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.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Of things Trini

Trinidad ChocolateDid you know that Trinidad's chocolate is highly regarded all over the world? Chocolate makers really love our chocolate and I was pleasantly surprised to find this chocolate at a friend's home recently.
On the wrapper it says: "Gran Cuova (I think they mean Couva) Cocoa originates from special plantations on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and is one of the world's finest cocoas. When combined with utmost care and the finest ingredients, its unique and beguling aromatic flavour produces a superb extra bitter chocolate."
It makes me wonder if our chocolate is so good, why have we been subjecting our children to the crap of Charles Chocolate for so many years?
But as we're in the Trini vein, I'll talk about two cookbooks I got recently, Caribbean Flavours and Angostura's The Taste That Changed The World.
They're both authored by Wendy Rahamut, a cook who came to prominence in the mid-1990s when she started appearing on daytime talk shows in Trinidad. She also writes a weekly column in the Trinidad Guardian and does some writing for other Caribbean publications as well.
In Caribbean Flavours, there are more than 150 recipes ranging from traditional dishes like Tobago curried crab and dumplings to the contemporary fusion dishes like shrimp saute with basil and feta.
I read somewhere that described her as Trinidad's Nigella Lawson, but that's not true. Nigella Lawson writes like an angel, Wendy Rahamut just doesn't. I'll be the first to admit that I've never been inspired by Wendy Rahamut to cook anything and I still remain uninspired.
Caribbean Flavours is not really a bad book, but it looks like a hip cookery textbook.
In design terms, it's a bit basic and there aren't enough photographs. If you've read this blog before you'll know that one of my pet peeves is 'cartoony Caribbean' effects. Unfortunately, some of the food photography in this book verges on the cartoony. There is a good range of recipes in this book, and none of them are too challenging so it should be easy going for the less accomplished cooks.
With a title like The Taste That Changed The World, you'd think you were getting a food novel, but no, it's a cookbook inspired by Angostura Bitters.
They should change that damn title, it's too bloody pretentious. We all love Angostura bitters, but it didn't change the world.
When you open the book, the first thing that greets you is a testamonial about Harold Prieto, the photographer. Opposite to a big, black and white photo of a smiling Mr Prieto, noted musicologist Pat Bishop writes; "Prieto is a man who likes his vegetables to look perky; he requires his food to be colourful." All this palaver is a bit egoistic but at least he got his colours bright and his veggies perky.
The hardcover and sprawling photos indicate that this book is meant for your coffee table. But why oh why didn't Angostura spend some good money and get a proper designer to do this book? Why does it read like a corporate brochure with a short cookbook tacked on?
All the recipes - yes all - use Angostura Bitters including Kenyan Style Chicken Tikka. Sounds like a joke doesn't it? Chicken Tikka is a dish made up in English curry houses to suit the English palate, it's not a 'real' Indian dish. I'd be interested to hear what my Indo-Kenyan friends think of this.
I looked in vain through the two of these books to see whether there would be a recipe that included Trinidad's finest chocolate but no such luck. It seems we're stuck with Jamaican stuff, according to Wendy Rahamut. Here's her recipe for Cocoa Coffee Cake which, by the way, has no coffee in it!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups flour
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Icing sugar to finish

1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 9-inch cake tin
2. Cream butter with granulated sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and beat until nice and fluffy. Combine the baking powder and flour and add to mixture alternatively with the milk.
3. Combine cocoa, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.
4. Place a third of the batter into pan, sprinkle with half the cocoa mixture. Repeat with another layer of batter, then cocoa mixture.
5. Top with remaining batter.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with icing sugar when cooled.

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  • At 14:51, Blogger Petit said…

    As far as I know coffee cake is an American idea - and is usually a not too sweet cake served with coffee, sometimes with a streusel topping.

    Valrohna also do a nice chocolate from the Gran Couva estates.

  • At 15:06, Blogger Trinifood said…

    Petit C,

    I am going in search of that chocolate. I know that I can get chocolate made from Trini chocolate in Fortnum and Mason's on Piccadilly.


  • At 17:59, Blogger Petit said…

    That is exactly where i got the Valrohna chocolate bar - it is labelled Gran Couva estates - it is also my absolute favourite shop for choccies - but last time I went they didn't have any! They do have nice chocolate bars from Madagascar and Venezuela

  • At 21:42, Blogger The Peong said…

    The first trini chocolate I ever saw was actually in a small town just across the border in quebec, canada. Odd place to find it but it was good!
    You may have reservations, but the few things I have made from the angostura cookbook have been great - I made a roast with the honey-orange pork recipe and am no longer allowed to make a pork roast any other way. I don't know how trini the recipes are (except for the bitters) but the results were not bad at all.
    When sweet trini and I got the cookbook, we had just finished a private tour of the angostura factory given by their head mixologist, Chippy, who is the bartender in the picture near the middle of the book - so we were a bit taken by the photos. I'm going to have to go home and analyze the production value of the book now.
    On you spurs!


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