Can Cook, Must Cook

The food adventures of Franka P, a Trinidadian journalist living in London, UK. I'll write about my forays into all types of food and cooking, particularly Caribbean food. I'll also review books and recipes by the leading food writers and talk about the issues making headlines in the gastronomic world.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The prodigal returns....

Hectic!! That’s the only way I can describe my life lately, hectic and fun!
I’ve been having a fantastic summer, especially hanging out with my friends at random and unexpected events.
I have to shamefully admit to a
day of drunken excess to celebrate my birthday which for the bits I can remember was excellent. I’ve been told that I was the life of the party for the entire evening, until I slinked off and passed out on Bonnie’s couch.
Thanks to Maurice for the bottle of Laphroaig single malt whisky, it’s my favourite single malt and all 70cl of it went down really well. Amazingly after all that alcohol, I didn’t have a hangover or any adverse side effects. I put that down to the venison burger, oysters, clams and sinful chocolate cake I had at Borough Market before getting to Bonnie’s house, as well as copious amounts of food throughout the day.

Lest you think I’ve turned into a wutless drunkard, rest assured that I rarely drink that much, and when I have done, it’s been in the company of good friends so my business won’t be in the street.
Talking about good friends, I’ve shared some interesting meals with friends at Caribbean restaurants in London in recent weeks.
A few months ago, I said I’ve not been particularly impressed with the Caribbean stuff on offer in London and I’ll admit that I am not as cynical but it’s clear our restaurants still have a long way to go if they’re even to reach to the standard of some pubs here.
Lisa and I finally went to
BB’s Crab Back Restaurant, near to where I live in Ealing, West London and I had a great meal.
BB’s has been around for a while and is a 'must-do' for Caribbean celebs passing through London, you can tell by looking at the walls because everyone who’s someone seems to have signed the walls at BB’s. From Brian Lara and the West Indies team to soca stars and politicians, they’ve all eaten there.
When I stepped into the restaurant, I felt as if I was in a time warp, but not in a bad way. It was like eating in a shack on the side of the road on the way to the beach where the reggae music in the background – Beres Hammond and Gregory Isaacs obviously – is a bit too loud and the service is leisurely but attentive.
BB’s might be really rootsy, but chef/owner Brian Benjamin’s menu is quite sophisticated. The menu is quite diverse and strongly influenced by Grenada, chef Benjamin's native land.
There are old favourites like callaloo, ackee and saltfish and curried goat side by side with modern interpretations of less well-known dishes from the region.
I was thoroughly intrigued by the Bathway Express, an appetising curried split peas risotto served with mild mint and yogurt sauce, that’s clearly based on good ole split peas and rice, something our mothers cook up quickly if they not feeling to make pelau or soup.
I love prawns, so I couldn’t help but dig into to Lisa’s King Prawns Seretse (cooked in butter with lobster sauce and served with pimentos and mango). That was bloody excellent!
What struck me about BB’s was the extensive rum list that included Cockspur, Royal Rivers, Vat 19, Clarke’s Court, Appleton and El Dorado rums.
I have a bee in my bonnet about rum and I think more Caribbean people (myself included) ought to be rum experts in the way that many Europeans are wine experts. I once shocked a wine critic by saying that wine is an acquired taste for me, and that I could do without it.
Once you taste rums like Angostura’s 1919 and 1824, Appleton’s V/X or 12-year-old El Dorado, you can’t really enjoy £4.99 Ernest and Julio can you? I promise I’ll return to that conversation in the future.
Passion Fruit Sorbet or Bananas flamed in Rum and Lemon are always tempting options for dessert, but we decided to try something different and went for the Bush Tea, a delicious and soothing infusion of Grenada’s finest spices - West Indian bay leaves, lemongrass and cinnamon.

Chef Brian and his wife Anna are great hosts, and I was happy they took the time to chat with us about food and about things in general. Brian told me about the Grenadian version of oil down that sounded much richer than the Trinidadian recipe. He even promised that he could cook it for a bunch of us if we warn him in advance. I will definitely be back!

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