Tired of cooking the same handful of meals each week, I enrolled on an international cookery course.
The course may have ended, but it's just whetted my appetite....

Join me on a weekly visit to the cuisines of the world, countries from A to Z, and back again!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

H is for Haiti

Where we're going this evening - Haiti

I'm very much looking forward to my visit to Haiti this evening - whilst on the adult education cookery course earlier in the year, we cooked one or two Caribbean dishes which were extremely tasty.

But I don't know much about the Country except that it has featured in the news most recently as having suffered an enormous earthquake with devastating consequences for the Capital Port au Prince and that the country is really, really poor. Lets have a look and see if my preconceptions are correct or not.

So - Haiti shares the Island of Hispaniola with it's neighbour the Dominican Republic - Haiti to the left hand side, the Dominican Republic the right hand side.  I was right about the earthquakes - the one I had in mind was in January 2010 and killed about a third of a million people (at a conservative estimate) out of a population of under ten million and left one and a half million people homeless.

Like so much of the Caribbean, Haiti was subject to invasion and colonisation by Europeans - the French in this case, and they went mad cultivating coffee and sugar, importing slaves from West Africa in order to work the land - the French do not come out of this period of history well at all.

Unsurprisingly there was eventually a revolt and turmoil and unrest continued from about the time of the French revolution until the infamous dictator Papa Doc Duvalier brought things to an even keel, even if that did mean ruling with an iron rod and terrorising his own people.

The Country has been involved in various unrests since, but the earthquake followed by a massive cholora outbreak seems to have focused minds somewhat on the more important things in life - namely, life. Oh - it's quite prone to hurricanes too.

I'm struggling with famous Haitians (besides the rather unlovable Papa Doc & his equally charming son, Baby Doc Duvalier), but there is also the Wycliffe Jean, rapper and record producer.  Although Cecile Fatiman is definitely worth a mention too - a Voodoo high priestess who was involved in a ceremony which is said to have sparked the Haitian revolution against the French in 1791 when she slit the throat of a pig and offered it's blood to the assembled, and was possessed by a goddess.

So let's see if we can avoid wax dolls with pins, tarot cards and Baron Samedi, and say bonjou to the stalwart people of Haiti.

Tonight's Menu...

So we have moderately spicy food, but not too hot, rice and beans in abundance, peppers, sweet potato, pineapples and bananas.

I've cooked griots before, and don't see any reason not to cook the dish again - and the caribbean pepper rice was such a success in class that I was tempted to cook it every week, no matter where in the world we were cooking.

The pineapple includes rum and sugar, so I don't need a lot of persuading to give that a go - that and pineapples are on special offer in Aldi at the mo.

Griots de Porc - recipe from class, but similar can be found at whats4eats.

Marinade pork overnight in a mixture of chopped shallots, onion, garlic, chili pepper thyme & sour orange juice (note: I used half an orange & half a grapefruit. And half a dried up lemon I found in the fridge).  Transfer to casserole dish, add enough water to cover & cook on the hob for an hour and a half.  drain, fish out the pork and fry till brown.  Add chopped green pepper, chopped tomato & spring onion, tomato puree, oxo cube and some of the reserved stock & heat through.

Caribbean Pepper Rice - recipe from class

Sweat chopped garlic, onion, pepper in oil.  Add grated carrot and rice & stir to coat in oil.  Add water & a stock cube, cover & simmer till stock is absorbed.  Fork through, add a small knob of butter & sprinkle with parsley. Yum.

Haitian Baked Pineapple - recipe from class with a twist from food.com

Chop a pineapple in half top to bottom then carefully remove the flesh using one of those curved serated grapefruit knives.  Remove the core then chop the flesh & add to a chopped banana.  Sprinkle the inside of the pineapple shell with sugar (note: I used demerara) and rum then pile the fruit flesh back in. Sprinkle with sugar, rum & desiccated coconut & bake.

The Result

And what have we learnt?

  • Read the recipe through in plenty of time.  If you've only just read the words 'marinade overnight' when you have your pinny on ready to go, you are in trouble. You are equally in trouble even if you spot these words a few hours earlier, in the morning when you are getting the meat - which should have been marinaded overnight - out of the freezer.
  • Griots de porc is ahead in the ongoing 'which recipe can use the most utensils' stakes.  By the time the pork had been defrosted then marinaded with chopped veg (and inc. orange juice squeezing); simmered in a pan on the hob; drained of cooking liquor; fried in a pan; vegetables chopped & sweated; stock made & added and cornflour made into a paste to add if necessary (it wasn't, as it happens), I was just about through with pans & paraphernalia and about to start on the next-door's stock of knives/sieves/jugs/pans etc
  • Cornflour needs to be treated with caution - a hasty couple of spoons tipped in a cup and half filled with boiling water will produce translucent gelatinous gloop - fascinating, actually, but not something that I wanted to add to the pan in that state.  Moderation is the key, I think
  • Wray and Nephew authentic Caribbean rum is a somewhat of an investment at £24 a bottle - but then again, it is eyewateringly alcoholic.  Disappointingly (and to my utter astonishment), I'm not keen on the taste - and it galls me to pay all that money for something you will disguise with coca cola. 
  • Pineapples are brilliantly sweet and succulent and juicy.  They are also ridiculously cheap at the mo at Aldi - why don't I eat more of these?

And out of 10?

  • for the griots - a tasty 8/10 - whether it is the marinade, or the cooking method, this is lovely - although a bit of a faff with quite a few stages.  I'll find out what is vital to it's success next time, of course, when I cut corners such that I don't use every utensil in the kitchen to prepare the dish.
  • for the rice - a delicious 9/10 - all rice should be like this.  Suspect that the knob of butter at the end does the taste no harm at all - I've yet to come across a dish that isn't improved with a bit of butter.
  • a citrusy 7/10 for the pineapple - in a stop-press moment, I'm not that keen on the addition of the rum.  maybe it's just too strong a taste?

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