Category Archives: Food

What’s Cookin’?

As readers of my new novel, One Woman’s Island, have discovered, I included local Bequia recipes at the end of each chapter to give you all a “flavour” of what the food is like that the book’s characters eat.

Also at the end I included a recipe for an Island in the Clouds cocktail I invented that Sharon Wilson and Dan Erkelens kindly tested and reviewed here on reading recommendations reviewed.

One Woman’s Island is a very personal book, and one thing I definitely share with the main character is a love of good food and cooking. Over the years living on Bequia I’ve had the opportunity to develop my cooking skills and have become quite a good baker. Of course, it helps to have a pizza/bread oven close by …

I also developed a recipe for cinnamon buns that produces a light and fluffy bun not cloyingly sweet. (Recipe is in the book.)

So, if you haven’t read my novel yet, you’re in for a taste treat as well as (I think) a good story!

But now I’m coming to the reason for the title of this blog post, and I want to know …

What’s Cookin’ in YOUR kitchen!

Everyone has a recipe that’s special to them, either something your mother made for the family or a favourite recipe you’ve “owned” over the years – your party trick! – that receives accolades whenever you serve it. Or it could be that you now live in a different culture altogether (as I have) and you’ve discovered some local specialty you find very appealing and representative of the place and its people. So here’s what I’m asking you to do …

Please share that recipe with us! If you have a blog, please write a post – link to this blog post then tell your own story about the importance of your recipe. Include the complete recipe and add a photo of the dish as it’s served, if possible. But please do give us the background information as to why this particular recipe is so important. (If you do not write a blog, please contact me if you would like to participate and I will create a separate blog post for you here.)

Even if you are not a cook yourself, I’m sure you can think of something you’ve enjoyed eating during your lifetime, something that has significance to you. I want to hear about it!

In a way, we’ll be creating a kind of online cookbook for other readers to enjoy.

And … just in case you were wondering, this is what half of a 22-dozen order for bagels looks like.

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Not quite a coffee farmer … yet

Almost two-and-a-half years ago, Dennis became interested in growing coffee and wrote this blog post, Roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia, for me. That proved to be a very popular post, as a matter of fact! Then last Sept., we wrote another post on the coffee bean production here at The View: An update on roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia.

So here we are, another 7 months later, and we have good news! No, don’t run away to plug in your grinder and boil water just yet! But there have been significant developments in the two surviving bushes in our garden, as shown in the following photos …

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Although perhaps this development is not fast-enough for Dennis’s liking.

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A farmer out standing in his field …

He did manage to harvest a few beans from the first growth last fall, though … about 3 or 4 “cherries”, to be precise. And once they were dried and ready, they were planted in Jan., and have been slowly growing into 8 more coffee bushes that will eventually be planted out sometime later in the year – or possibly next spring. A coffee drinker needs the patience of Job to be able to withstand the waiting time it takes to grow enough beans just for one pot of coffee!!

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Food, glorious food … prepared on Bequia!

We haven’t been cooking anything unusual lately here on Bequia, other than regular meals to sustain us. But we have used freshly grown local pumpkins recently picked from our own vines:

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And we made this:

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A Caribbean Pumpkin Soup recipe I developed a number of years ago …
And this:

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Beef Curry (recipe from CaribbeanPot.com) cooked inside a whole Pumpkin.

Then I got back into baking bread again …

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Two loaves each of Rye with Caraway Seeds and 100% Whole Wheat.

Finally, here’s one of my most favourite desserts to prepare for company – Bequia Lime Pie! Not only is it always delicious and a surprise to those who haven’t eaten it before, but the recipe is super-easy to prepare, calling for few ingredients. (And I have this recipe memorized since I’ve made it so many times.)

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So, there you have it – gastronomic delights from Bequia!

And the good news for those of you looking for any of these recipes … “some” will be included in my next novel, One Woman’s Island!

From the vaults – Baking bread in the pizza oven, Dec. 2009

It still amazes me that after all this time of writing my blog – which was mainly meant to be about all things “Books” – the two search words/phrases that are still most often used, almost daily, and by which people are directed to my blog are “Chikungunya” (tells me there are too many people out there still suffering with this awful virus!) and “baking bread in a pizza oven”. “Meeting my best friend for the first time” is the third most-popular phrase. I’ve posted links (above in the menu on a separate page) to all the posts I wrote regarding Chikungunya. But I thought I’d reblog a few earlier posts regarding that good old pizza oven Dennis built a number of years ago. We have it in mind to publish a guide some day to building your own backyard pizza oven. It’s obvious there’s an interest! So here’s some of the links to those posts I’ve pulled out of the vault today for your reading pleasure, and the answer to that burning (!) question so many of you seem to have … Can I bake bread in a pizza oven? (And, no, we have not fired up the oven this morning to bake pizza or bread – it’s pissing down rain!!!)

You can bake bread in a pizza oven, but you can’t bake pizza in a bread oven. The temperature in our oven can get up to 900F, so that a pizza cooks perfectly in a matter of minutes. Then, after the oven temperature falls overnight, you can bake bread the next day. We prepared several batches of dough early in the morning.

Bread bakes a bit faster than in a conventional oven, and the crust is much crunchier, plus you get that great crackling sound as the bread cools. Here’s the first batch, fresh out of the oven. (Jay is in the background, lounging in the pool. Such a mild-mannered guy, how were we to know he’d soon be scarfing down nearly an entire baguette all by himself?)

And Mr. McAnderson surprised us with this great sign he picked up at a flea market in Notting Hill, and will likely soon be nailed to the rum shack right next to the pizza oven.

Further reading:
Pizza Oven
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (1)
Adventures in Baking on Bequia (2)
Adventure in Baking on Bequia (3)

Recipe for Onion Buns

This is a recipe I developed recently that is mentioned in a guest post I wrote for the blog Happy Lifeaholic titled, “Why I bake bread in a pizza oven but have never owned a microwave … and other cooking stories” which you may read here.

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Onion Buns

(recipe adapted from a mash-up of the Round Country Bread recipe in The Il Fornaio Baking Book and what was in my refrigerator at the time …)

Ingredients
1-1/2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7 cups white flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups cool water
1 cup Biga* or sourdough starter
1 cup caramelized onions**
Olive oil
Additional flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Stir 4 cups of flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, cool water, Biga and caramelized onions (including oil they were cooked in). Mix together and add remainder of flour as needed until it all comes together fairly easily.

Knead for as long as you can (and this is where my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook comes in handy!) The longer you knead bread dough, the better the overall bread will be. I usually knead for 8 minutes altogether with the kitchen machine; 15-20 minutes if kneading by hand. Once you’ve been making bread long enough you can tell by the feel of the dough when it’s been kneaded enough.

Rub a large bowl with olive oil, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn the dough so it is evenly coated with oil then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and lay a kitchen towel over it. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until double, about 1-1/2 hours. (These rising times and temperatures also depend upon where you live and your altitude above sea level. I’m baking AT sea level, for instance. So you may need to adjust some of this method accordingly.)

Punch down the dough and allow it to rise a second time, about an hour.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. Form these into buns and place them on a prepared baking sheet. (I use an over-sized cookie sheet and place parchment paper on the surface – for easy cleanup.) Allow the buns to rise again for about half an hour. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425F. When the buns have risen sufficently, bake them for 30-35 minutes until they are golden brown on top. (I am in the habit of turning off the oven and leaving the oven door closed for 5 minutes then opening the door and leaving the baked bread in the oven for 5 minutes more. This seems to give home-baked bread a better crust.)

Remove the buns from the oven and separate them. Allow to cool on racks.

Makes 16 large buns

*Biga
3/4 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3-1/2 cups white flour
1-1/4 cup cool water

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Pour flour into large bowl, make a well and add the yeast mixture and cool water. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Cover tightly and allow to ferment slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using. This makes about 3 cups of Biga. (The longer the Biga remains in the refrigerator the more sour it becomes. It’s still active as long as there are bubbles on the surface.)

**Caramelized onions
2 large white onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter

Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the onions, separating the slices into rings. Add more oil, if necessary. Fry on low, stirring occasionally, until the onions brown and become caramelized. The onions may be stored in the refrigerator.

Wally’s Hot Tasty Doubles on Bequia!

This is the first video in what I hope will be a series about the island of Bequia and its people, the services offered, and a glimpse at the beautiful scenery. I’m calling this a Slice of Bequia series. First up is Wally who sells Trinidadian Doubles, a fine street snack, from his cart in Port Elizabeth by the well in front of the bank, across the corner from Back Knights. (And those would be typical directions on this island!)

Here’s Wally serving up a couple of satisfied return customers:

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And here’s my video … Enjoy!

Roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Dennis Ference!

It all began when my neighbour, Rodger, called and asked if I’d like to visit a coffee plantation on St. Vincent.

A coffee plantation? I had no idea anyone was growing coffee on the mainland, although I did know they had the soil, altitude and climate suitable for maturing beans. I was intrigued. I immediately checked online and discovered that green coffee beans can be roasted in a wood-fired pizza oven. I happen to have built one of these.

We met with Duke and his wife at their property in Green Hill and they gave us an over-whelmingly accommodating tour that was filled with every bit of information to do with coffee.

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I mentioned to Duke that I was interested in experimenting with roasting coffee in my pizza oven and he provided me with a pound of green beans. As well, I bought a half pound of the roasted, ground coffee Duke is selling.

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First thing I had to do was design and build a roasting container. It needed to keep the beans moving and allow for even heating and exposure to the fire. So I ended up with a design that’s kind of a cross between a squirrel cage and a paint roller.

IMG_0727IMG_0732Next I had to fire up the pizza oven and keep it at the consistent temperature of 500F, at which point I began the process of roasting the beans.

IMG_0734IMG_0735IMG_0733Here’s a short video of the roasting process … essentially just rolling the roaster back and forth across the floor of the oven until you hear a distinct cracking sound as the beans expand and turn brown.

As soon as the desired darkness was reached, I removed the roaster from the oven, spread the beans out on a tray and sprayed them with ice water to stop the roasting process. Once they were cooled, I winnowed the remaining chaff off the beans by tossing them into the air in a colander.

IMG_0744IMG_0746IMG_0748Finally came the real test – grinding the beans and brewing a cup of coffee …

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SUCCESS!!

I enjoyed what I thought to be an outstanding cup of coffee! Absolutely no bitterness or acidity, and it had kind of a mocha aftertaste, despite the fact that I purposely dark-roasted it. Which says a lot for the quality of the beans themselves. Would I do this again? For sure! In fact, I’ve already planted some of the raw coffee “cherries” Duke gave me and I should see the first sprouts in about a month. I never expected when I moved to Bequia in 1996 that I would ever become a coffee nabob …

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