This winter is a real doozy, and it is only half over! Dreams of sunning myself on a beautiful white beach somewhere in the Caribbean have been dancing in my head for the past several weeks, and my facebook feed is overflowing with photos of my friends doing just that. For those of us unable to make it down to the steel drums of Jamaica or any of the destination islands, maybe the best way to indulge in the tastes and aromas of the Caribbean is to open Jonathan Phang’s The Pepperpot Club- A Celebration of Caribbean Cuisine.
Jonathan Phang is a Food Network U.K. television celebrity chef who grew up London in a Chinese-Caribbean household, and his book reflects the diversity of his heritage, featuring recipes from all six races of the Caribbean; East Indian, Chinese, Mixed European, African, North American and Indiginous Amerindian. His book is a work of love, dedicated to his parents and his brother, and the dishes he has chosen are treasured family recipes, like Aunty Ruby’s Minchee Pork, a spicy, smokey braised pork belly served over rice, as well as classics like Guyanese Patties, a hand held meat pie spiced with chiles, soy and West Indian pepper sauce.
Phang includes recipes for soups that reflect the local flora and fauna, like a savoury pumpkin soup made with coconut milk and spiced with ginger, sweet paprika and cayenne, or Callaloo Soup, an inimitable flavour combination of okra, spinach, crab and beef cooked in chicken broth and coconut milk, perfumed with scent of thyme and coriander.
Traditional mains are included as well, adapted to and influenced by his upbringing in London: Macaroni and Cheese Pie, Oxtail Stew and a Beef and Pork Curry receive a little Caribbean tweaking, and corn on the cob is cooked in chicken stock and coconut milk, served with chiles and thyme. With beautifully photographs of the finished dishes, and entire chapters dedicated to “Asian Flavours,” “Seafood Specials” and a chapter of “Cakes and Bakes”-featuring Mummy’s Portuguese Pancakes with Spiced Sugar Syrup, this is a cookbook you will want to peruse over and over while listening to something like this.
And when your friends come back, bug-bitten, sunburnt and flabby, you can tell them about the Salmon tartare with corn fritters you had last night, and the Carambola (starfruit) Bread and Butter Pudding with Guava Glaze you made for dessert. And you can show off the six -pack you got from shovelling snow for two weeks.