So you’re getting married or just got married. Congratulations! You are now responsible for at least half of the meals that you and your loved one will be eating. Of course, the same will hold true when the children come along, not to mention family and friends, and oh yes, how can I forget—the in-laws! But let’s focus on just the two of you right now.
Cooking, even for those of us adroit to the task, is not easy. I’ve often explained how intimidating cooking can be because it is the most sincere form of affection. It is about baring the soul, letting one’s guard down and leaving yourself open to be judged. Cooking for a newly wed couple brings all of these things to the fore and more as they adjust to being a unit, living together and sharing the same space. Feelings of inadequacy can quickly arise and it is for this reason alone that I firmly believe that the task of cooking should be a shared one, so that the couple can grow together and learn from each other. Know this—anyone can cook. Really.
Firstly, don’t approach cooking as a chore, think of it as creating something. Cooking is one of those things that can be instantly rewarding when you see the results and gratifying when you see the sheer joy and appreciation on the faces of your loved ones and their empty plates! I am going to share with you four master recipe-ideas that you can tweak, adjust to suit your tastes and vary in flavour. And each of these ideas can work for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Enjoy!
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea or dinner—eggs are good. There are so many ways to cook eggs such as boiled, mashed, scrambled, fried, poached, curried, baked, nested etc.
To boil eggs—this is the way I do mine —bring the eggs up to room temperature. Add them to a saucepan large enough not to crowd them or have them jamming up against each other as they boil. Add two teaspoons of salt and cover with water. Set saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a boil. When the pot comes to a boil, let eggs cook for six minutes exactly. Meanwhile get a large bowl and fill it with a combination of ice water and ice cubes. Here you are creating an ice bath to cool down the eggs and stop the cooking process. This will help the eggs to remain tender—the whites will not be rubbery or the yolks overly dry and powdery. The cooling down process also prevents that gray sulphur ring from forming around the eggs.
Once the eggs are finished boiling immediately remove from the bubbling water. Plunge them into the ice-water bath and let them remain there for about six minutes before peeling. Now you’re ready to make your egg salad, potato salad, curried eggs or egg balls.
For soft-boiled eggs, cook for only 90 seconds (1 ½ minutes).
Scrambled eggs are easy and what is important is to know how you and your spouse like your eggs done. Some people like their scrambled eggs soft and tender while others like them hard and cooked firmly.
To scramble eggs:
- Always start with a cold pan; this way, the eggs get to cook through gently and can be cooked to varying stages of doneness.
- Cook eggs over low heat.
Season your eggs just as they are done to your likeness and not at the beginning of the cooking process. Adding salt at the onset of cooking can harden the eggs.
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted)
- Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper to taste
- Crack the eggs and add to a medium-sized bowl and beat lightly with a fork, do not let it get frothy.
- Add butter to a skillet and melt over low heat.
- Pour beaten eggs into melted butter.
- Stir gently and constantly. Be patient the eggs will take about 3 – 4 minutes to set.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste remove from heat and serve immediately.
- If you would like your eggs firmer, cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add thinly sliced green onions (green parts only) at step #5 if you like.
- Finely chop onions, hot peppers, cilantro or chandon beni or parsley and tomatoes and sauté gently in melted butter (at step 2). Be careful not to let the veggies get brown) then proceed to step #3.
Five ingredients are all you need to make pancakes—flour, eggs, baking powder, sugar and milk. With this as your foundation, you can make an endless variety of pancakes including chocolate-chip pancakes, pumpkin pancakes, berry pancakes, banana pancakes, guava pancakes and orange pancakes. Honestly, the variety is endless. You can even make savoury pancakes such as cheese, corn, spinach or mushroom.
Chocolate-chip Pancakes & Sautéed Bananas
Yield: 4 – 5
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- A pinch salt
- A pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup whole milk (substitute with water)
- 2 heaped tablespoons chocolate chips (semi-sweet or regular)
- Canola oil
- Add flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon to a bowl and mix together.
- Add egg and milk to make a batter of dropping consistency (you may need more or less milk/water depending on your location). The batter should not be thin or watery.
- Cover batter and let rest for at least ½ hour. The longer it rests, the higher the pancakes will rise (it’s all about science; Alton Brown is better at explaining it).
- Fold in chocolate chips just before cooking pancakes.
- Add a few drops of oil to a non-stick pan and swirl. Heat on medium heat. If using a tawah or griddle, heat up pan first then brush with oil.
- Pour or ladle 1/3 cup of batter in/on to pan and swirl with the back of a spoon. Spread batter to about 4 inches in circle. Let cook until bubbles or holes start to form. Flip pancakes (do not slam down) and continue cooking until it comes away easily from the pan. Do not press down on pancakes while cooking.
- Remove cooked pancake and place on wire rack or paper towel. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Insert a piece of wax paper between each pancake when it is done cooking to avoiding steaming and sticking.
- Pancakes can be kept warm in a 200 degrees F oven while you continue making the others.
- 2 ripe bananas (average 1 per person), sliced into ½ inch rounds
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons canola or any neutral tasting oil
- Add butter and oil to a pan and place on medium heat to melt. When the butter starts to froth, add the bananas to the pan (spread them into a single layer as you want each piece to make contact with the pan). Let cook for 1 minute. Flip and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Spoon over pancakes, drizzle with syrup or honey and serve.
- These sautéed bananas can be served topped on many desserts.
All rice is not created equal. And there are various ways of cooking rice. For the uninitiated, I would suggest using the absorption method; this is where the water and rice are measured and then set to cook for a specific time. This way, you don’t have to constantly be checking or guessing as to when the rice is done.
Follow the rice guide (available at caribbeanbelleweddings.com). Once rice is cooked, you can serve with vegetables, stews, curries or beans. You can also opt to do a quick sauté of some finely chopped onions and herbs before adding your rice and water to the pot; or, add some whole spices such as cumin (geera), cinnamon, cloves or cardamom, to perfume and flavour the rice in an enticing way. If you’re cooking your rice plain, try adding some butter or ghee to flavour the rice. The possibilities are endless!
Yield: Serves 3
- 4 cups of just-cooked Basmati Rice (you want the rice to be hot)
- 3 tablespoons Canola oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons black mustard seeds
- Minced hot pepper to taste
- ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
- A pinch of asafoetida (hing) optional
- 10 – 12 curry leaves (if you have)
- ¾ cup chopped onions
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- ½ cup chopped cilantro/coriander leaves (or chandon
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (1/3 cup if using lemons)
- Heat oil in large pan or karahi on medium heat.
- Add mustard seeds and fry; as soon as it begins to pop, add pepper, turmeric, hing and curry leaves (if using) and sauté for 1 minute. Then add onions and ginger and sauté until onions are soft but not coloured.
- Add the hot rice along with the cilantro/coriander or chandon beni and toss to mix well. Remove from heat, pour lime/lemon juice over rice and mix to incorporate. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving (to give the rice enough time to absorb the lemon juice and flavours).
Again, this is about seasoning cut-up chicken with flavourings of your choice—herbs, spices, aromatics or a combination. You can use wet marinades or dry rubs. Seasoning your meat overnight for a well-seasoned soak and then cooking it the next day is easy work.
To bake chicken:
- Season chicken, if possible, in the same dish you are planning to bake it in (oven proof, of course). Otherwise, an airtight container or secure zip bag would do.
- Bring chicken up to room temperature before cooking.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F before adding pan/dish with seasoned chicken to the oven.
- Cook for forty-five minutes or until a knife, when inserted into the thigh or drumstick, runs clear.
- Chicken breasts cook faster than the thighs, drumsticks or wings, so remove those pieces and set aside until the red meat parts of the chicken (thighs, drumsticks and wings) are done and then add back to the pan to keep warm.
- Let the baked chicken rest, covered for twenty minutes, before serving.
- Serve the pan juice as a sauce or pour into a small saucepan and let reduce until thick and serve as gravy with the chicken. (In both cases, remove as much fat/oil as possible) .
Baked Chicken Seasoning Combinations
|Green Seasoning||A combination of herbs along with onions, garlic and hot peppers – blended together with saltto taste.|
|Garlic-Thyme||Thyme and garlic pureed or ground to a paste with salt and pepper to taste.|
|Ginger-Garlic||Root ginger and fresh garlic ground to a paste and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.|
|Ginger-Garlic-Soy Sauce||Root ginger, fresh garlic and hot peppers ground to a paste and mixed with soy sauce to create a marinade. Add salt to taste.|
|Roasted Garlic-Thyme-Mustard||Roasted garlic and fresh thyme are made into a puree along with whole grain mustard and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.|
|Rosemary-Garlic||Fresh rosemary and garlic are made into a paste and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.|
|Yogurt Marinade||Whole milk yogurt seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped cilantro.|
|Cilantro-Lime Marinade||Cilantro or chandon beni along with the zest of limes or lemons, pureed with oil and salt and pepper to taste.|
|Boozy Marinade||Soy sauce, dark rum, worcestershire sauce and Angostura bitters mixed together and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.|
Cynthia Nelson is the award winning author of Tastes Like Home (IRP 2010), and the blog Tastes Like Home. www.tasteslikehome.org. Photography ©Cynthia Nelson.