Tuesday, August 31, 2010

THE HALAL GRILL KITCHEN... value fuh money

i've been going by "de muslim an dem" for quite some time, but never got a chance to take proper pics and document it. that could be because when i think about going there i'm usually very hungry and looking for a lot of food. blogging is the last thing on my mind. this place is on the aranguez road, close to the eastern main road side. as soon as you enter aranguez and you pass the new gas station on your left, it's the next spot with all the cars piled up on both sides of the road and crowds of people standing on the side walk. if that fails, just find the NP and follow your nose.

but tonight, lester passed through with a hankering for some grilled food. so with a clear mind, i grabbed the camera and went out. luckily, the usual army of people was not present. probably trying to see some fireworks in town.

i like the fact that you can see the operation. always a plus in my books. that way you can see how they work and point out anything suspect.

the variety is what you'd expect. chicken, fish, beef, lamb and shrimp. all tasty. lester's favorite is the lamb.

the grill was blazing tonight. they usually deliver quickly, but the lack of crowd super charged it. i hardly even had time to talk to the guys on duty as i usually do. before long...

BOOM! $50 worth of food. this could comfortably feed 2. 3 even. the lamb is all over the top, but this combo has steak fries, fresh salad and a dinner roll of small sandwich worthiness.

what's bbq without sauce, right? there's bbq, honey bbq, honey mustard, shadon beni sauce, garlic sauce... the full run. lester takes full advantage of this.

but back to the size of this thing. to give you an idea of how much food you get, they have bags and RUBBER BANDS on the counter, because the boxes don't close without the help of a rubber band.


iz no joke meal. not for the fragile. it's an undertaking.

however, in this instance... conquered!

a nice bbq indeed. well worth a try.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

fiiiiiish. carite, moonshine joshua!!!!

for years, sunday has been a real wild card day. i hardly ever make plans for a sunday. why? because it's just one of those days that you leave free to kick back and relax... or make a spur of the moment run to buy seafood in some part of the island you've never been before. so on this given sunday, when muh boy stevie (you'll see him in a little) said "leh we go mayaro an get some lobster nah?" my only thought was "ah wonder if the camera battery charge up boy?" i've never made lobster and i've actually only had it once. count me in. lets go.

our journey landed us up at ducky's fish mart in mayaro. cool dude that ducky. just what you'd expect. knowledgeable about anything that dwells beneath the surface. considering the amount of people that stopped by or called out to him, he probably knows a lot about things above sea level too.

anyway, there was fish. we didn't get there early (this was about mid day) so the selection for us was a little limited. fish goes fast in these parts it seems.

i saw a moonshine for the first time. looks like it would be a nice fish for a broth.

the red snappers however were more our interest today.

nice fish indeed. nice to steam or to stuff with some seasoning and veggies and bake whole.

they cleaned them up nicely. did it in a nice fillet style. just to season up and apply heat in whatever format. (let me know how that works out dawi.)

of course crab would be in de dance too. nice big blue crabs. the kind with the big legs that make doing the work worth it.

once i killed and cleaned crab for a crab and dumpling lime with some friends and vowed NEVER to do that again. we spent hours cracking the backs and cutting up etc. i'm talking about hundreds of dollars worth of crab.

anybody doing that for me is good in my books. not that a lot of crab vendors don't do it, but i'm just sayin. i appreciate it every time.

but even my beloved crab wasn't what i was about today. this is what i was thinking about.

lobster. kinda creepy looking thing when you scope it out actually.

these lobsters were huge. i mean, i'm no pro when it comes to these sea bachacs, but lining up the size of these to what i've seen people serving in restaurants and on tv and stuff, these were big. (oh, that's stevie holding up the critters by the way.)

well after selecting one, ducky made light work of skillfully breaking it down.

actually, he selected the one with the eggs. yup, lobster eggs. apparently, these coveted spongy looking things are great when blended into a punch. peanut punch was the recommended flavour. supposed to put de lead in yuh pencil if yuh know what ah mean.

but as we all know, de meat is in de tail. and this one had real tail.

the tail was as big as one of the snappers. probably bigger actually. you have to know what you're doing i guess. in no time ducky stripped out all the undesirable intestines and other stuff and had the tail ready to rock and roll.

the break down in the end. ducky recommended that the tail is good enough for a proper dinner. "feel free to spark up two candles... yuh might even want dem scented an all." the head, which he cut up into a lot of small pieces he said is nice to curry with heavy coconut milk. i also heard that the head parts make a good broth too. i have enough to try them both actually.

well, all in all, a fun filled day of fishy adventures resulting in a full cooler of stuff to bubble. exactly what i intend to do. i predict a fishy week ahead.

leh we bubble.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wrap-A-Daps: Introducing, The B3C Burrito.

Chinyere and myself took a moment to contemplate dinner today. Soup was one suggestion, dumpling another then I remembered that I had two packs of wheat Wrap-A-Daps in my fridge doing nothing. Obviously my first suggestion was that we get some boneless, skinless breasts from the grocery and a few veggies then while we were perusing the aisles in the supermarket I got an idea... "Why don't we make Burritos?!!!" Chinyere was like "hmmmmm... interesting.... what do we need?"

  • Chicken Breasts, check
  • Sweet Peppers, check
  • Onions, check
  • Lettuce, check
  • Black Olives, check
  • Tomatoes, check
  • Cucumbers, check
  • Pepperjack Cheese, check
  • Black Beans...
Chinyere paused when I said black beans, frowned at the idea then... eureka! "Why don't we use baked beans instead?" And thus the Baked Beans & Barbecue Chicken (B3C) Burrito was born.

So let's jump right into it. I put the baked beans on the stove, seasoned it with basil and shadon beni for a little extra flavor. Meanwhile the chicken was being boiled with grated ginger, shadon beni, onions, salt and black pepper. I boiled the chicken because of time constraints. If you have your chicken pre seasoned then there's no need for this step, go right ahead and place your chicken in a tray, drizzle with Olive Oil then coat with Barbecue Sauce and pop that right into the oven.

All the steps after this point are very straightforward.

Start prepping your ingredients.

Of course, there's no need to stick to the ingredients we used, you can create your own blend.

Kiss Wrap-A-Daps... a definite winner!

Things are starting to shape up.

Ah yes, the chicken... mmmhmm good.

Final touch, the baked beans.

Now this is the tricky part... folding the Burrito! We learned the hard way that folding a Burrito takes a certain amount of skill. After preparing four of these bad boys it was quite evident that we needed much more practice at it to get it right. If you have a technique you can share with us please do.

After we fold, they go into a non stick frying pan to be lightly toasted on each side.

And there you have it... the B3C Burrito.

Don't be afraid to experiment with this one... Sky's The Limit!!!

In the words of Quincy... "leh we bubble!"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fish & Fries Remix... A Quick Fix!

Yesterday I passed by PriceSmart to get some boneless chicken breasts... lo and behold they did not have any. What's the point of opening your establishment for business when you are not prepared?!!! So I got the next best thing in lieu of the divine breasts... Fish Fillets! Basa Fillets to be specific.

I had so many ideas in my head, so many plans for these fillets but even the most elaborate of plans are subject to change. So I concocted a quick fix for the fam. The perfect meal to prepare at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, fish and fries!

Now my father isn't big on fried foods and these days I'm trying to monitor the things I eat. After watching Food Inc i've become a bit paranoid about the food I consume... but just a little bit though. As an aside, I would like to encourage people to BUY LOCAL. Meats and vegetables especially.

Okay lets get down to it... unfortunately I didn't take any pics of the process so you're just going to have to use your imagination for visual effects. I put some olive oil in a baking dish then added some orange juice. Not a whole glass of orange juice, just enough for the fish to wade around in. Then I added a pinch of salt and some black pepper, cut up a small onion and some ginger and added a few stems of thyme. Then I placed the fish in this bath and added a leaf of spanish thyme and a slice of lime on each fillet.

I preheated the oven at 350 degrees and placed the dish in with a cover on top so the heat will get trapped inside the dish, allowing all the juices and flavors to have a field day.

Now on to our fries... I cut um some potato.... (yeah right). Its Friday afternoon.. who going to cut up potato to fry now?!! Not me!!! I picked up some seasoned wedges at Price Smart also... I tossed a few of them into a baking tray and put that in the oven as well. This is a QUICK FIX, no long drawn out frying process here.

About half hour later I had perfectly cooked Basa Fillets in a citrusy bath and a few seasoned wedges baked to perfection. A quick and tasty dish that can be remixed in many ways.

Take a shot at it and give it your own spin!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Youth hadda eat ah food too...

So yuh enjoying the first few months of fatherhood, lovin up de youth and being the playful yin to Mummy's nurturing, protective yang. So far yuh a lot more supportive than proactive, because the child more breast-focused than a KFC ad, and even if yuh have boobs, they not producing milk. Then one night yuh liming with baby while getting ready to enjoy a late night snack, and yuh notice her looking real hard at yuh plate. For anyone else, yuh first instinct would be tuh bawl, "Gone from here nah!" But this is the love of yuh life, and yuh start tuh put two and two together. Around six months...looking with deep interest at food?

Time for solids! Or time for semi-solids, since you'll be turning everything to mulch before serving. Either way, it's time for you to step up and apply yuh hand to some of the most important meals you will ever prepare.

Cooking for the baby can prove more challenging than it sounds on the surface. While it's true that, for the most part, you'll be making one-ingredient meals, the issue for sometime-ish chefs like me is that the baby cyar deal with a Subway or a corn soup on the nights you doh feel to cook. This stage is crucial to developing the baby's digestive system and sense of taste. Yuh always need to have two meals a day waiting there to quickly warm up and serve out. Breast milk alone doh cut it after 6 months, and bottled baby food, while convenient, is processed and costly.

So it's a question of logistics. And nothing doh deal with logistics better than containers, a freezer, and a mini blender.

These will be your best friends. I couldn't figure out a good way to get the freezer in the shot.

Pumpkin and apples are a great place to start both nutritionally and for ease of preparation. Other great, easily available choices are carrots, paw-paw, squash, zaboca, bananas and pears. Then there's bhagi, broccoli, cauliflower and various peas.
Mango, especially julie mango, is the king (queen?) in this house, but as the season fades away, they're getting tougher to find. Of these choices, mango, zaboca and paw paw require the least preparation. Just remove flesh from skin, and move on to step two. All the other foods require a fairly universal first step.

Two quick notes: The foods you pick are up to you and the baby, but make sure that you feed her equal servings of fruit and vegetables per week. Also, variety is important. Don't stick to one comfortable food for too long, as I did with mango. If the baby braces the zaboca the first time, try again next meal time. And again. And again. Persistence is key.

Steam, boil or bake the foods to soften them up first. I have pumpkin and apple pictured above. Pumpkin getting a typical steam, in a colander over a pot of boiling water. Steam till soft and well-cooked, but not till soggy.
I chose to boil the apples, although they can bake as well. Peel the apple skin, remove the core totally, and boil in a little bit of water. Cook until they're soft, but not falling apart. Test with a fork. At this stage, an apple is about one baby meal (remember, the core and peel are removed, so it's less flesh than you think), so cook to suit.

Now for the secret weapon, an implement I would hope you invested in a long time ago.

Much easier to use, clean and store than a blender. Much less wastage.

Puree. Yuh want a soft, smooth consistency, but not liquid. Thicker than a thick peanut punch, but soft enough to fall off the spoon. If you need to add water, use the same water you steamed over or boiled in. Remember to remove the pumpkin flesh from the skin.

Invest in some small, BPA-free, stackable plastic containers. I had my eye on this set on Amazon, but a relative sent these colorful ones instead. Each of these is about 5 ounces, which is more or less what a baby should eat (or eventually eat) per meal during their second six months. If you know a place selling these locally, put it in the comments section. My money would be on Excellent, IAM or any of the bigger baby/childcare stores. If you can't find containers, an ice tray is a great alternative. One block for the first few weeks, then build up to two.

Ready to pour and store. I made a mix of apple and pumpkin in a few of the containers. I like to call it Pumple. Other favorites are Cinnamango, Pumpkrot and Cinnapumpkrot. I could see Mhangi and Mangoccoli being concocted in the near future. Sometimes the best way to get the baby used to a new food is to introduce it mixed in an old favorite.
And if you're wondering, yes, it's okay to add a slight spice to the baby food. It helps them get used to taste variety.

I wouldn't lie...seeing this is a joy. Neat. Orderly. Convenient.

Baby food can be frozen for up to two weeks. Try to keep them far from the meats. I make about a week's worth at a time. A few are in the freezer itself, and one should always be in the fridge thawing out and standing by. Easy to make, easy to store, easy to put in the lunchbag to send to daycare, and you can feed baby right out of the container.

I usually heat it up (to slightly above room temperature) by placing the container in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes, but a quick spin in the microwave works as well. If the thaw is lumpy and runny (pumpkin especially), don't worry. Just stir it a bit with the baby spoon to get it back to a smooth puree consistency.

So yuh good to go. This is usually a nice Friday or Saturday night lime to have with the baby (is not like yuh goin anywhere else at this stage). Put him in the high chair close to you in the kitchen, and walk through each step of the cooking process with him. Watch de little mind working, and feel satisfied that yuh start de training from early.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

japs again

a while ago i went on a run to sample this glorious japs chicken people were talking about. i think more than one referral warrants a try out, so when my cuz suggested a detour while we were picking up our friend fish at the airport, i was all for it. in my review i said it was just ok, but wanted to sample another branch to see if they could convince me on their tagline "the best taste around". seems like my wish was japs' command, because just a short while later, japs opened a branch in san juan. it's not on the eastern main road where i thought it would have been. you have to turn off by the lights (left if you're facing east or right if you're facing west) go up about 2 blocks and you'll see the big red, white and green japs sign on the right... not to mention the trade mark japs lines.

how was it the second time around? well this time i had the fish. though it wasn't the same item, it had more or less the same effect. seasoned enough to not be terrible, but not enough to be great. and seeing that they are now closer to buyer's in santa cruz (my fav chicken spot thus far) baidawi's "best taste in the area" theory doesn't quite fly. just like the first time, the food was not oily, which is good, and the portion sizes were big which is also good. and even around these parts where there's no shortage of fast food joints, a chinese food spot on every block, multiple grill spots, roti shops and doubles men in abundance, you can't beat the price. $25 for that big fish meal above. the massives are loving it down this side. hot spots like kfc and royal castle were literally empty while japs had lines to the door. plus a crowd outside listening to what sounded like a rachel price in concert cd on a local pirate sound system.

so on attempt number 2, japs is still just aight. i'll still be willing to make a grande run at some point to try it one more time. third time's a charm they say.

until then... leh we bubble.


some say the only thing to mix a guinness with is more guinness. some say the only thing a guinness should be poured into is a mouth. some drink it straight out of the case. some need it beastly cold. me? i say to hell with your rules! (what else is new right?) i started drinking guinness the same time i started working on their ad campaigns some years ago. since that time, i've done all sorts of things with guinness. some were successful and others, well... not all that successful. check out some of them:

guinness and ice cream. vanilla preferably. spruced up with a lil creme de menthe and a dash of something secret that i probably shouldn't sell out. think about the flavours and you should figure it out. It's kinda thick and has the potential to end a night prematurely. but one scoop and a guinness can make 2 servings.

guinness and red wine. there's this little hole-in-the-wall wine shop on henry street port of spain. (a spot i shall have an entry for pretty soon) the wines there are great. some of them are purposely sweeter than what you would normally find around. we were takin a lime there one time when some guinness slipped into some wine. the rest was history. we went in during daylight and came out in a much darker port of spain, heavily affected by the creeper that is wine. but long and short, it tasted really good. however, a dry wine (as unfortunately pictured above) DOES NOT taste good at all. no lashability there.

guinness and black russian. this one goes way back. dawi named it a darkie for obvious reasons. the black russian is basically kahlua and vodka, so it has a dark, rich chocolate taste. quite potent that little drink. i've seen it buckle knees before. you get the black russian, sip some out of it, then add a little guinness. repeat. sip and add until it's all done. you would usually drink two black russians to one guinness.

so, try them... don't try them... post some creations of your own... or not. it's all good. more mixed guinness for me.

leh we bubble... i mean... leh we brew.