Jamaican vibes and arroz con leche

We’ve been in our new house for about 6 months now and I finally feel like my kitchen groove is coming back.  You know when you move and there’s a period where you don’t have your bearings about you — which drawer is your favourite ladle in?  Where is your 1/2 cup dry measure?  AGH.  But I’m comin’ back, baby.  Today we went out to get some groceries today we ended up at our favourite international shop.  They have EVERYTHING.  And among that everything was callaloo!  We had callaloo in Jamaica and really liked it.  Well, I like any greens, really…but I found the preparation of callaloo in Ital style to be super delicious.  So of course we had to get it and make it, and we made curried TVP to go with it because it’s such a staple at all the Ital/Rasta places we’ve eaten at.  And brown rice.

Vegan Caribbean Food

I made the callaloo per the instructions here and here’s what we did for the TVP:

  • 3 cups dried TVP chunks
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely diced (or leave out if you’re heat averse!)
  • 2 stalks green onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp gravy browning
  • 2 tbsp Jamaican curry powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put some water to a boil, get your TVP in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the TVP until well covered.  Let sit for 10 minutes, or until TVP is softened.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add your garlic first, get it to a nice blonde colour (30 seconds), then add your onions and carrots.  Stir to coat in the oil, and cook for 5 minutes (add a splash of water as necessary to deglaze if things are sticking).  Add in your soaked TVP, green onion, water, coconut milk, scotch bonnet, browning, thyme, curry powder and salt.  Stir everything up, pop the lid on, and let it cook down to a nice thick sauce, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste and serve with brown rice and callaloo on the side.

I also had a hankering for some arroz con leche which is just a Mexican rice pudding with cinnamon.  I made it in my rice cooker using this recipe and replaced the milk with soy milk.

Vegan Arroz con Leche

Now I’m stuffed, sleepy, and happy I’m getting my culinary groove back.

Watch this space.

Jamaican Coconut Collards & Black Eyed Peas, Carrot Cake

Trevor was out for the evening and all I wanted to do was just stay in and read.  I decided to make a carrot cake with cream cheeze frosting since I haven’t had that in years, probably not since being vegan.  I used the recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes (but I use the cream cheese frosting recipe from the pumpkin cupcake recipe from the same book)  It was easy and delicious.

So, then I woke up and ate it for breakfast.  And, er…lunch, too.  What?!  It was really good.  So, anyway, by day’s end I was feeling much like someone who had eaten nothing but cake all day; that is, to say, like shit.  I had to remedy that with something that was chock full of vegetable matter.

I’m so inspired by the little takeout place called One Love Vegetarian in Toronto.  I first discovered what ital was when I ate there and have since grown to have a huge appreciation for the food of Rastafarians, and really, of the Caribbean in general.  Especially when I’m feeling under the weather or have been eating poorly, I reach for greens and peas, lots of spices, ginger, garlic, yams and more, and always feel better for it.  This is real food, yum.

We made some brown rice, steamed cubed sweet potatoes and layered this all together, bowl-style.  I feel better already.

Coconut Collards

1 bunch of collards, hard stems removed and torn into pieces
1/4 cup vegetable broth, or more as needed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 19 oz can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the vegetable broth over medium heat.  Add the collards, place the lid on and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and adding more vegetable broth as needed.  Once the collards are wilted, soft and bright green, remove from the pot and set aside.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onion, ginger, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno and sautee until softened and onions are translucent.  Add all the spices and salt and cook the spices for 30 seconds before reintroducing the wilted collards back into the pot.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Add the black eyed peas and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently (the black eyed peas may break up a bit, which is good).  Turn heat down to low, add the coconut milk and stir, coating everything.  Cook for another minute or so, tasting for salt and pepper.

– Crystal