Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Mother's Day Pelau

I wasn't so focused on the St. Patrick's Day feasting as to forget what Sunday was. Once, a long time ago, I might have needed reminders about Mothering Sunday, but not any more.

Trini pelau chicken from Naparima Girls’ High SchoolSince the book "The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago & the Caribbean" arrived two weeks ago I've been promising to cook something from this culinary treasure house. Sunday was the day.

Joel and I bought mum "Migrations" by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado (and these). And Sunday afternoon, before mum went off to work a volunteer shift at the local night shelter, I cooked her a meal looking quite a lot like this and almost exactly like this.

We are talking Trinidad's signature dish here - Chicken Pelau. The result was not at all bad for a first attempt. But I did learn one thing from the experience - if you are going to cook from a 1980s recipe, be prepared for 1980s levels of flavouring.

I suppose it's obvious, really. Firstly, people in the Caribbean 20 years ago had time to marinate their meat properly and to achieve the higher levels of taste you get by cooking slowly or in repeated sessions over a day or more. Secondly, the ingredients available in Trinidad almost certainly contained more flavour than the tinned produce available to me today. Thirdly, our tastebuds have developed over the course of the past two decades and we are more used to concentrated sauces with the extra flavour that results from stock reduction. And, finally, the book was published for an international market and maybe some of the quantities were scaled down accordingly. So if I cook this dish again I'll be using more garlic, more chilli and more Worcestershire sauce than I used on Sunday. Having said that, the bowls were licked clean. You can't ask for more than that. Happy Mothers' Day, Liz. Here is my full photo recipe, showing you exactly how I cooked it.

Pelau (rice, chicken and pigeon peas)


Yes But said...

Hi Aidan
Firstly congratulations on your blog - superb.
Interesting you didn’t see Thais drinking Ovaltine for breakfast. I haven’t been there since the 80’s, I wonder if it has gone out of fashion - as indeed has drinking Ovaltine at bedtime in this country.
Good luck with your blog and you career as a chief. You’ll have to let me know where I can come to sample your fare.

ros said...

That's an interesting point you made about how we have become used to more pronounced flavours. I've always wondered why I end up doubling the spice/herb stock/alchohol quantities in the older recipes I use.

Isn't it great how this dish has so many variations from so many different countries? I have never tried the Trinidadian version but it sounds delicious.

The TriniGourmet said...

hee well firstly the recipes in that edition are all revised post 2000 so the 1980s argument is moot :)

From the photo writeup I don't think you need more seasoning, just more marinating... we usually do for a minimum of 12 hours (overnight), 24 is ideal and also 'stab up' the chicken for further flavor penetration. No removal of the skin but I guess that's a health choice :) So yeah the traditional flavour will come with longer marinating, stabbing up the meat and leaving the skin on oh and longer browning (should be dark brown instead of golden):)

Odd that the recipe called for chilli pepper. Use scotch bonnet!

It looks REALLY good though and now I'm wicked hungry :(

oh! you can see my pelau attempt here :P :

Trig said...

Thanks Sarina. As I said it was just my first attempt and I'm sure I'll do better next time. I realised after cooking the dish that marinating for longer was the key. The book suggests far too short a period.

I take your point about the recipe having been revised. Fair enough. I also take your point about pricking the meat to get more absorption and browning more. I normally use Scotch bonnet as my choice of chilli as they are freely available here in my local store, but I'm not sure what the chilli was that I used on Sunday - it was whatever mum had bought.

I did look at your recipe - there are links to that and to Chenette's recipe in my post. I'll be trying something else soon.

The TriniGourmet said...

aww hope i didn't sound mean? :( i'm sure it tasted great!!!! :)))

Anonymous said...

What a lovely entry, your mum is lucky to have kids like you two!

Ari (Baking and Books)

Trig said...

No prob Sarina. I really appreciate the comments. Tell it how it is and I'm very happy. I'd much rather that than be told my cooking is "divine".

Chennette said...

I tried posting a comment before, not sure if it's under review or if it's the stupid temporary dialup connection I am using! So apologies for any repetition.
I think your pelau looks great - the texture and moistness are delicious even just by sight. I think the colour of the chicken is a personal preference - I like my pelau dark, meat AND rice, but I know many who like the whole dish to look more golden.
I can't remember the last time I looked at the Naps recipe (our copies get moved around countries) but I would probably cook the chicken more before adding other things, but I think there are many ways. Even my mother and myself have some philosophical differences when it comes to making pelau.

Trig said...

First time I've heard from you Chennette (though I've read your blog before) and I consider myself honoured. I'll definitely go for darker meat next time. As you can tell from reading my posts, I'm very happy to indulge myself with sizzling brown sugar any time.

Chennette said...

oh yeah, sizzling the sugar, and stabbing the meat with seasoning :-) wonderful Trini methods!

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