A fusion of Caribbean flavors will remind you of vacation
West Indian cuisine has traditionally blended whatever ethnic influences sailed through on the trade winds.
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The Caribbean food company GraceKennedy recently unveiled a new line of frozen foods, which will feature meals such as jerk chicken with rice and peas, jerk shrimp, and curried chicken. The new meals are being targeted at the burgeoning Caribbean populations in Toronto and surrounding areas. Ethnic frozen meals are one of the fastest-growing food categories, says Gary McFarlane, president of GraceKennedy Ontario, so "it is important our customers find the trusted Grace brand in their supermarket freezers," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Not all Caribbean meals take all day to prepare. "Doubles" are a popular meal found on Trinidad and other islands. The name comes from the two pieces of fried dough used to make the spicy chickpea sandwich , which is often eaten for breakfast, or as a snack at other times during the day. A mainstay of the Caribbean diet is roti, which is normally considered a foundation food and comes in a variety of forms. Roti can properly be described as a thicker tortilla – it's treated like a burrito at times – that can be infused with potato or ground yellow lentils. Roti is usually filled with curried meat (goat or chicken) and vegetables and eaten like a sandwich, perhaps dipped into curry or stew sauces.
"Here in the US, they will fill the roti with curried chicken, curried potato, and rice!" Abrahim exclaims, making a face of disgust. "But I guess that is the American or Mexican twist to the Caribbean dishes. In this country, all the groups will influence each other eventually," he says, grinning widely as he vigorously stirs a steaming pot of curried chicken.
While many Caribbean dishes are elaborate and require several hours to prepare, not all Caribbean meals have to take all day to make. A popular meal enjoyed in Trinidad is 'doubles,' which refers to the two pieces of fried dough used to make a sandwich with chickpea filling.
1/3 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F.)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
To make the dough: Place the warm water, sugar, and yeast in a separate small bowl. Set aside until the mixture bubbles. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, turmeric, cumin, and black pepper. Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and add additional lukewarm water as needed – about 1/2 cup – until the mixture comes together into slightly firm dough. Knead until smooth and elastic and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
1 16-ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-1/2 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste)
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying
Hot sauce for serving, to taste
Finely shredded cucumber, pickled vegetables, or chutney for toppings
To make the filling: If you're using dried chickpeas, rinse and drain them. Next, put them in a pot with six cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
If you're using canned chickpeas, drain them in a colander and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.
Heat the tablespoon of canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and stir well, frying for one minute more. Add the curry powder and mix well. Cook for 30 seconds and add 1/4 cup of water.
Stir in the chickpeas, cover, bring to a
boil, and simmer for five minutes. Remove
the lid and add one more cup of water. Stir in the cumin, salt, and pepper, and lower the heat. Simmer until the chickpeas are very tender. Set aside.
To complete the doubles: Punch down the dough and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Pinch off walnut-size pieces of dough and flatten each into a thin circle about 4-1/2 inches in diameter. Dampen your hands with canola oil if the dough is sticky.
Heat about one cup of canola oil in a frying pan or medium saucepan that has sides at least three inches high. Test the oil by sprinkling a bit of flour into it: If the flour bubbles and sizzles, the oil is ready. Add the dough circles and fry, turning once, until they are lightly browned on both sides, about 40 seconds. Place two tablespoons of chickpea filling on each piece of fried dough. Season with hot sauce and add vegetable toppings if desired. Top with another piece of fried dough.