISH (ACKEE AND CODFISH)
JAMAICAN’S NATIONAL DISH (ACKEE AND CODFISH)

I had some left-over steamed Jamaican spinach (callaloo) from the previous day. I made use of same and warmed in  microwave oven. On the side, there was a serving of fried plantains and boiled bananas and dumplings. I couldn’t resist, I had to add nature’s creamy butter (avocado).

A hot kettle of fresh mint tea completed my Jamaican spread. And, as I sipped on a cup, I my heart was warm from watching the paddling ducks. Of course, so was my stomach.

WARM MINT TEA ALONG WITH ACKEE AND CODFISH IN SKILLET
HOT MINT TEA ALONG WITH ACKEE AND CODFISH IN SKILLET

FOOD CHAIN NEWEST CRAZE #BLACK BUN BURGER

It might sound far-fetched, however, the popular food chains, McDonald’s and Burger King are testing the waters with a black bun. Well, this burger is already on the Japanese menu at the McDonald eateries. It is reported that their bun is made from bamboo charcoal. And they even offer black ketchup and black cheese.

Here in the United States, Burger King has sprung on the ‘band wagon’. As such, the burger chain has added the ‘Black Whopper’ to their menu for the Halloween. It has been described as ‘deliciously dark’ and baked with A1 flavor infused in the bun. Just in case you’re counting the calories, you’ll be devouring 710 of them.

Some are asking the question, “Will it excite or scare the customer?” Frankly, I don’t see the hoopla. If you can have white buns, why not black buns? Diners who have consumed the black burgers in Japan have expressed satisfaction.

I’m not a frequent consumer of fast foods, however, once in a while I like to sink my teeth into a good burger. So what if it’s a black bun? I’ve eaten black rice and pasta before and they all tasted delicious. Moreover, I understand that they are loaded with beneficial fibers and other nutrients.

When it comes to food, I’ll try (well, almost) anything. I’m looking forward to run a taste test on that deliciously sinful black whopper. Are you?

FRESH COCONUT MILK #NATURE’S MILK

I wish I could state that I scampered up an elegant and tall tree for my milk.

PALM TREES WITH COCONUTS
PALM TREES WITH COCONUTS

But I didn’t. I left the task to those expert pickers and climbers.

Extracting the beautiful white flesh from the husk brought me back to my childhood days. There was always an agile youngster in the neighborhood who could make his way up those tall trees and retrieve those coconuts. Oh, he could move in a flash.

However, I didn’t have to place myself in such risky position. Thanks to my neighborhood store, I was able to fetch a beautiful specimen. I brought it home and used my hammer to smash the sturdy husk open. There was the gush of water that I collected and drank. It wasn’t sweet (I’ve had sweeter). I then used my knife to remove the white flesh. Bingo! I was happy.

FLESH OF COCONUT
FLESH OF COCONUT

I did a quick chop of these pieces so as make it easier on the blender while extracting milk.

SMALL SIZES OF COCONUT FLESH FOR BLENDER
SMALL SIZES OF COCONUT FLESH FOR BLENDER

Coconut pieces were added to blender along with water. These were blended to white finish. A strainer was used to separate the milk from the pulp (residual). I will use this extracted milk to incorporate in my dishes like:

  • rice and beans
  • polenta (turned cornmeal)
  • smoothies
  • curried chicken, fish or shrimp

Nature’s milk has been good to me.