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Curried Goat

I’ve been making curried goat about three to four times a month since January, more than I usually do, after my nutritionist suggested that I add some animal protein to my diet. I’m not complaining – I love curried goat. I could eat it every week.

Until maybe 10 years ago, you’d find curried goat on the menu only on special occasions and large gatherings where lots of food is needed like weddings, parties and funeral. Typically, the host would buy a goat and have it butchered.

He would then hire a chef or someone from the community, usually male, who’s skilled at making curried goat. There’s nothing more disappointing and potentially embarrassing than unpalatable curried goat.

The chef would clean the goat and cook it out in the open. Every part of the animal would be used: the intestines (sometimes with the head and feet) to make a soup (called goat head or mannish water).

The flesh slow cooked in curry, Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, scallions, garlic, ginger, and pimento berries. Some chefs add lime juice and white rum. Chunks of carrots and potatoes would also be added to make it a hearty stew, which typically, is served with white rice, sometimes roti.

Following the abolition of slavery, the government looked abroad for workers. They went as far as India where potential workers were lured by the promise of making a fortune working on sugar plantations. The Indians brought with them their curry and curried goat, roti, and callaloo.

These days, you can find curried goat on the menu of almost every restaurant that sells local foods. It’s still the go-to meal for any occasion where large groups gather.

Curried Goat
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons Jamaican curry powder
  2. 2 fresh Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and minced
  3. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 large onion, diced
  5. 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  6. 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  7. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  8. 3 pounds bone-in goat meat (from leg) cut into 1-inch cubes
  9. 2 tablespoons butter
  10. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. 4 boiling potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  13. 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
  14. Juice of one lime (optional)
  15. White rum (optional)
  16. Water to cover the meat
Instructions
  1. In large bowl, mix curry, peppers, garlic, onion, scallions, thyme, salt and pepper. Add to meat and mix to coat. Refrigerate and marinate at least 1 hour and up to 12.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add remaining curry, stirring constantly, until it colors the oil. (To make it peppery, fry the pepper in the oil before adding the meat.)
  3. Add meat in batches, brown on all sides. When all the meat is browned, add water, remaining marinade, bay leaf, and optional limejuice and rum. Bring to a simmer, cover and slow cook 1 hour.
  4. Add potatoes and cook until sauce thickens, meat is fork tender and potatoes are cooked, 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  5. Serve with white rice.
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Cassava, Rich in History and Carbs

Continuing the theme of potentially dangerous foods, this week, we’ll take a look at cassava, a staple of the Jamaican diet since before Columbus landed on the island in 1494. Cassava was the main source of food for the Tainos, the island’s indigenous people who ate it with a variety of fish and meats.

Cassava, also called yuca or manioc, is a carbohydrate-packed root that needs little water, fertilizer or pesticides to grow, and can be harvested anytime from 8 to 24 months after planting. There are two varieties – bitter and sweet.

Cassava

Cassava at a supermarket in NJ

Perhaps because it is so simple to cultivate and so rich in carbohydrates (it provides the third largest source of carbs after rice and corn), calcium and vitamin C, cassava feeds about half a billion people, according to Wikipedia.

But cassava also contains cyanide so preparing it isn’t for the inexperienced. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could leave trace amounts of the toxin that could cause illnesses as severe as partial paralysis.

Cassava

Depiction of Taino woman pounding cassava, Outameni Experience, 2011

In Jamaica, we typically dig the cassava from the ground, scrape it and cut into small pieces or grate it and press it through a cloth to remove the juice, which contains the toxin.

But that juice isn’t discarded. We use it to make starch, though I haven’t seen it done recently, and the residue (the trashy part of the cassava) to make flour or formed into a flat, round bread (like Pita and about the same size), that we call bammie. After we make the bammie, we steam or fry it on a griddle.

Cassava

Bammie

I didn’t always like bammie, which like cassava, is quite bland but steamed or fried, it goes very well with fish. We always eat it with fish – fried crispy or escoveitch – I don’t remember eating it or seeing it eaten with anything else. In this respect, we’re carrying on a tradition of the Taino, our indigenous people.

According to an article I read, several years ago, we almost dropped cassava for wheat bread but an FAO project helped resucitate cassava cultivation and bammie production in Jamaica. Now bammie can be found in every supermarket on the island. There are even ‘cocktail’ bammies – smaller – about 2” in diameter, and some which look like breadsticks.

Steamed fish and vegetables

Steamed fish, vegetables and bammie from Little Ochie

But for freshly made bammie, I usually head to Scott’s Cove, a little spot just at the border of the parishes of Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth. There, vendors sell bammie, fried fish, soup, etc. I prefer to buy the steamed ones but they have a pretty short shelf life.

While I was researching this post, I found an article on a not so new use for cassava. The company that makes Red Stripe, the local beer, is looking to replace imported corn syrup, which accounts for up to 40% of the brewery’s raw material import, with locally grown cassava. This is really good news for Red Stripe and cassava.

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Ackee Under Renewed Scrutiny by the US

I was doing research online a few days ago when I saw something that had me almost jump out of my seat: ackee is banned in the US.

How could that be, I wondered. I saw several cans of ackee in the supermarket last weekend.

Ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit, was banned in the US for 27 years until 2000 because of the toxin, Hypoglycin A, which can cause symptoms as mild as vomiting to severe as coma and death.

When the US lifted the ban, only two of the island’s processing plants satisfied the FDA’s food safety requirements and could begin exporting the fruit to the lucrative US market.

Exports to the UK and Canada, estimated then at $10 million annually, were expected to double within two or three years making ackee Jamaica’s largest agricultural export.

According to the FDA’s newly released “guidance,” its district offices may detain, without physical examination, all ackee products offered for import.

Ackee likely came to Jamaica with enslaved people from West Africa. It is here that Captain Bligh (yes, the infamous Bligh of the Bounty) was introduced to the fruit. He took the tree to Kew Gardens in 1793, where it was named Blighia sapida in his honor.

Ackee grows three fruits to a pod. The fruit is yellow (like the color of scrambled eggs), has a hard, glossy black seed and a bright pink membrane. Both the seed and membrane are removed prior to cooking. There are two types of ackee, one that is firm (called cheese) and holds its shape after cooking and another that is softer (called butter) and will break apart if overcooked.

Ackee Under Renewed Scrutiny by the US

Ackee Dip with Fried Plantain from Miss Lily’s Restaurant, NYC

Although ackee is found in other Caribbean islands, it is more popular in Jamaica than anywhere else. Ours is the only country that grows, eats and exports ackee. Usually, it is paired with saltfish, onions, peppers, thyme, and tomatoes but it can also be curried. I’ve even seen a recipe for ackee cheesecake in Rosemary Parkinson’s, Nyam Jamaica.

One local winemaker, who I met a couple years ago, is now producing ackee wine. It wasn’t bad either. And just last night, I had an appetizer of plantain chips and pureed ackee (dip). 

The trunk of the ackee tree is also useful. Hard and immune to termites, it is great for making furniture. The green fruits can produce soap, and the flowers can be used in cosmetics.

According to the FDA, the guidance describes the agency’s current thinking and should be used as recommendation only. But it has created a ‘green list’ of companies that can export fruits to the US.

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Friday Focus: Marina Delfos

I met Marina Delfos about two years ago when I started volunteering with Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR). To say that Marina is passionate about heritage would be an understatement. As founder of Jamaica Heritage Walks, she conducts walking tours of Falmouth’s historic district, the town’s Jewish cemetery, and introduces visitors to local foods.

Last February, at its annual preservation seminar, FHR presented a session on historic metalwork and Marina took us on a tour of the 200-year old Jewish cemetery, which has some fine examples of metalwork. Following the session, I asked Marina if I could interview her about the work she’s doing to help preserve the historic town.

Marina Delfos

Marina Delfos with a group of architects at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery

1. Tell us a little about yourself. For example, how long have you been leading the tour? Are you a native of Trelawny?

I started Falmouth Heritage Walks in February 2011 with a tour of the historic district of Falmouth.  Last year I expanded the tour to include a culinary walking tour – “Falmouth food tour” (a collaboration with Jamaica culinary tours) and a walking tour to the Jewish cemetery.

Officially I have been doing a tour of the Falmouth Jewish cemetery since December 2013.  I volunteered to take over the maintenance of the cemetery back in 2011 as there was really no one else to do it, and occasionally i would be asked to show persons around.

I was born in Kingston but I like to think that I am from Mandeville as that is where I spent most of my younger life.  I was drawn to Falmouth because of the history and with the master’s degree in heritage management that I obtained in London back in 2005, it was the perfect place to locate to.

2. Tell us about your family’s history in Jamaica. When did they arrive? What country did they come from? (I’m also interested in the Jewish story in Jamaica)

On my mother’s side, my grandfather’s (Vivian Mervyn Bromfield) family has been in Jamaica from the mid-1700s. He is descended from Andrew Bromfield and his coloured slave. These Bromfields originated from the border of England and Scotland.

My maternal grandmother was third generation Irish from Canada and met my grandfather in the mid-1930s when she came to Jamaica with her first husband, a Welshman suffering from tuberculosis. They had heard that the air of Malvern, St. Elizabeth was healing and stayed at my grandfather’s guesthouse near Malvern. Her husband died and somehow my grandfather got in the picture and she moved to Jamaica in 1939 with her two young sons. It was quite a thing to marry a “coloured” man in 1939. My grandfather was very successful in the apiary business at a young age and then went into the hardware business following in the footsteps of his uncle, Duncan Clacken.

My father is a Greek born in Alexandria, Egypt, and met my mother in London. They returned to Jamaica a couple of years after they got married, and he worked at Pan Am then the Jamaica Tourist Board, before leaving Jamaica in 1972 to go to Australia.

I am not sure if I have any Jewish connections but my father had family in Corfu, which had a very large Jewish population before World War II and sometimes I am told Bromfield is a Jewish name.

Grilled grave at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery

Examining the metal grill on a grave at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery

3. How old is the cemetery?

We estimate just over 200 years old.  The oldest readable grave is dated 1815 – Isaac Simon Esq.

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