I was going somewhere with this, where was it? Oh yeah, people like to hunt. Everyone does, even those of us who don't like to hunt animals. We like to hunt other things, like maybe a bargain or that rare penny to add to a coin collection or maybe sea glass on the beach. Me, I like to hunt for exotic ingredients. And also sea glass on the beach.
So that's why I've had a bottle of cassareep in my pantry for the last maybe year and a half. Because it was that long ago that I decided to make pepperpot when I got to Guyana, mostly so I could go hunting for that critical ingredient. Cassareep was not easy to track down and when it arrived it had leaked all over the inside of the box, but damn it, I'd bagged me some cassareep. And that's where it's been sitting for the last 18 months.
| Kaieteur Falls from Potaro. Canyon, Guyana. Photo by Alan Hopkins.|
Here's that recipe:
- 2 lbs stewing steak (pork or beef) or brisket
- 2 pigs' feet (optional)*
- 2 lbs oxtail
- 1 cup cassareep
- 2 red hot peppers
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 oz sugar
- Salt to taste
- 2 sprigs basil
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
And something to mop up the juices:
For the filling:
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cups yellow split peas
- 1/4 of a scotch bonnet pepper
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- pinch fast acting yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp baking powder
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
Salara (Red Coconut Cake)
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 egg, separated
- 3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp red food coloring
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
First dissolve all that yeast in warm water with a tablespoon of sugar. Let it stand for 10 minutes or until frothy. Now gently heat the milk until warm and add the rest of the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Whisk in the butter and egg.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour together with the salt. Add the yeast mixture along with the milk/butter and mix thoroughly, preferably with an electric mixer. Now pour in the flour and keep mixing until you get a soft dough.
Now, I don't really know what went wrong with mine. It wasn't a dough, it was a batter. That could have been because I measured something wrong. Something terribly, terribly wrong. But it could also be because the recipe was wrong. I do intend to try again and will post an update when I know for sure--but in the meantime if you make this recipe do tell me what your results were.
Anyway I just turned my batter into dough by mixing in maybe another half cup of flour (just keep adding it until you get a soft, bread-like dough).
Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the filling and set aside.
OK now let's do the Dahl puri. I was pretty seriously intimidated by this recipe but it really wasn't that hard, just wordy. I'm going to try to edit it down to make it seem a little less scary.
Meanwhile make your dough. Mix the flour with the salt, yeast and baking powder. Add water until you get a firm dough. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into six smaller balls. Flatten the first one and then shape into a sort of shallow bowl. Dust with a little bit of flour and then fill with some of the split pea mixture.
Add the rest of the ingredients and make sure they are covered with water. Now, the recipe didn’t say what to do with that pepper, so I just dropped it in whole. But my result really didn’t have a lot of pepper flavor so I wonder if that was the right move. I think if I had it to do over I would chop the pepper up instead. Whatever you choose to do, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the meat is tender.
Well, it was OK. I liked it well enough, but to be honest the cassareep just tasted like molasses. In fact I think you could probably get away with just using molasses in your pepperpot and you wouldn’t really know the difference. The whole dish was really sweet and could have been spicier. I think I was right, that pepper probably should have been chopped up.
Now, I do have to wonder if maybe my cassareep was the right stuff. Wikipedia describes cassareep as the “bitter exctract of cassava,” and it really didn’t taste all that bitter to me. I wonder if it’s usually made with molasses or if that was just for the benefit of the American market. Oh well, unless a Guyanan emails me with the answer, I guess I’ll never know.
I did like the dahl puri. I liked it a lot, though I would add a little salt to the split peas if I made it again. They really came out shockingly perfect and they tasted very good, though they do fall apart if you try to tear into them vs. just biting into them whole.
Now for that cake, oooh it was really good. The glaze gave it just enough sweetness on the outside but it was really quite sweet and coconutty on the inside, too. I swear I gained at least two pounds eating this stuff because the loaf was enormous. I didn’t hoard it, either; everyone in my family was stuffing themselves with it.
So yes, very good overall, especially the bread and the dessert. As for the cassareep, well, I didn’t use it all and it went back into the cabinet. Where I suppose it will stay for another 18 months. At least.
Next week: I'm posting my list of favorite recipes for 2013! I'll get back to nation-hopping the week after.
For printable versions of this week's recipes: