Recipes from /Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago/

(Hippocrene Bookes, NY 2005) by Ramin Ganeshram.


Serves 6

Pelau is one of those dishes that really exemplifies Trinidadian cuisine because it is an admixture of various cooking styles. Pelau, or rice layered with meats and vegetables, is a variation of East Indian pilau, which originated in Persia where it is called polow. The Anglicized version of the dish is called pilaf. The process of browning the meat in sugar for pelau is an African tradition and ketchup is a New World addition to the dish, although I suspect it has its basis in tomato chutneys available in British India and likely brought to Trinidad by the English.

Chicken is the usual meat in pelau but tender cuts of stew beef or lamb work just as well. In Tobago, pelau is often made with crab and that recipe follows.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 3/4 cup sugar (white or brown) 1 3-pound chicken cut into eights, skin removed 1 onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup pigeon peas, pinto beans, or black-eyed peas 2 cups water 1 cup coconut milk 1 bay leaf 2 teaspoons green seasoning 2 carrots, chopped 1/2 cup chopped parsley 5 scallions, stemmed and chopped (white and green parts) 2 cups long-grain rice (not instant) 2 cups cubed fresh calabaza or butternut squash 1 small Scotch bonnet pepper, whole 1/2 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon butter

If using dried peas, soak the peas overnight in three cups of water. Drain. Bring 3 fresh cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the peas. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until cooked almost completely through. Drain and set aside. If using canned beans, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy, deep pot. Add the sugar and swirl in the pot; allow it to caramelize to a dark brown color. Add the chicken and stir well to coat. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Wash the rice by placing in colander or fine-mesh sieve and running cold water over it until the water runs clear. Drain well and set aside.

Add the water, coconut, coconut milk, green seasoning, parsley, thyme, carrots, and scallions to chicken. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the rice, squash, peas, pepper, ketchup, and butter. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the peas and vegetables are tender.

Remove lid and fluff. The rice should be moist but not sticky.


Makes 15

Street vendors sell this dessert year-round and it's best to eat it when it is freshly made and still crispy.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast 1/4 teaspoon sugar 2 cups warm water (between 100-110¿F) 2 cups all-purpose flour Orange food coloring 2 cups sugar 1 cup canola oil, for frying

Place the yeast in a small bowl and sprinkle with the sugar. Add 1/4 cup of the warm water and set the yeast mixture aside until it bubbles.

Add yeast mixture to the flour. Gradually add the remaining warm water until the mixture achieves consistency of a creamy salad dressing

Stir in the orange food coloring drop by drop until the mixture is bright orange. Set aside overnight in a warm place.

Simmer 2 cups of water and sugar together until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Pour the jalebi mixture into a squeeze bottle or a pitcher with a narrow spout.

Heat the oil in a deep pan. Test the oil by adding a drop of jalebi dough to the oil. If it immediately bubbles and bobs to the top, the oil is hot enough.

Squeeze or pour the jalebi dough in overlapping circles into the hot oil. Make each piece about 4 inches in diameter. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Pour the syrup evenly over the jalebis so all sides are coated. Serve.