Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on a quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but everyday food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with that which is produced from good old terra firma, is what makes the world go around.
How I love this wet weather! Snuggle up with recipes; cooking in the kitchen; or simply hanging out reading, watching movies or listening to audio while knitting. Hahaha… knitting does not usually fall into the ideas of folk living in a hot climate – not unless one cranks up the airco. And, yes, I crank up the airco here, because even if it is raining and fairly “chilly” outside, it is not really cold, is it?
Interestingly, I see that there has been rain in many places in the world these past few days. I am not talking about North America where we apparently get our cold weather from, but down South, as they too have had wind and rain. This has meant that those of us who enjoy cooking and sharing recipes have done just that.
The first thing to do is to get fresh jars and bottles of special things made and into the (nor hopefully) empty fridge, after having eaten our way through the stocks of the festive season. In our case, pickled red onions, jalapenos, cucumber and preserved lemons top this list. Pickles are so nice to have on hand – they instantly transform many plain ingredients to heights of moreish-ness! They go well with sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, wraps and on the side of any meal.
Quick (refrigerator) pickles are simply vegetables that are pickled in a vinegar, water, and salt and sugar, and stored in the refrigerator. Quick pickles don’t develop the deep flavour that fermented pickles do. They can be eaten a short while after making them, but really are best eaten once chilled.
Pickling is best done with vegetables that are super fresh. Almost any vegetable can be pickled, you can decide on the shape you want each veggie to be – sliced in to lengths or across into “coins”. Cherry tomatoes are best preserved whole. Blanch green vegetables (green bean or zucchini) first in boiling water for two to three minutes, then shock them in an ice-bath to preserve their colour – drain and use.
For quick pickles, a basic brine is equal parts vinegar and water; you can adjust the ratio to your preference. You can use any vinegar (white vinegar, apple cider, white wine, rice vinegar) alone or in combination. Balsamic and malt vinegars do not work for pickling.
For this pickling, preserving affair, one needs to prep the bottles by giving them a good boil; putting them in the dishwasher is acceptable, but if one feels that is not good enough, read up on how to can and bottle. Bottling can be a long-winded affair, so we just go the dishwasher way!
For pickling liquid, we love the simple, straightforward “quick-pickle” brine using rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring it to the boil until all is dissolved and pour it over the prepared veggies in the jars – seal, cool and pop into the fridge. Your choice: you can add herbs, ginger, peppercorns, and garlic to any of the pickles – we prefer the simpler, the better.
For the red onions, one slices them as finely as one likes – I use a mandolin. If the onions are top and tailed and outer skins removed, and popped into a Ziploc and kept in the fridge for a few days, there are no tears when slicing. We keep white onions in the fridge too – none of this crying while slicing onions nonsense.
For the cucumbers, thinly peel lengths of cucumber or slice across, keep the slices thin – a mandolin works well here too. Pour the brine over the cuke you already have placed in the jar (as you did with the red onions). For carrots, clean and wash carrots well then finely julienne them – cut to even lengths to fit in the jar.
For the jalapenos, you will need to cut the top/stalk off and then it is your choice to either remove the veins and seeds or not. Now slice the peppers as thin or as thick as you like, pop them into your prepared bottle and pour over the pickling brine. You can also add slices or crushed garlic to these, if you so wish, but add the garlic to the liquid and bring to a fast simmer.
A rainy Sunday is just right for a bit of time spent in the kitchen:
Start with smoked salmon, heated rolls (on the BBQ), sour cream, avocado and pickled red onions.
Pork tenderloin – marinade in Ketchup Manis, cooked on the BBQ
Pork sausages, cooked on the BBQ
Korean chicken, marinade and then cooked on the BBQ – served with a spicy jalapeno, yogurt sauce.
Barley salad – tomatoes, parsley, garlic, spring onions, walnuts.
Mushroom Pie popped into the oven (if GEBE dies away, finish on the BBQ) – the Webber makes a great oven.
Tartiflette made the previous day – this is a delightful potato dish, heated on the BBQ.
Baked peppers, stuffed with tomatoes and minced garlic, topped with a basil leaf and baked in olive oil, started in the oven, but finished in the Webber oven.
Dessert comprising chocolate coated biscuits from a box bought over the festive season.
Of course, whatever wine/beer/mimosas one wants.
½ cup water
½ cup vinegar (white)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Bring it to a simmer in a small saucepan, use while hot
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
1TBL kosher salt
1 tsp peppercorns (optional)
Bring the liquid to a boil and pour over the veggies
Herby Pickling Brine
1 LB fresh vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes)
1 cup vinegar, such as white, apple cider, or rice
1 cup water
1 TBL kosher salt, or 2 tsp pickling salt
1 TBL granulated sugar
2 sprigs fresh herbs (thyme, dill, or rosemary)
2 tsp whole spices (black peppercorns, coriander, or mustard seeds)
1 tsp dried herbs or ground spices
2 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
Add veggies to the jar/jars, packing them in quite tightly but not swooshing them in.
Leave space at the top of the jar so the liquid will cover the veggies.
Pour over the hot pickle brine and tap the jar/jars to release air bubbles.
Seal, cool and chill in fridge for up to 2 months.
The pickles will improve with flavour as they age.
Mushroom Pie – any mushrooms can be used in a mushroom pie. The following was what was on hand. This pie is my grandmother’s. She did not use exact measurements, as with many of her recipes. You can top this pie with puff pastry; we just turn the sides in to form a kind of galette.
4 large King Trumpet mushrooms, sliced both ways
Packet frozen Morell mushrooms
Packet Girolles (yellow mushrooms)
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 TBL dry sherry
Chicken stock cube
1 TBL Corn flour
Cook the onion and garlic in a mix of butter and olive oil for 5 mins.
Add mushrooms and cook until pan is fairly dry, stirring well.
Add 2 sprigs of thyme and stock cube, along with the sherry.
Stir together well and simmer for about 3 minutes.
Pour in enough water to barely cover mushrooms and cook until half the liquid has been absorbed.
Sprinkle corn flour over the mushrooms.
Add cream, about ½ cup and cook a little longer until thick to your liking. (If too thick, stir in some water; if too thin, cook back a bit longer).
Add salt, pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes to taste.
Fill a pie dish, lined with puff pastry, with the mushroom mix; turn the over-lapping pastry to the centre of the dish.
Pop into the freezer for an hour, if you have time. Chilling the pastry before baking is always a good idea
Brush with beaten egg yolk or milk just before putting it into a preheated 400° F oven.
Cook till there is a golden crust.
Tartiflette – Made here with Reblochon cheese, however this potato and cheese pie can be made with different cheeses.
2 LBs potatoes, peeled and cubed
8oz pack bacon lardons
1 garlic clove
3½ fl-oz white wine
7 fl-oz double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole Reblochon cheese, sliced
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Boil potatoes until tender, but not broken up in a pot of salted water.
Drain and set aside to cool.
Fry bacon, garlic and onions until golden-brown.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine; continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Placed cubed potatoes in a baking dish, season with fresh ground black pepper and salt (not too much as the bacon can be quite salty).
Stir the bacon mixture through gently.
Pour over the cream.
Layer the Reblochon slices on top and press down gently.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden-brown and bubbling.