Fun Food Friday: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


This is not a Jamaican Dish, but more a cheap healthy and delicious dish to make with ingredients that are fairly cheap here.   This recipe is adapted from the Book “We Love Your Body”  which I really enjoyed reading.

Large Head of Cabbage

Onion

Tomatoes or tomato sauce, or both

Rice or quinoa (any type of grain will work, even roast rood veggies (but they will not stay in the roll as well.

Herbs and spices

Oil

Protein source, Chicken, veggie mince, beans, whatever floats your boat, I do not think fish will work though.

Nutritional Yeast or cheese if desired.

Nuts or seeds if desired

Various veggies such at carrot, zucchini and whatever you think will mix well in your grain with a tomato sauce.

First you have to cut the core out of cabbage to ease the removal of leaves.    I like to pull the leaves out and soak in salt water to ensure no extra Protein sources are hiding in the leaves.  If you want you can blanch the the leaves with a quick dip in boiling water for about 1.5 minutes.  Otherwise you can just choose to roll the raw leaves, blanching just makes the rolling easier.

Cook up your grains.  I am a meal prepper so I prep this type of stuff up ahead of time and it almost always ready to go.  Season and add cooked protein along with sauteed veggies as desired.  Mix all ingredients together but not the sauce or cheese/nutritional yeast.  The seeds can go in at this time, they add a nice little crunch to the dish at the end.  You can also use them as garnish when serving.

Once everything is mixed nicely you can start stuffing the rolls.  First you must oil your baking dish or lay down parchment paper.  Hold cabbage leave curve side up. If leaves re too inflexible you can blanche them for a few minutes to soften the large vein down the middle.  Fill with about 1/4 cup of filling, for smaller leaves fill so that you can roll them nicely and they end up like a little burrito.  Lay the rolled leaf face down in baking dish.  (The side that the leaves are loose will go face down, if your leaf is too small use a secondary leaf to ensure filling stays in.  Continue to fill leaves until your dish is full.  and nicely laid out.  The idea is to be able to put a spatula or flipper under the rolls individually to serve them.

Once your rolls are ready you can prepare the sauce.  Even if I actually use a prepared sauce, I typically spruce it up with more veggies finely diced and herbs.  Now cover the rolls by spooning sauce evenly over them.  They do not need to be completely covered unless you love extra sauce, but it makes it much harder to serve that way.  (If you like extra sauce, save some to cover after plating.)

I have a gas stove that I have no idea how hot it gets but for argument sake, 350 degrees.  Light that bad boy up and put your dish in the oven.  Because I have no idea how hot mine actually is, I keep a pretty good eye on it.  I check it after 30 minutes, but around 45 is when I add the cheese/nutritional yeast.  Finish off by allowing the cheese to melt/toast up.

The rolls are super hot when you first pull them out, I suggest waiting a few minutes, more like 15 minutes to allow them to cool some before plating and eating.  As a side note you can prevent the sauce from getting too dry by covering with foil while cooking.

Fun Food Friday: Jamaican Meats


I love having a cook on campus.  She gives me the opportunity to get some basic ideas of how Jamaicans cook up their meat.  This week was no exception.

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We had a meeting this week and lunch was provided by the lab.  On Tuesday Ms. Precious and Ms. Junie were busy cooking and baking.  The coffee break was amazing, I got to sample some oatmeal cookies and sweet potato pudding.  Both were spot on!   I snuck back into the kitchen to see what gwaan for lunch!  They were frying and breading fish, frying some chicken and cooking up a roast.  Big tings gwaan!

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I wanted to focus on the chicken today.  After defrosting and quartering it, they allow it to marinate in some herbs and spices for awhile, I believe this particular one was overnight.  The herbs consist of a blend from Maggi, some fresh thyme, salt and pepper.  Once she is ready, Ms. P pours a little bowl of milk and some seasoned flour for breading.  Now the fun, read mess, begins.  In  a large dutchie (a large aluminum pot with a lid) heat a lot of oil up.  Enough to cover a goo portion of the chicken as it cooks up.  Dip a piece of chicken in the milk and then dredge through the flour.  Drop it into the hot oil and add a few more pieces at a time.  Cover and let cook for awhile then turn meats over.  Cook until the meat is cooked through.  When making a large batch for a big crowd you can put it into a pan and cover with foil and bake to finish in the oven.   This is a very simple way to get a nice crisp but tasty chicken skin and moist chicken.

A realization:


I have had this conversation with a few local people and they all stare at me like I am truly nuts.  There are things I do not like in the Jamaican Cuisine, like most of the starches and I do not eat meat. I cannot understand boiled banana or plantain, yellow yam and dumpling all being in the same meal?  This should basically put me in a diabetic coma from too much starch!  I also find them bland and tasteless.  I came to Jamaica with a basic expectation of tasty Caribbean food, only to be shocked by what most people ate. Recently I was again discussing this and a realization hit me!  Most Jamaicans eat these boiled foods with meat that is most often stewed into a gravy.  No wonder I am not understanding.   They do not eat just the boiled foods, but with a type of gravy or sauce upon it!  It has taken me this long to figure this out!  Also I was introduced to Americanized Caribbean foods, so I was mislead.  I expected bursting spicy flavors, and I got bland boiled food.

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Now I am learning that boiled and roasted plantains are best if they are ripe!  Also I have not actually had cassava or dasheen or coco, so I cannot tell you what those are like.  I think the rest of my time here will be in search of those foods.  I have learned to appreciate the fresh fruits and produce here, but the starches give me puzzle, but I think I am figuring it out.  Another thing that I was mistaken about was liquid browning sauce.  I bought some recently thinking maybe I can make stew peas in this and it will make a nice sauce to put over say yam.  I cooked up a dish and used this “sauce” and it was tasteless!  Like what am I doing wrong?  I asked someone, who giggled at me and told me that it is simply to make the meat the desired color, for say “brown stew chicken”  you do not want white meat if it is supposed to be brown.   So I now have this bottle I cannot wait to get rid of.  I think I will give it to the guy from Antigua that lives at the other end of the dorms here on campus.

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I know that typical Jamaican dishes have a few requirements:  scallion, pimento (whole allspice), thyme and scotch bonnet pepper.  Saturday is soup day. In many Jamaican households a pot of soup is started early in the day to get it nice and ready for a mid/late afternoon meal.  Typically it starts with a base of Maggi soup mix or seasoning packet, I try to avoid this because, MSG!    There are many varieties of soup, pumpkin soup, pepper pot soup, fish tea, mannish water, chicken foot, crayfish and red peas.  There is a soup base for each of these and if you want more an extra packed of cock soup mix can be added.  So after the base is boiling in the water, add a whole scallion 2-3 pimentos, a sprig or two of thyme and either a whole scotch bonnet, not cut, or a few very small slivers of the pepper.

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Other things to include are yellow yam, Irish potato, dumpling, meat, and carrots.  This is a typical base of any soup.  You then toss in your meats and the defining ingredients to your soup.  For me I love pumpkin soup.  I cube down the pumpkin and cook it down, if I am ambitious I will cook it first and then mash some up it up to thicken the base.  Instead of meat I add some type of pea (dried beans) or veggie chunks.  Veggie chunks are basically a soy TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) and I tend to use them when I forgot to precook or presoak my peas.  For me instead of the soup  packet I use a base of curry and salt along with ginger and garlic.  If it is another type of soup I use a tablespoon of Better than Boullion veggie base.  I am very fond of soup, so the fact that at least once a week is soup night makes me so happy!  I even purchased a slow cooker just for this, and let me tell you I forgot how much I love those!  I can set my beans up before bed and by morning they are ready to use, as long as I do not run out of water, and bonus:  my apartment smells so nice!

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