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I Took for Granted Living in Jamaica

We all say “never take things for granted”, but we do! We must live life to its fullest and make today our best day! I think back to growing up in Jamaica! Those were some good years; however, I didn’t know it then. I was eager to become an adult, as we all experienced; wanting my independence from my parents! I wanted to grow up, so I can live on my own and travel to anywhere, other than Jamaica. I didn’t travel the island to see all the quaintness around me; I wanted to leave this beautiful island to see the world! Now, years later, I want to remember! On summer breaks, my mom sends me to the country to be with my great grandma, grandma, aunts and cousins. Of course that means my grandma watches over me as an eagle watches it prey. I can hear the steady ripples of the river as it flows downstream by my grandmother’s home. If you hear the roar of the river, you know it's not the best time to go, especially after heavy rain. The river is known to swells its banks and is likely to be unsafe to enter. My aunts would go to the river to wash clothes and I would tag along, To get to the river, we walk a trail by a church that doubles as a cemetery! I made sure I was neither the first or last in line during this procession! At the river, we arrive to see friends of my aunts/cousins; it’s more like a gathering place. The river carries the chatter and laughter along as it twists and turns cruising downstream. Depending on time of day, I know my first splash in the river might be a bit cold, being a city girl and all. I gingerly place one foot in the water to test the temp and how deep that section is. Once I’m comfortable in the water, then it’s time to have fun. I trail behind my cousins as they hop from one rock to another; stopping at times to lift a rock to look for shrimp! Being a city girl, I have no clue how to and I'm too afraid to catch the shrimp, so I stand back, so as not to scare the poor shrimp away! Of course, you never leave the river without taking a bath. The boys go up or down stream and the girls hang together. The first time I see my aunts peeled off their clothes and bathed in the open air was different for this city girl! I soon learned that’s how it’s done. I wish to go back and live freely...making every day, the best day!

Jamaican Saltfish Fritters - Lips Smacking Goodness!

It’s breakfast time and I'm hoping to see some fritters on the table! As a child, growing up in Jamaica, I could never get enough of this crunchy salty dish. Just knowing this item was on the table made me rush to get there, so I could bite into this goodness while it was still hot - licking my fingers to get all the salty taste! If your parents could afford it, there would be bits of saltfish (cod fish) buried in these fritters. There is some pre-work to remove some of the salt from the saltfish and to create a tender texture - to reduce the time, purchase the boneless/skinless fish: Place the saltfish in a pot of water and bring to boil for 10 minutes. Drain water, then add more water, bring to a boil for another 10 minutes. Drain water and shred fish into small bits. 2 cups flour **2 (green * yellow) onion **Thyme **Scotch Bonnet Pepper **Pinch of Black Pepper **Pinch of salt**1/4 cup Vegetable or Olive Oil**Tomato Grab a bowl to make the batter: combine flour, tomato, scallions (green onions), yellow onion, black pepper, and scotch bonnet pepper. Add water slowly to create a paste like batter - add salt is optional due to the saltfish. Mixture should have some body to it, not running off the spoon. Pre-heat frying pan with cooking oil using medium heat. Use a spoon to scoop batter and add to the frying pan. Make sure scoop is not thick, so as to allow the batter to completely cook. Slowly brown on each side, then remove and place on a piece of napkin to remove grease. Make sure to enjoy while still warm! Some of us likes these crunchy, others like them soft - some add bread slices to create a sandwich! This dish is Irie - all the time - you can't go wrong, whichever you choose - enjoy! Until next time - Irie and as we say in Jamaica "walk good" (take care)!

An Interesting Fruit - Jamaica’s National Fruit, Ackee!

What comes to your mind when you think of a fruit? I bet in most cases, it’s not a fruit that is required to be cooked before eating! Well, you better believe this step is required before enjoying this buttery complex fruit. Ackee, Jamaica's National Fruit was introduced somewhere around the 18th century to Jamaica from West Africa. This fruit is widely found across the island of Jamaica and is typically harvested twice per year. The pod is sealed closed until ripened, at which time the pod splits open, releasing a toxic gas. Inside the pod, it reveals three to four yellow pegs. Each peg has a black seed on the top of the fruit. "History has it that the slaves wore the seeds around their necks as talismans for good luck". - Michelle Rousseau & Suzanne Rousseau Provisions Prior to cooking, you must prepare this fruit by cleaning. Most Jamaicans will use a small knife during the cleaning process. Twist the seed to remove it from the peg, use the knife to remove the thread-like substance from the center of the peg; however, if possible keep the pod whole. 1. Bring salted water to a boil; add the whole clean pods. You may choose to add thyme, as an optional seasoning. 2. Boil for 15-20 minutes until flesh turns a brighter yellow, soft and buttery in texture, while remaining firm. Cooking too long, will cause the Ackee to become mushy.- Michelle Rousseau & Suzanne Rousseau Provisions You may choose to combined cooked seasoned meat, such as salt fish or chicken with this fruit or combine with Callaloo as shown above. Non-Jamaicans often describe this savory fruit as resembling egg when cooked. The cooked Ackee is creamy and buttery in taste; the fruit is neutral, so it absorbs the flavor of what ever it is cooked with. Jamaica's National Dish is "Ackee & Salt fish" - which growing up in Jamaica, you look forward to Sunday mornings, as this treat typically is served for breakfast on a Sunday. This dish is good all day at any time! Here at Irie Jamaican Kitchen, we offer this dish as a veggie dish, which our vegetarian customers enjoy over a bed of white rice. Try it sometime and tell us what you think. Look for the Ackee & Salt Fish coming soon to our menu! Until next time - Irie and as we say in Jamaica, "walk good" (take care)!

Love to Eat it - How to get Perfect Sweet Fried Plantains!

I'm standing by the bin with plantains in the grocery store and a stranger approaches me to ask how he can tell when plantains are ready, when is ripe too ripe and how to get them ripe? If this sounds familiar, then continue reading! To decide how to cook this starchy fruit, first you must decide what you want for the final product. Some options are: grilling, baking, boiling, frying. Growing up in Jamaica, I've been fortunate to enjoy this fruit in all these stages and my favorite type of plantain is fried. How do you know when it's time to fry plantains into a caramelized sweetness? Shop or prep for the perfect plantain: When I plan to make a serving of fry plantains, I start shopping days, if not 2-weeks, in advance. If I'm unable to locate the perfect ripen plantain, then I need time to get the plantain ripen to the perfect stage - dull yellow with patches of black or completely black. What to do if you are unable to find plantains at the perfect stage? Purchase the yellowest plantains, then place them next to each other in a paper bag, seal and store in a warm, well-ventilated place. From this group of plantains, my selection to fry are the ones farthest from the front shown here. To fry the plantain: 1. Pour your choice of cooking oil in your frying pan - do not over heat the oil. I use vegetable oil to fry my plantains. 2. Remove both ends of the plantain and slice the skin down the length of the plantain. Be careful not to slice too deep into the skin, as you will lose more of your plantain than you want to. I use my thumb to guide the knife, as I slice along the length of the plantain. The option is yours on slicing the plantain for frying; however, my suggestion is to create even size slices.The plantain should retain its shape during the process of slicing. If the plantain is falling apart during this process, it is mostly too ripe and will be extremely sticky in the frying process. P.S. Adjust the heat of the oil, if needed, to prevent burning your plantains! 3. Turn the plantains on each side to brown evenly (approx. 2 minutes on each side). Be careful not to create a splash in the process of turning the plantains (remember the oil is extremely hot at this point). 4. Have a container set to the side that has the ability to drain/absorb the oil and prevent soggy plantains. You may place the plantain on a sheet of paper towel to absorb the oil. Time to enjoy the goodness! The temptation is to quickly grab a bite of this sweet delicious food - but wait a minute or two to allow it to cool. Caramelized sweet ripe plantains are to die for, when it melts in your mouth with that sweetness - then you know you got it right! Go shop, locate the perfect plantain or store it until it reaches perfection - fry it, then share with me the results! Until next time - Irie and as we say in Jamaica "walk good" (take care)!

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