A bountiful opportunity
Hi Everyone, last week when I read about the current vegetable glut in the market (in Guyana), I wanted to hop on a plane, go to Guyana and cook, and cook, and cook! This bounty brings with it the opportunity to experiment and to preserve.
Even without the excess, whenever I go home to visit I am always taken back by how much food there is in Guyana in such varieties, in such large quantities… and each time it moves me. Sometimes it overwhelms me. And it always makes me proud – this is my home; this is my food.
I know that whenever there is an over-abundance of anything we can quickly become bored or tired with it, therefore, I thought I’d share with you some ideas of things you can make, for now and for use later.
Making a tomato sauce is very simple and easy and it can be stored in the fridge for several weeks and for months in the freezer. The sauce can be used for just about anything you use tomatoes for – to dress pasta, make stews, curries, lasagne, or even serve with crusty toasted bread.
You can opt to flavour your tomato sauce any way you like, you can make the traditional marinara sauce – tomatoes, garlic, basil (married-man pork) and olive oil. Or you can opt to make a tomato-garlic sauce or a tomato-thyme sauce.
Though we don’t have a tradition of using green tomatoes in the Caribbean, do not shy away from using them. I often buy green tomatoes and make a green-tomato achar which my friends can never seem to get enough of or you can simply sauté the green tomatoes and eat them with bread or rice or roti. Cooking it with a piece of salt fish or smoked fish really elevates the tomatoes.
Tomato chokas though exclusively made with ripened tomatoes can also be made with green tomatoes. The trick in cooking with green tomatoes is to balance the tartness with a bit of sugar.
Pumpkin can be chopped up and frozen and be ready to be dropped into soups or stews.
Pumpkin is such a versatile vegetable that it can be used in a myriad of ways – to make fritters, punch, pancakes and pies. You really must try the punch recipe I’m including in the column, it packed with vitamins and I’m sure that you and your family will like it.
Pumpkin is one of those vegetables that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes such as being grated and added to the cheese sauce for macaroni pie. Trust me, you’ll feel less guilty about eating macaroni pie when you add the pumpkin.
Cabbage makes for quick cooking as you know and so it can easily be stir-fried with a variety of fresh herbs, spices or sauces so that each day, it would taste different.
As a suggestion, one day you can stir-fry it with black bean sauce, another day with fresh thyme; with slivers of garlic and whole cumin (jeera); with sesame oil; or just with salt pepper and a sprinkling of ground turmeric
Pickling cabbage is easy – it retains its crunch and works great with burgers, sandwiches, or, serve it just as you would a coleslaw.
Don’t forget that this is a key ingredient in making green seasoning that can be stored for a very long time in the refrigerator and be frozen for months in the freezer.
For a crunch with your meal that would be sure to please, cut off all the top of the shallots (the white and red parts, the onions). Slice the heads thinly and fry them gently until crisp, lightly salt them and place in an airtight container and sprinkle over anything you feel like having them with.
Here in Barbados, we hardly ever get the shallots with the heads on, so I only get to enjoy the fried shallots whenever I travel. So you see how fortunate you are?
Rub a little oil on the peppers, fire-roast them or roast them in the oven; put them into a paper bag to soften a bit and then peel off the charred skin. Take out the seeds, and store the peppers whole or sliced in a jar with some oil in the refrigerator, or puree the peppers and freeze.
The peppers can be added to soups, stews, curries, chokas, chutneys, sandwiches etc. Be creative!
Cassava can be peeled and stored in the freezer for several months. That’s what I do here in Barbados because cassava is not always readily available (and at a reasonable price). Also cassava is one of those ground provisions that as soon as you purchase it you need to cook it or freeze it as it goes bad quickly.
What I like about using the frozen cassava is that it can go straight from the freezer into the boiling water. No need to defrost before cooking!
I hope that you’ve been inspired or that I’ve prompted some thoughts as to what you can do with the bounty you are currently enjoying. It’s a great time to experiment.
Yield: 2 ½ – 3 cups
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic sliced
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 cup hot water
2 stalks basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large pan with cover
1 wooden spoon
Sterilized glass jars
1. Add oil and garlic to pan and place on medium heat to fry until the garlic is golden and just slightly starting to change colour (do not let it get brown).
2. Add tomatoes along with its juice and 1 cup of water to the pan, season with salt and pepper and turn heat to high and stir to mix.
3. Insert the stalks of basil leaves into the sauce; let the sauce cover them.
4. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook covered for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, remove cover, stir and let the sauce continue to cook for another 15 – 20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down considerably. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. The sauce should be loose but not very watery. Remove the basil stalks.
5. Let cool and store in glass jars in the refrigerator or use immediately with freshly cooked pasta.
Substitute with 4 (14.5 oz) canned tomatoes (diced or whole). If whole, roughly chop the tomatoes to make the sauce. Do not use stewed canned tomatoes.
2½ cups chopped pumpkin
2½ cups water
10 shakes Angostura bitters
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
½ can condensed milk (or more to taste)
1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend for 1 minute until the mixture is smooth.
2. Pour into a jug and refrigerate.
3. Serve cold or over ice.
You can opt to pass the punch through a sieve if you like