JAMAICAN SPINACH AND OTHER WHOLESOME FOODS
Once again, surfing was on my mind. So, what do you know? I went fishing. And, look what I brought back.
I couldn’t help myself; I had to place a few scores on my big boy and made him my own. Well, scoring helps for the penetration of all the amazing spices and seasoning on this adorable specimen. So, I proceeded to season inside/out with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, crushed pimento(all spice), thyme and finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper. Before I laid my seasoning on, I drizzled a little coconut and olive oils in the interior and exterior of my fish.
My plan was to cook in oven at 380 to 400 degrees at high temperature so as to give a roasting effect. Thus, I called upon my parchment paper. For me, parchment paper helps to lock in flavors but will also provide a rustic/roasting process.
Before that though, I sautéed onions, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes in a skillet making sure to season along with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Then I added some steamed left over Jamaican spinach (callaloo).
I used same to stuff my snapper. Well, as you can observe, it was an overstuffed affair.
Baking sheet was lined with foil paper so as to contain any spillage. Then, a generous piece of parchment paper was used to place fish. I stuffed the head and cavity of same. And boy, it spilled. Already, succulent juices was expelling from within. It smelled amazing. With the squeeze of a little lime and splash of vinegar, I added additional finely chopped scotch bonnet yellow pepper. Then I folded my beautiful parchment package and poked a few holes for some of the steam to escape.
Fish was placed in oven at 380 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Then, I pared open my parchment package and gave dish an additional five minutes at 400 degrees. At this point, I was super-excited and so was my fire alarm. You see, the parchment paper started to singe a bit. Anyway, that didn’t stop me. I placed snapper back in the oven and look what I got.
My snapper made and emitted a delicious sauce which came from the veggies(stuffing) within. The fish was cooked just right. It was moist on the interior and slightly flaky on the outer. I served same with fried plantain to balance out the spicy flavors of the scotch bonnet peppers. Hmmm, I was overjoyed with my rustic dish.
It was back to basics for yours truly. Yes guys, it has been sometime since I’ve gone this route. Got a bit tired of my dear poultry. It seems like I’m always consuming the feathery one. Fish is also another popular item on my menu. Today, I did so with the help of a little pickled friend. So, instead of the fresh omega fatty fish, I paid a visit to a popular dish, pickled mackerel.
It’s very seldom that I consume pickled mackerel. Though it’s super tasty and chock full of flavors, I’ve to admit that it’s loaded with much sodium. However, once in a while I love to enjoy same. This dish is a favorite in Jamaican kitchens. Anyway, my palate called for this old friend and I went shopping for the ingredients. And these are the main items I brought home and got a cooking.
I first extracted excess sodium from mackerel. I did this by rinsing same repeatedly with cold tap water. I cut mackerel in small sizes and placed in stock pot with cold tap water. Under low to medium heat, pickled mackerel was boiled for approximately ten minutes. I then drained and rinsed a few more times so as to extract sodium to my preference.
Fresh tap water was added and mackerel was boiled a second time for about ten minutes. After draining, it was rinsed with cold tap water and set aside. Bear in mind, this could be done overnight by soaking same in tap water.
In a skillet over low to medium heat, a combination of coconut and canola oil was added. To this, chopped onions, bell peppers, garlic (optional), scotch bonnet pepper, fresh tomatoes were sautéed. These were seasoned along with a pinch of black pepper and salt along with crushed pimento (all spice) and sprig of thyme.
Under low heat, pickled mackerel was added to mix. A pinch of sugar, drizzle of vinegar (distilled/red wine) and a squeeze of lime were added. Mackerel was garnished with finely chopped scallion and additional cracked black pepper. And like a true Jamaican, this was served with boiled bananas, dumplings, pumpkin, and yam. And, on the side, fried plantains and avocado were added.
And guys, I couldn’t help myself, I had to sip a little Heineken beer on the side. My meal was complete. My palate and I were happy.
It’s amazing how a left-over dish can be transformed into new. I was a bit tired/lazy to cook another protein from scratch. Had some left-over braised goat meat (mutton) in my freezer. Did a little defrosting and simmered anew on stove top. So, with the help of a fresh bunch of mint and whole-grain rice, I created a brand new dish.
With one cup of rice and three cups of water (chicken broth would be fine), I added a sprig of thyme for more flavor along with a pat of butter and olive oil and a pinch of salt. After rice was simmered on low to completion, I finely chopped fresh mint and added to steaming rice. A fresh sprig of mint was used to garnish.
A week ago I blanched some green beans I had on hand. These were stored in the freezer. What do you know? These came in quite handy as I retrieved a serving and defrosted. I was very elated to see that they still had their brilliant green hue. Moreover, they were still crispy. I dried the excess fluid from them on paper towel and immersed them in a drizzle of olive oil and a clove of crushed garlic. With a sprinkle of cracked black pepper my green beans came alive on a low heat.
I served my transformed dish of braised goat meat with a serving of fried plantains; such a fantastic and sweet contrast. In addition, I added a healthy slice of ‘nature’s butter’, avocado after I squeezed fresh lime on same.
Guys, though the flavors were different; however together, they worked quite united. By the way, the braised mutton was even more succulent and loaded with amazing spices and flavors. My taste buds were very happy and so was I.
Guys, it’s Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Today, in my neck of the woods, the sun has chosen to remain out of sight for most of the day. It has been raining ‘cats and dogs’ and is quite gloomy. And, like the sun, it took me sometime to really lift my head from the pillows.
I dragged my dear self on the outskirts to nab me some endorphins. Oh, it helped for a bit. But, deep down I knew that I needed some more shut-eye. Gosh, I needed to gather my focus that was still missing. Thank God I went with the flow and paid a visit to ‘La La land’. I woke up and felt like my old self.
I know; I know, I overdid a bit. After all, it was Christmas. But, it was worth it. I believe I had me a couple of glasses of white wine. Then, I decided to graduate to an Irish Cream mixed with ‘good old’ Jamaican White Rum (oh, it brought back sweet memories). It was smooth and tasty as it made its way down. After chatting for a bit and doing a jig, one can forget the consequences of mixing drinks.
Anyway guys, I hopped in my kitchen and decided to clean up what was right before me. In a tupperware was some left-over ackee and codfish (Jamaica’s national dish). It was one of the items on my brunch from the big day, (Christmas). I finely chopped some left-over ham and added it to my national dish. All I had to do was to steam me a little brown rice with asparagus.
I served my ackee and codfish/ham on a bed of steamed brown rice and asparagus. I then added avocado (I call it nature’s butter), wedges of plummy tomatoes and a few pieces of fried plantain.
Guys, to say that I was happy is quite an understatement. I was on ‘cloud-nine’, pretty much over the moon. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Hurray for left-overs on ‘good-old’ Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.
NB.- Ackee is a tropical fruit that is native to West Africa. It was introduced to Jamaica in earlier years and has become a national dish when its paired with salted codfish. This fruit is savory in taste as its cooked as a vegetable.