Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Recipes

After spending 40 days of eating sparsely, the Caribbean food experience comes back alive during the Easter holidays - there's lots of delicious food around. And so you can get a taste of Caribbean Easter wherever you are, I'd like to share a few recipes with you.

One of the St. Lucian traditional Lenten eats is a favourite of mine, so I thought I’d share that recipe to start - it may be designated for the Lent period, but it's delicious and I'll eat it at any time of year!

But before I share this one, let me tell you, actually getting a recipe for this was a big reminder of how ‘word of mouth’ our traditions still are – it took me alot of dead-end emails and eventually a friend of mine spending an hour or more on the phone, even calling as far as Canada, to finally pin down the ‘recipe’ I’ll now pass on to you. So know that you’re getting a bit of insight that’s hard to find - I hope you enjoy a little experimentation, cooking by feel – very Caribbean!


It’s unclear whether the name means Pain Epice or Penny Piece – could be either, but whichever it is, it’s delicious; A flat, crispy ginger biscuit.


½ lb fresh ginger
1 cup sugar syrup with spices
Ok, so this can be anything from ½ cup water + ½ cup sugar to ½ cup water + 1 cup sugar – I’d use brown sugar, but I’m sure the tradition uses white.
As to what spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe anise and a little clove are ones that seem to end up in many Caribbean recipes, a good shake of each or a total of 1tsp should be a good starting point.
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
A little butter or lard – I’d say about 1 Tbs

Blend your ginger (scrape off the light skin with a knife first)
Blend in the sugar n spice syrup
Take 1 cup of the mixture and mix into flour and cut/mix in butter – knead until it is very smooth.
Spread/Roll out into a very thin layer – 2-3 mm. You can roll little rounds or long ovals – your choice.
Bake in medium hot oven and “keep a watch, it burns fast", so keep a watch – it’s done when it’s light brown.

Let it cool and it should be crispy and very tasty.

Now eating things like pork especially are Easter treats but I’d prefer to share a couple of other sweet recipes with you. First in memory of my mother, who being a staunch Irish Catholic, is very much part and parcel of childhood Easter memories for me –

Mary Jennings Clark’s Banana Cake recipe, unbeaten to this day, the best:

8 oz (Blue Band) margarine
12 oz granulated white sugar
4 eggs
16oz self raising flour or plain flour with 4 tsp baking powder, ‘bare’ ½ tsp baking soda
1 ‘good’ tsp salt
6-7 mashed ripe bananas (West Indian bananas are MUCH sweeter and tastier than Central American, also smaller, so you may need to use 5-6 'Chiquitas', but know that you also won’t get as strong a taste)

Cream margarine until white and fluffy
Cream in sugar until well blended
Slowly whisk in 4 eggs
Gradually stir in flour by hand
Stir in mashed bananas

Pour into greased and floured tins (about 8 in circles)
Cook approximately 1 hour at 350F
Done as soon as a skewer comes out clean

This tastes delicious, I have also made this cake with added cinnamon and nutmeg – about 2 tsps cinnamon ½ tsp nutmeg.

And lastly, a St. Lucian traditional drink – not necessarily an Easter tradition, but it’s good and luxurious tasting so, it fits the bill!

Lucian Cocoa Tea

We grow some of the world’s best cocoa in St. Lucia – Hershey used to buy it all, but nowadays a lot is used locally to make ‘Cocoa Stick’ – a pure cocoa product – lightly roasted cocoa beans are ground and mixed with spices to form sticks. These sticks contain full cocoa beans – the cocoa butter is not removed – this makes it very rich and the cocoa is probably healthier as those benefits people keep touting for chocolate depend on the lowest amount of processing. This is not a
scientific evaluation, it just seems logical to me that the local cocoa is probably quite good in that regard!

So, best drunk early on a morning – dawn is good, or on a cool evening – it really heats you up.

Substitute dark unsweetened cooking chocolate or Mexican chocolate for Cocoa Stick
Grate about 3-4 Tbs
1 West Indian bayleaf (or ¼ tsp ground bayleaf)
½ tsp cinnamon or 1 stick cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp vanilla essence or a small piece of vanilla bean
¼ tsp ginger is optional
1 cup evaporated milk and 2 cups water or 3 cups full cream milk
1 Tbs cornstarch

If you use the whole spices, simmer them in the water for a few minutes first, then add in the cocoa and simmer for a few minutes more. If you use ground spice, you can do this all in one. Mix the cornstarch with a little cold water and pour in some of the hot mixed Cocoa Tea to thin the cornstarch, then mix that back into the main pan, stir until the cornstarch thickens the tea.

Strain and serve hot. Traditionally eaten with ‘bakes’ or hot creole bread and butter, but will go very well with Banana Bread too.

So, happy eating - and do share your thoughts, experiences and questions.

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1 comment:

  1. I will only drink the cocoa tea because I love chocolates to the max, no painepice for me or banana bread.