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Food in the Caribbean: Background and some excellent seafood recipes!


A blend of ethnic influences, Caribbean food is a rich reminder of where today's Caribbean people came from: island food brings together indigenous tastes of the native Arawak and Carib Indians, European colonial influences, and African flavors introduced by slaves.  more...


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Food in the Caribbean: Background and some excellent seafood recipes! A blend of ethnic influences, Caribbean food is a rich reminder of where today's Caribbean people came from: island food brings together indigenous tastes of the native Arawak and Carib Indians, European colonial influences, and African flavors introduced by slaves.

The Arawak, Carib, and Taino Indians were the first inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. These first inhabitants occupied the present day islands of British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Their daily diet consisted of vegetables and fruits such as papaw, yams, guavas, and cassava. The Taino started the process of cooking meat and fish in large clay pots. The Arawaks are the first people known to make a grate of thin wood strips on which they slowly cooked meat, allowing it to be enhanced by the flavor of the wood. This grate was called a barbacoa, and the word we know today as barbeque is taken from this early Indian cooking method. The Carib Indians added more spice to their food with hot pepper sauces, and also added lemon and limejuice to their meat and fish recipes.

Once the Europeans brought Africans slaves into the region, the slaves diet consisted mostly of food the slave owners did not want to eat. This meant that the slaves had to be inventive, and they blended their traditional African foods with staples found on the islands. Most present day Caribbean island locals eat a present diet that is reflective of the main ingredients of original early African dishes, and includes cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, bananas and corn meal.

African men were hunters in their homeland, and often away from home for long periods of time. They would cook spicy pork over hot coals, and the early slaves in Jamaica refined this tradition. The technique is known today as "jerk" cooking , and the secret involves a slow meat cooking process. Jamaica is famous for jerk chicken and pork, and you'll find jerk all over the island.

After slavery was abolished, the Europeans went to India and China for labor, and more cooking styles were introduced. Much of the Indian cooking culture remains alive and well in the Caribbean of today with the introduction of curried meats and curry powder. Indians call it kari podi, and we have come to know this pungent flavor as curry. The Chinese introduced rice, which is always a staple in home cooked island meals. The Chinese also introduced mustard, and the early Portuguese sailors introduced the popular codfish.

Most visitors to the Caribbean have no idea that the early Spanish explorers introduced the fruit trees and fruits so familiar to the islands. The fruit trees and fruits brought from Spain include orange, lime, ginger, plantains, figs, date palms, sugar cane, grapes, tamarinds and coconuts. America is responsible for introducing beans, corn, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and chili pepper to the Caribbean.

And… some awesome seafood recipes.

Barbecued lobster with lime, chili and coriander butter
Ingredients
• 1½ tbsp chopped fresh coriander
• 1 garlic clove, chopped
• 1 lime, zest only
• ½ lime, juice only
• 1 red chili, finely chopped
• 75g/2Ύoz butter, softened
• 2 lobsters, about ½kg/1 lb2oz each

• Preparation method
1. Light the barbecue 30 minutes before you want to eat.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the chopped coriander, garlic, lime zest, limejuice and red chili. Beat in the softened butter until well combined.
3. Cut each lobster in half lengthways. Discard the matter in the head section. Remove and discard the sac behind the eyes. Remove any green tomalley (liver) and the roe in the body section (these can be pan-fried and eaten, or discarded). Remove the claws, crack them and set aside.
4. When the flames have died down and the coals are ash-white, place the lobster claws onto the grill and barbecue for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until the claw meat is completely cooked through.
5. After turning the claws over to cook on the second side, add the lobster halves, cut-sides down, to the grill. Barbecue the lobster halves for 3-4 minutes, then turn them over and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the lobster meat is cooked through. (NB: The lobster meat is cooked through when the flesh is firm and opaque and the shells have turned from dark blue to bright red.)
6. When the lobsters are cooked through, spoon the lime, chili and coriander butter over the lobster meat.

Crab with mango and avocado salad

Ingredients
• 1kg/2Όlb cooked crab, white meat and claw meat only, chopped (the brown meat can be used in another recipe)
• 1 just-ripe mango, peeled, stone removed, flesh cut into cubes
• 2 avocados, stones and skin removed, flesh cut into cubes
• 1 red onion, peeled, sliced
• 1 garlic clove, peeled, sliced
• ½ mild red chili, seeds removed, finely sliced
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
• 1 lime, juice only
• 1-2 tbsp olive oil, or to taste
• pinch salt
• 2 Little Gem lettuces, leaves separated, washed and patted dry with kitchen paper
Preparation 1. Place the white crabmeat and claw meat into a bowl, add the chopped mango, avocados, red onion, garlic, red chili, thyme leaves, lime juice and olive oil, then season, to taste, with salt. Mix until well combined.
2. To serve, spoon the crab mixture into the lettuce leaves. Divide the filled lettuce leaves equally among four serving plates.

Caribbean stir-fried Shrimp

Ingredients
• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
• 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
• 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice, drained, and patted dry
• 1 pound frozen, large shrimp, thawed, peeled and cleaned
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
• 1/4 cup canned, diced mild green chilies
• 1 teaspoon soy sauce
• 3 cups hot cooked rice (optional)

Preparation
1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add half the oil and heat until smoking, about 10 seconds. Add the onion and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
2. Add the pineapple and stir-fry gently until pineapple browns lightly, about 1 minute. 3. Move pineapple to a bowl and set aside.
4. Add remaining oil to the pan. Add shrimp and stir-fry until opaque, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper, if desired, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the tomatoes, chilies, and reserved pineapple and stir-fry until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in soy sauce and serve over rice, if desired.

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