Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Trini Tuesday-Now You're Cooking!
Time for a little cooking lesson Trini style. Tony maybe you could consider this just a part of my audition? First let's label the utensils.
The Pots: This ought to be pretty obvious. In Trinidad this style of pot is always called an iron pot, even though they aren't made with iron anymore. They are big and they are heavy! They also have a bowled bottom to them instead of being flat like a stock pot. The heaviness and the bowl shape are very important in Trini cooking. Things get stewed for a long time and we don't want them burned during the long, slow cook. We also want all the nice juices, or gravy as it is referred to, to pool in the bottom nicely, hence the bowl shape. You can try doing Trini cooking in a flat bottomed pot and it may work ok, but it is just so much easier when you have the right pot. To that end when I decided I needed a bigger pot than what I came home with I carried the bigger one in the picture in my suitcase. That along with tons of bottles of seasonings and a couple bolts of cloth nearly induced a hernia.
The Tawah or Platin Tawah if you are East indian, Platin if you are creole. This is the big, black, flat thingy in the back. It is used for frying roti, which is an East indian flat bread used as a utensil. I am aware of of 4 kinds of roti, I can make 3 of them. The 4th is just too labor intensive and my least favorite to eat so I never learned it. The tawah is made of the same heavy metal as the pots. A nice black one like that means it has been well loved and heavily used.
The Dabla That's the wooden paddle in front of the smaller pot. It is used to make roti. Again, the shape it important. It is flat and has a finely chiselled end. It is used to flip the roti during frying and the chiselled end is critical when making the 'dosti' variety since there are two layers that have to be split apart during the frying process. It's also handy for giving a wallop on the bamsee to anyone interfering with the cooking process.
Now let's move on to some key ingredients.
Lemons Trinis hate the smell of raw meat. When they are preparing anything, whether it is red meat, fish or poultry, it is first washed thoroughly in water and lemon juice. Several rinses occur until the meat smell is neutralized. If a Trini says the meat is smelling 'fresh' that is not a good thing. It should not smell like anything to their way of thinking.
Green Seasoning The tall bottle on the right contains green seasoning. If I were on the island I'd be using fresh, but since I am in the Poconos not all of the ingredients for fresh are avaialble. Green seasoning contains, celery, chives, thyme, and the thing I can't get, chadon beni. After the meat has been washed with lemon, it will have green seasoning, garlic, and onions mixed with it and be left to marinate anywhere from overnight to a half hour.
Congo Peppers The tiny orange pepper is a habanero. It's roughly the size of a congo pepper or scotch bonnet, both of which are a little less hot than a Trini Congo Pepper. Habaneros and Scotch bonnets work in a pinch when congos aren't available. A number of dishes rely on having the Congo Pepper stewed whole in it. If the pepper bursts during cooking the dish is unbelievably hot, but when it remains whole it infuses a nice subtle burn to the dish. The folks who want their food really hot add pepper sauce.
Pepper Sauce The short bottle on the right contains commercial hot sauce, which everyone uses. Even young children might use it, although it has quite a kick to it. The large jar on the left contains the killer homemade pepper sauce that every housewife has her own recipe for. That is the stuff that will burn your eyebrows off. Mr. Lime once made the mistake of putting his fingers in some. Hours later in his sleep he scratched his eye, then his nose, then ....erm...his nether regions. Then he ran screaming down the hall to the bathroom for cold water. It was not a pretty sight. Folks, don't try this at home.
Tomatoes, Garlic, Onions, Bell Peppers Yes, I know there are no bell peppers in this picture. I ran out. So much for me having a properly stocked Trini kitchen. These are staples in Trini cooking and used both in main dishes or sides.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've worked up a bit of an appetite. Happy Trini Tuesday!