First published some six years ago, the sub-title explains the contents’ as follows: ‘Delicious Creole Recipes from the Heart of the Caribbean. This is an easy-to-handle hardback, its sunshine-hued end-papers enclosing bright, colourful pages and appetising photographs.
Author Bolosier phrases the contents of her Creole collection as a “rich hybrid… reflecting the Amerindians’ love of seafood, the African tradition of using tubers… French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English cooking techniques applied to tropical ingredients and Asia’s myriad spices. As she is from the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the culinary focus is largely there.
Here introductory chapter offers an informative essay on the melting pot that is Creole food, influenced by the Amerindians – early farmers, hunters, and fishermen – the Europeans who brought a variety of culinary trademarks from a number of countries , the Africans who contributed slow-cooked stews while Indians, who replaced the Africans after slavery was abolished in 1848, brought their own ingredients along with their spices.
Listing ingredients found in her kitchen, chillies – all of which are the hot varieties – are grouped with fruit and vegetables, rather than with spices.
The recipes start with a chapter of drinks – all of which are based on the famous local rum, with just two non-alcoholic exceptions. They present a fascinating array of cocktails, where ingredients like coconut milk, papaya, oranges, passionfruit, mango and pineapple provide colour and flavour, and a variety of spices add further tang and tastes.
Starters are often based on fish and seafood, like salted fish and avocado balls, dressed crab, salted fish fritters (the fish is always de-salted) along with some salads such as grated green mangoes dressed with a savoury vinaigrette of lime, garlic salt and chilli.
Fish and shellfish are stewed and poached, fried and grilled, or cooked with rice, reflecting Portuguese and Spanish origins. Lobster, prawn and crab dishes will satisfy adventurous palates with gourmet tastes.
Meat and poultry are always well-cooked, the author warns, as tropical climates require this to avoid food poisoning. Christmas day will often see the Creole Pork Ragout served, a well-marinated, slow-cooked stew, tender, and fragrant with both herbs and spices. Economical pork in the form of stewed pigs’ tails and breadfruit represents African heritage slave fare. A mix of pork cuts go into the Creole cassoulet, not for the faint-hearted. A variety of meat and poultry is used to make Colombo curry, and the recipe here is for mutton . Turkey wings get roadside treatment on the braai, being smoked next to pieces of sugarcane which flavour the wings as they grill – popular takeaway fare. Easter Sunday sees roast lamb on the menu, marinated, spiced and herbed and Creole beef pot roast employs the familiar herbs and spices used in other meaty stews.
Side dishes are not afterthoughts, but important accompaniments: Creole rice would make a fine vegetarian dish, spiked with onion and garlic, flavoured with tomato and enriched with sweetcorn and hard-boiled eggs. Plantains replace bananas in an unusual gratin, flavoured with bacon, baked in a béchamel sauce and topped with cheese – similar to green bananas in cheese sauce from Martinique that I once cooked. Kidney beans and lentils also feature in this section which finishes with a mashed pumpkin dish. Soups usually combine vegetables with fatty meat to produce rich meals. Chilli is prominent in a few easy sauces and these are followed by syrups – cane sugar, sorrel, pomegranate and passionfruit star here, as a prelude to desserts. These range from banana as fritters, flambéed and baked in a pie to a light coconut cake, a rich peanut cake, a guava cheese which could extend our repertoire, and a spiked upside-down pineapple cake which looks irresistible.
A glossary and index complete the text. There is plenty to seduce cooks in this compendium of pungent, colourful, highly flavoured and diverse cuisine. Just a word of warning: Bolosier is a self-confessed chilli addict, the hotter the better, and the fiery trio is featured in practically every savoury recipe throughout the book. Just omit them if you wish, or replace with milder species.
SUNSHINE KITCHEN by Vanessa Bolosier is published by Pavilion Books, London, 2021.
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