Tan Rosie’s Top 10 Tips For Authentic Caribbean Cooking
We are often asked by our customers how to cook Caribbean food and what ingredients you need to make real authentic tasting Caribbean dishes. So we’ve put together our top 10 list of key tips, ingredients and techniques to achieve that unique flavour of Caribbean cuisine. We hope you’ll enjoy trying them!
Most Caribbean meat or fish is marinated before cooking. This gives the meat great depth in flavour and is a must in Caribbean cooking. We usually leave meat or fish to marinade for at least 24 hours in the fridge. I’ve known some relatives to leave food marinating for 48 hours! If you can’t wait that long, we recommend a minimum of 2 hours.
2. Scotch Bonnet Pepper
Contrary to popular belief, not all Caribbean dishes use this famous pepper. It can be used in a variety of ways, but always use caution at first because this little pepper bites back! Why not add a whole scotch bonnet pepper into your curries (make sure you leave it whole) and remove it after cooking – don’t let it burst! This will give you the fantastic flavour of the pepper and enough heat to tantalise your taste buds.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut is a staple ingredient in the Caribbean and it’s used in variety of ways in savoury or sweet dishes. Coconut milk (or cream) is superb added to curries. It tastes amazing in soups and of course cakes and sweets. If you are watching your waistline, you can buy low fat coconut milk from most supermarkets or Asian stores. Alternatively, you can make your own low fat version by blitzing fresh coconut pulp with water and straining some for the milk.
4. Dutch Pot
Traditional Jamaican cooking utilises the Dutch Pot. It’s a large aluminium dome shaped pot and lid which is excellent for making 1-pot dinners, curries and much more. These are available from Caribbean stores or even online (ebay). Our family in Carriacou, Grenada have used traditional iron pots over a wood fire in cooking for generations. These days they are mainly used in traditional food festivals on the island such as the Maroon Festival.
5. Meat On The Bone
If you really want authentic tasting Caribbean food, you have to use meat on the bone folks! Leave the chicken breasts alone and opt for thighs instead! This is a must – the marrow in the bones adds tremendous flavour to dishes and it’s good for you! Once you marinade meat on the bone for 24 hours and cook, your dish will take on a whole new world of flavour. If you have squeamish guests, then remove the bones before serving.
6. Sweet Spices
Sweet spices such as Allspice, Nutmeg and Cinnamon are used in various Caribbean dishes, from sweet to savoury. Our family in Carriacou, Grenada (the spice island) use these spices on a regular basis to give a deeper flavour to dishes. Try adding a teaspoon of allspice to curries. Why not grate fresh nutmeg to your jerk seasoning? It’s easy to use these sweet spices in sweet dishes, but try and experiment with savoury dishes too, you’ll love it!
This is a very traditional technique of Caribbean cooking. It gives meat a luxurious deep brown colour and rich flavour and tastes amazing. Simply add a knob of butter to a frying pan, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and heat until brown (but don’t burn). Once the sugar has caramelised, add your marinated meat to the pan and cook. This traditional technique is used as a base for stewed dishes and curries. You’ll notice a distinct difference in your dishes after using this method for frying off meat. Yum and what a colour!
8. Chives, Thyme, Celery & Scallions
These aromatic herbs and seasoning vegetables are used extensively in Caribbean cooking on many islands. They are often sold in small packages with scotch bonnet pepper in local stores. Add a sprig of thyme to rice and peas to bring out the flavour of the peas or add to soups and stews with a little scotch bonnet pepper!
9. Salted Fish & Meat
Due to the climate, Caribbean people have always preserved meat and fish using salt. Salted fish (or salt fish) is eaten all across the Caribbean in various dishes. The fish is traditionally cod, but there are many different types available in supermarkets for you to try. Salt fish is usually soaked, washed or boiled to remove the salt before cooking. We prefer to soak and wash the fish in several changes of cold water and over night. Salted meats are often used in soups and stews which are slow cooked – it gives the dish a rich, tasty flavour. Try it!
10. Ground Provisions
Instead of using your usual Maris Piper potato, why not opt for some Tania (pictured below), Sweet Potato or Cassava? You can use these vegetables in the same way as your average potato and they taste great too. We always use the white sweet potato when cooking. The white variety tends to hold its shape more and we think it tastes better than the orange sweet potato which can be watery and soft. These vegetables are available from most Asian stores and some larger supermarkets.