Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recipes from Guadeloupe

Once, I used to complain about how many nations there are in the Caribbean. Can you imagine that? In my defense it was really more because of my abnormal love of variety. If you want to know what I'm talking about, ask my poor kids, who never know what to expect at the dinner table, and not just on blog nights. I only have a handful of recipes that I make regularly, and by regularly I mean a couple of times a year on average. The rest of the time I'm filling their plates with scary, scary experiments. And then when I actually do cook something they like they have to wait another six months before I get around to making it again.

So I got kind of tired of the Caribbean in those early weeks of this blog. But now, I really, really wish I was spending as much actual time in the Caribbean as I've been spending there this month. There is some good food in the Caribbean. I don't know if this is because the tourist trade compels all those excellent chefs to come up with new and flavorful dishes or if it's just the climate and all the lovely and exotic ingredients that grow there. Anyway Caribbean food is tasty and I should be happy to make more of it.

And that brings me to Guadeloupe, a small group of five islands in the Lesser Antilles. I'm sure you will be shocked to hear that people have been fighting over this particular 629 square miles since the 8th century, when the Caribs fought the Arawak, or so sayeth Wikipedia, the Source of All Knowledge (citation needed). After that Christopher Columbus came along and "discovered" the pineapple on the islands, which had actually been grown in parts of South America for who knows how long but hey, Columbus didn't actually "discover" America, either.

So then the Spanish fought the Caribs and the British fought the Spanish and then somehow the French ended up owning it all, which of course pissed off the British and then they all started fighting each other again. Eventually the French came out on top and now the islands are an overseas region of France. Hope it was worth it.

Le Gosier, Pointe-À-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Photo Credit: rachel_thecat
All this fighting and changing of hands did have the happy side effect of contributing to a unique and delicious cuisine, which is largely Creole in character with shades of African and Asian flavors. Despite the small size of Guadeloupe it was actually difficult to narrow down my menu and I had to leave one or two things out. Here's what I finally settled on:

Bokit au Poulet
(I am missing the source for this recipe. Does anyone recognize it?)

For the rolls:
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp lard
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
For the filling:
  • One 3 1/2 lb chicken
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp French 4-spice blend
  • 3 1/2 tsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper paste
  • 1/4 tsp mixed dry herbs (I used a poultry seasoning)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp colombo powder
  • 4 turns of the pepper mill
  • 2 green onions, chopped
Creole Avocado
(This recipe comes from
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 tbsp uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 can crabmeat
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 7/8 cup oil
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped herbs
  • salt and pepper
Pigeon Peas
(This recipe is from Recette Guadeloupe)
  • 2 lbs dried pigeon peas
  • 6 tomatoes, blanched and peeled
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 carrot
  • Chives
  • Parsley
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb bacon
  • Olive oil
Pineapple Banana Cake
(This recipe is from Bananas Guadeloupe & Martinique)
  • 2 bananas
  • 4 pineapple rings
  • 6 tbsp salted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
First the cake, since it can be made ahead:

Preheat your oven to an unspecified temperature. I chose 350 degrees because the recipe didn't say otherwise.

Now cut up the pineapple. Cream the butter with the sugar then add the eggs. Now you will note that this instruction caught me by surprise, since the ingredient list said nothing about eggs. So I decided to use two, which may not have been the right decision.

Now mix the yeast with the flour and water.

These very vague instructions also didn't say anything about letting the yeast become foamy, or about allowing time for the cake to rise, which is kind of what I thought yeast was for. I'm thinking now that you should mix it all together and then let it sit for an hour before baking it. However that's not what I did.

Now add the flour mixture to the the butter/sugar/eggs. Stir in the bananas and pineapple (I just used my electric mixer to make sure the bananas were well incorporated, then I added the pineapple).

Bake for 45 minutes. Wonder what went wrong.

Now for the pigeon peas:

The instructions were for a pressure cooker, but since my peas were canned I was kind of scared of what might happen to them in a pressure cooker. So I did my peas like this:

First cut up the carrots into small pieces, but not so small that you won't be able to pick them out, because cooked carrots are gross. Now saute the onions and garlic in the oil, then add the bacon.

Add the tomatoes and carrots and the bouquet garni and stir for five minutes.

Add the pigeon peas, parsley, chives and salt and pepper. Cook for 15 or 20 minutes and serve hot.

And the avocados, which I think are generally served as appetizers, though I served mine as a side:

Boil the rice according to how you usually boil rice. Drain and let cool, then transfer to a large bowl. Mix in the mayo and mustard, then add the salt, pepper, lemon juice and ketchup.

Halve the avocados, scoop out the insides (taking care to keep the rinds intact) and dice. Toss with the crabmeat and rice mixture. Now stuff the rinds with the mixture and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Chill and serve.

And now for the bokit:

Proof the yeast in 3 tbsp of the water. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the lard and salt, then when the yeast is frothy add it to the flour with the rest of the water. Knead for one minute or until you get a firm dough.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place for two or three hours.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 395 degrees. Blend the onions with the garlic and allspice in a food processor until you get a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the spices, dried herbs, pepper, Colombo powder, red pepper paste, oil and lemon juice.

Now loosen the skin on the chicken but don't remove it. Rub the spice mixture evenly under the skin. If there's a little left over, put that inside the cavity.

Pour a little bit of water into the roasting pan with the chicken and bake for 50 minutes, or until an thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes, then remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Set aside.

Now that your dough has risen, punch down and then shape into individual balls. Let rise another 15 to 30 minutes, then flatten each ball slightly with the palm of  your hand.

Heat a little bit of oil in a frying pan and cook each roll for a few minutes on each side, turning when golden. Drain, then cut each roll in two and put the filling inside with the chopped green onions.

Here's what we thought: The bokit was really delicious. At least me and the kids thought so, Martin is always so reluctant to rave about anything that isn't the most incredible thing he's ever eaten. He's very conservative with his praise, so whatever. He said it was a very good meal, but he refused to rave. Anyway I thought the chicken all by itself would have been a good Sunday roast, but added to those freshly-made rolls it was quite seriously delicious. The avocados were good too, really really good in an "I would have paid $12 for that as an appetizer" kind of way. The pigeon peas, well, I adore pigeon peas as you may already know. But I didn't like these. It was probably mostly the carrots, but I just thought all that other stuff got in the way of that earthy pigeon pea flavor. I much prefer them simpler, cooked with rice. But I guess they were edible anyway.

As for the cake, well, something went wrong and I don't know what it was. It was heavy and tasted doughy even though I'm fairly sure I cooked it all the way through. As you probably gathered the directions were incomplete and some ingredients were missing, so I can't take full responsibility this time. I might go scour the internet to see if I can find another version at some point, but not today. 'Cause it's Halloween! Oh by the way, happy Halloween!

Next week: Guam

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


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