Christmas food is coming...
So the holidays are upon us. T'is the season and all the yadas... I'm pretty much here for the food.
In the Tropics, Christmas lunch is like the Sunday lunch to top all Sunday lunches. All the food, and all the people. If people aren't invited for the lunch, someone is bound to stop by, announced or unannounced, and will probably be hoping to get fed and watered. This is why I like to keep the front door closed... (did I type that out loud???)
But this can be a time of anxiety for anyone who might have to cook for someone with food allergies, or doesn't eat meat.. or nighmare...one person who is a food allergy having, non meat eater. If you're not used to having to watch what and how you cook, you could panic when you have to.
Seriously, don't. There's a bunch of food sites that can help, you can just google words and a list of things pop up. That too can be overwhelming. I got you.
While you're over there panicking about "but what do they eat" the food allergy having/vegetarian person, is also panicking, because it probably would be deemed rude to bring food to someone's house when you've been invited for food. But who wants to eat salad (cause y'all think that's all we can eat right) all day while drinking copious amounts of creamy holiday drinks, getting tipsy and telling off the host for not feeding you. Not that this might happen... but let's just err on the side of caution huh.
So I'm here to help. There is soooooo much you can cook, and with a trusty muffin pan, you can make individual portions, which means, you don't have to stress about making two of everything, also....you won't overeat and when the food done, you can run the people out yuh house ( politely suggest your guests should go spread the joy of the season with others).
Ok. lets start with starters shall we:
People are at your house, chatting, the food isn't all ready, you don't want people to get hangry(hungry and angry), it's already the holidays, people are on high cranky as it is. So you have little snack type things that people can munch on while they chat amongst themselves and judge each other's attire.
Hummus and chips/veggies/fritters, is easy and yummy, also healthy, but let's not dwell on that. Hummus can be made in so many variations, you can add some avocado, hot pepper, jalapenos, spices, other veggies, like spinach and kale. I put tamarind in once. Depending on how many people are coming over, you won't need more than two cans of chick peas. It's not going to be a strain on your budget, and you don't have to use tahini.
I'm no fan of avocado. It's something about the texture. But they are good for you and people love them. You don't have to just slice it onto your plate, you can flavour it in many ways too. If you have avocados lying around, and I'm sure some neighbour/friend/lady in the market you buy from religiously, will gift you one or a few this season, you can make some guac. It won't take long.
I'm guessing you might want things to actually dip into the dips... You have options here.
You could make pholourie, a little tasty fritter using split pea flour, thats immensly popular in Trinidad and Tobago... and with Caribbean people everywhere. Yesterday I made chive fritters using that split pea flour, and fried in coconut oil. One tip, split pea flour is a strong flavour. Don't taste the batter, it might be best to fry a taster, then adjust the batter accordingly. The batter will be bitter, but that doesn't traslate once it's fried. So tasting it might result in you discarding perfectly good batter thinking that its's gone wrong.
You may want to make some cornbread, but who doesn't love fried dough. Corn fritters might be a fun little alternative. I've made cornbread using no flour, and using gluten free flour, I'm going to go with, these corn fritters can be made without flour, they may be denser though, maybe mixing with fizzy water will help lighten the texture, like a kind of tempura batter.
If you're already making fish cakes, you already have the oil hot, so just use it up. Mini codfish cakes and mini bakes would work too.
seriously, use teacups and give people soup, the possibilities are endless, from pumpkin, to callaloo, and for the West Indian/Caribbean folks, who love to put pigtail in their soup, you can swap it out for a deboned, descaled piece of uncooked saltfish. Just throw it in like you do the pigtail, it's not so much the meat, but the "salted" quality that gives it the flavour.
A cheese platter
All kinds of beautiful cheeses, fruits, olives, crackers... what's not to love?
Mixed nuts are always a hit, but be mindful of peanut allergies. Cheese straws, snack mixes, all these little things would work just as well.
And moving on to the the star of the show... Lunch
So finally everything is on the table and people have somehow appeared around the food like vultures... I mean, like unicorns to rainbows...yep that. What's on your table? Here are some ideas that would also make meat eating non food allergy people happy.
Rice and peas
A staple at most Caribbean dinners. My last post was on the lentil and rice casserole, you could make that. you could make white or brown rice, cook it in butter. I beg you, sautee the onions and garlic in butter then dump in your washed rice and salt and cook it. Just trust me. Seasoned rice is another option, cook the rice, then sautee some veggies (canned will do) and seasonings, then mix it all up. Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.
Vegetables (adding ground provision and plantains here)
So many options, from steamed, to sauteed, to roasted. You have Kale, and carrots, spinach and tomatoes, corn and okro, callaloo, muchrooms, sweet potatoes, the list goes on.
I made these stuffed mushrooms last year. You can stuff with breadcrumbs, you can stuff with other vegetables, or you can just cook them with butter and garlic.
Are versatile, roast them with balsamic vinegar, make a jam, make your own katchup.. or do what I did yesterday, cook them with chick peas and spinach. I didn't follow this recipe, but it's close to what I did. Here's one I made earlier.
Well there's cornbread. You can jazz it up with cheese, and jalapenos, or sweet peppers....actual corn. You could cut up ears of corn and boil it or roast and make that Mexican street corn, or you could cut the kernels off and cook them... Me.. I love corn pie. This is a decent recipe.. ignore the pictire of an actual "pie" I'm not sure what that's about.
You've seen my header photograph.. it's carrots roasted with balsamic vinegar ( I love balsamic..loveeeee). Carrots aren't just for salads, they're quite lovely roasted with parsnips (their lighter coloured and a bit sweeter cousin.. ok I don't know their family history, I'm just being a nosey wotsit).
How about a combination of veggies all wrapped up in one? Sounds good right? Remember I made a ratatouille earler this year... if you don't, you really ought to check out the Instagram : @bellycomesfirst and the Facebook page
Caribbean people will crucify me if Macaroni Pie isn't on this list. That's "baked mac and cheese" to the Americans... swap wheat based pasta for gluten free and you're good to go. Just note that with GF pasta, you need more liquid than normal, because rice based pastas will suck up more liquid, so if you prefer a more oozy and falling apart mac pie, make more cheese sauce... and don't cook the pasta to mush when boiling it. Cooked Breadfruit is a option here, use it in place of the pasta. I tend to dice it like you would potatoes, cook it then mix with the sauce like pasta.
Let's have a look at Main dishes shall we?
The vegetarian in your life, the person suffering with a food allergy, shouldn't have to go hungry... unless they're really annoying, and maybe the court will understand why you did it.. I'm not a lawyer, so don't quote me on that.
Legumes are important. You can make a pasta dish using peas as the 'meat", you can make pies and pot pies, and casseroles, that have no meat, and still have your belly full and happy. You can provide these as options for your guest/love/child/ etc, but best believe you'll probably want to eat them too.
If you're making this for one or a few people, you could make indiviual pies in little ramekins if you have any, or you could make a larger one and everyone can just help themselves. I make these all the time. They're yum. You could swap the regular potatoes for sweet potato, use green banana/fig, or yam for the mash, and saltfish as the filling. You can swap legumes for fish if your vegetarian eats fish.. or shellfish
Moussaka is basically a lasagna made with eggplant. Vegetarian versions just use lentils, or the legume of your choice and some cheese to make the top all bubbly. I'm not the biggest lover of eggplant, but I make this a lot and really enjoy it.
Fish or Vegetable pot pie
I love nothing more than a throw everything in one pot meal.. A pot pie is pretty much that, a few fiddly bits, but its basically that. Feel free to use any "meaty" fish that will hold up to baking, a King fish, dolphin fish/mahi mahi will work fine, and any combination of vegetables you like.
Lentil or chick pea will make you a loaf, like a meatloaf, but without the meat. lol. And if you have leftover, you can make a "Shirley" (check my earlier blog posts if you don't know what I'm on about here).
People hear "Vegetarian" and think 'vegan". Vegetarian is like the tree trunk and there are many branches. A pescatarian vegetarian will eat fish and shellfish (sometimes) You can do almost anything with fish. I've made General Tso's (RIP to the creator of that dish) fish (I've made it with cauliflower too), made sweet and sour/barbeque/roasted/fried/stewed.. etc. there are many many fish options out there. If you can make it with say a chicken breast, you could probably make it with Mahi Mahi/Dolphin Fish.
Now we get to the best part of the meal. I don't care, I don't care, I do not care, DESSERT is bae. Don't debate me.
Earlier ( I know it's a long long post, bear with me) I mentiond that you could control portions and give yourself less work (though it may appear to be more) by making individual pies, or potatoes or cakes... well here we go.
This has got to be one of my most favouritest est est desserts. I love apple pie, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with a a dollop of whipped cream, with more apple pie... There's something about the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar and butter with the apples that is just the most amazing thing in the world. I said don't debate me. If you want to make apple pie, you have a plethora of options. You could make for example
apple pie cookies which really aren't "cookies" just flat pies. I've yet to try these, but they're on my to do list.
apple crumble another favourite of mine. its basically the applie pie filling, but on top you make a sexy little mix of oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.. my niece makes this, you can make it, it's not rocket science... You can combine the apple pie and crumble, into apple crumble pie.. LISTEN... *Homer drool*.
Ok, so I"ve been seeing these pretty little apple roses all over pinterest and Instagram (perhaps I stay up late looking at food videos.. it's totally normal) so of course your girl (me, I'm yuh girl) decides, heeeey I gotta try that. Mind you, I didn't follow the link I've provided, but then I never do. However, it's a great step by step. It's not really difficult, unless you're me, wanting to do two different applications and at the last minute doing something that ensured I broke half of the slices. in the end, I was really proud of the result.
Can't really go wrong with chocolate. Lava cakes take about 8 minutes to cook, will provide ooohs and ahhs, and taste amazing. You could just make a batch of brownies, and you can do so much with them. Brownie cheesecake bars, salted caramel, you can even make black bean brownies. I've made them, they are moist, dense, yummy and are kinda on the healthy side. I mean you could just make a chocolate cake.
Cake (cheesecake too)
I'm that fat kid who loves cake. I don't think I need to link anything here. I will say that cupcakes are sometimes easier to deal with, and they stack well on your table. Mini black cakes for everyone! Plus there's a million (ok I really haven't counted) frosting options. I'm not linking cheesecakes, but don't be scared of them, I've never done the whole "water bath" thing and mine always seem to come out ok. Mini cheesecakes or cheeseake bars will work here.
You can make most cakes Gluten free, by using a good GF all purpose flour blend, there are some adjustments you'll have to make, so if you're new to GF baking, search recipes until you find one that feels on your skill level, and won't stress you out too much.
Thank you all so much for visiting this blog, and interacting with me via the comments and on the social media. I hope I've given you all some ideas and that you see something that makes you want to experiment. If you make anything I've linked in this post, write me a comment or link me a picture on the facebook page.
Happy Holidays to you all, I hope the season treats you well. Have a great Christmas/Chanukkah/Kwanza/ rest of the year (if you don't celebrate), and if we don't see again until the new year, have a happy and prosperous 2017.