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The West Indies refers to the English-speaking Caribbean island nations of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the Windward Islands, that form a single team to participate in international cricketing events.

Our Postcards Series is about extending a handshake across cyberspace. Read about it here.

Please accord a warm welcome to our guest contributors. They will try to respond to comments and questions.

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Today’s postcard is from Cynthia Nelson from Tastes Like Home. Food is her passion, journalism is her profession. She is a Guyanese who lives in Barbados and describes her corner of the blogosphere as “a virtual dining table at which all Guyanese, and friends, at home and abroad, gather to swap stories, gaff and revel in the tastes of Guyana”.
Cynthia’s engaging column in the Stabroek News can be found here, here and here.

She brings to us the quintessential Caribbean meal – rice and peas, with stewed chicken, fried plantains, steamed okra and a salad.

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Animal Flower Cave, Barbados. Picture by Steve Egginton from trekearth.com.

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My corner of the world

The Caribbean, home of the Cricket World Cup 2007, is one of the most diverse parts of the world. When people talk about the Caribbean, those of us living here have to differentiate if you mean the English-speaking Caribbean or the entire Caribbean which includes places such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Cuba among others. These and other countries make up the French, Spanish and Dutch Caribbean.

I live in the English-speaking Caribbean, Barbados but I am originally from Guyana. Guyana happens to be the only English-speaking country on the continent of South America. Our neighbours speak Portuguese (Brazil), Dutch (Suriname) and Spanish (Venezuela).

Our region enjoys summer-like weather all-year round, therefore, everything in the Caribbean, seems as if its been lavishly painted as the colours are vibrant and alive, especially our flora and fauna. For most of us, the turquoise sea is in our backyard. We live in paradise.

A slide show of pictures from Barbados.

We gave the world such music forms as reggae, calypso, soca, spouge, ska, zouk and yes, the steel pan belongs to us!

Our multi-cultural societies boast rich heritages. Every people from every place has made a home in the Caribbean. You want to know what fusion food is? Come and eat our food which has African, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, French, English, Syrian, Lebanese and Arabic influences. For example, in dishes such as pelau (rice, peas, coconut milk and meat), saltfish and ground provisions, oil down (ground provisions, vegetables and salt meat cooked in coconut milk), pepperpot, roti and curry, and garlic pork, you can taste the legacies of the Africans, Indigenous peoples, Indians and Portuguese.

With such a rich history, it is difficult to come up with one dish that encompasses the entire Caribbean. So, for this postcard, I have chosen to assemble some food that is eaten in all of the English-speaking Caribbean and some of the French-speaking Caribbean: peas and rice, stewed chicken, fried ripe plantains, steamed okras and our simple salad: lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
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Recipe: Peas & Rice
Each country has its own variation of this dish, and preparing it. This is my way of making rice and peas.

Ingredients
1 ½ cups rice
1 cup of dried pigeon peas (that’s been soaked overnight) Use fresh if possible
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 large onion, minced
1 piece of salt meat
1 tbsp oil
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
Coconut milk and water (the two when combined should be the requisite amount of liquid required to cook the rice as specified on the rice package) Or you can use water alone.
Water to cook peas

Method:
Heat oil in a pot.
Sautee half of the minced onions with salt meat and 1 sprig of thyme.
Add peas and saute for 1 minute.
Add enough water to boil peas until soft (if using a pressure cooker, pressure for 20 to 25 minutes. If using fresh pigeon peas then you don’t need to pressure it at all. Just boil for about 10 minutes) There is no need to add salt as the salt meat will have enough for the entire dish but be sure to taste.
When peas is cooked, add rice, the remaining onion, sprig of thyme, coconut milk and water – enough liquid as prescribed on the rice package.
Add black pepper.
Stir well, placing lid on pot.
Let the rice and peas come to a boil.
As soon as you begin to see the top of the rice as the liquid is reducing, turn the heat to simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes or according to the instructions on your rice package.
The end result should be that the liquid has completely reduced and the rice is moist and loose.

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Recipe: Stewed Chicken

Like the rice and peas, this is my version of stewed chicken.

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken cut up into quarters
1 carrot
1 onion
1 stalk celery
1 sprig thyme
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough water or stock to cook chicken

Method:
Heat 1 tbsp oil in pot.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Without overcrowding the pot, add chicken and brown all over.
Remove chicken and set aside.
Add additional tbsp oil.
Sauté onion, carrot and celery.
Add chicken, diced tomatoes and thyme.
Add enough water to cook and bring to a boil.
Cover pot and let cook.
When liquid has reduced by half, taste for salt and pepper, add more if needed.
Return lid to pot and let the stew continue to cook until done. (There should be a thick reduced sauce).

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stgeorges_aerial.jpgSt. George’s Catheral, Georgetown, Guyana. The world’s tallest wooden struture. Picture from here.

Peter Price’s Guyana Photogallery
Carribean cricket blog
Impressions of the Carribean – Paintings by Janice Sylvia Brock

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8 Comments

  1. Jyothsna says:

    I logged in today to read about the West Indies, and here you have it with pretty pictures and appetising recipes !! :) Fried plantain, I do want to try that!

  2. asha says:

    Beautiful pictures and even more beautiful plate of food!Thanks Bee.

  3. Shilpa says:

    Wow, that’s a very interesting view of the Caribbean, never realised they had such a diverse range of languages… uh-oh, I hope to be able to have something interesting to say about my adopted city! :)

  4. Sharmi says:

    Hey Bee, I loved this idea of postcard and am very much interested in learning about places and culture. I myself had asked Cynthia to write about her place to me and she was so nice to me that she had sent a very elaborate and detail email. She also mentioned about this postcard series of yours. I want to send some to in future too.

    Thanks
    sharmi

  5. richa says:

    cynthia & bee,

    that’s a beautiful picture gallery and a very informative post. on my last visit to jamaica, we were told about the similarities in the Jamaican and Indian food. Those who tasted the chicken curry vouched for it, I survived on the abundance of fruits.
    thanks

  6. Sangeeta says:

    Great post as usual :) One of my buddies @ School was from Jamaica and he would sometimes have his Ma cook Chicken, Rice and Plantains for me. Yummo ! Thanks for this great post :)

  7. musical says:

    Bee and Cynthia,

    Kudos :)

    Thanks Jai n’ Bee for this wonderful feature. Vishwa-bhraman at its best :)

  8. Cynthia says:

    Bee & Jai,

    Thank you for this opportunity. You have done a great job with the layout and added elements. Thanks.



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