Monday, May 28, 2012

Trinidadian Rum Punch



When I was a little girl, we lived in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, on the actual island of Trinidad.  (I think you only live on Tobago if you have something to do with a resort!  But I could be wrong.  It is a beautiful island for a holiday.  The only time I remember going topless at a beach in my whole life, was on Tobago.  I was six.)  ANYWAY, Trinidad has the best rum in the world and its national drink is rum punch.  I wasn’t allowed any as a child, of course, but my mom knew the recipe by heart, as does everyone in Trinidad, so I got to try it when I was older.  Love at first sip.

It goes like this:

One sour
Two sweet
Three strong
Four weak

In honor of my summer holidays starting tomorrow, I’d like to share rum punch with you.   This is a great drink on the beach or poolside.  Just watch yourself because it goes down so easily.



Ingredients
One sour (lime juice)
Two sweet (simple syrup – one cup of sugar dissolved in one cup of hot water, then cooled)
Three strong (that would be the RUM!)
Four weak (water or ice or a combination of the two)

Method
Squeeze as many limes as you have and measure the juice.  This is now your One measure.

That's a bunch of little limes!


Add in Two of that same measure of simple syrup.


Add in Three of that same measure of rum. 


Finally, add in a lot of shakes of the Angostura Bitters, along with some water and then serve over crushed ice or ice cubes for your Four weak.   


Then I add more Angostura to each individual glass.  The Angostura MAKES this punch.  Of course, you can serve this in a pretty pitcher if you have guests but the reused water bottle fits wonderfully in my refrigerator door so I can enjoy rum punch for days. :)


Happy start of Summer to you all!



Enjoy!



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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Slow Roasted Pork that Makes its Own Gravy



If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like Egypt and that the Egyptians I have met so far have been kind and warm and helpful.  These are generalizations but they also seem to love a good conspiracy theory; have an intense distrust of the police; with them, family always comes first and family includes everyone from fathers and sisters to aunts and nephews to cousins once-removed; and personal and family honor is the most important guide to behavior. 

For the first time in their lifetimes, Egyptians of all strata of society and creeds were excited about the chance to vote in a fair democratic election last week.  Viewership for the first presidential debate in the history of this ancient nation was incredibly high, as the average person finally felt that his or her vote would count and they took the task of deciding the best candidate for the country very seriously. 

I am reminded of the response from Egyptian novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz to an 1992 interview question in The Paris ReviewIn Egypt today most people are concerned with getting bread to eat.  Only some of the educated understand how democracy works.  Sadly, Mr. Mahfouz died in 2006.  I think the level of understanding his people have now would astound him.   My only prayer is that democracy will actually work in this case because it seems that no one is thrilled with the winners so far.  The first round of voting took place last Wednesday and Thursday and there will be a run off between the top two candidates in June.  

All that said, I try not to discuss politics here, simply because, as an expat and a resident visitor in a foreign country, I don’t feel I am entitled to expound on things I don’t know enough about.  Also, there’s the loyalty issue.  Criticizing another country or culture is like complaining about your boss or company.  You don’t like them, find another job.  But while you are employed there, you should speak positively, or at the very least, keep quiet.  I am here watching, and waiting and praying for a peaceful outcome, just like most Egyptians.  So, let’s get on to the recipe I made to celebrate this historic vote because someone kind and generous gave me a pork roast to cook. (Thanks, Audrey!)  Since pork (and the alcohol that accompanied its consumption) is wildly inappropriate for an Egyptian celebration, you will be relieved to know that all of my guests were other expats.  

Ingredients
For the roast:
1 pork roast – mine was a whopping 19 lbs (When I opened the package there were actually two pieces.)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Cayenne

For the roux:
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups canola or sunflower oil
2 large onions
Medium bunch of celery 
2 green bell peppers or capsicum

Method
Preheat your oven to 200°F or about 95°C.  (You are going to SLOOOOW roast this for eight hours.)

Put your oil and flour together in a thick, heavy pot.  



We are going to make a big roux, just like we made for chicken and sausage gumbo.  Check out the link for a more serious and thorough discussion of roux making.  (If your pork roast is smaller, make a quarter or half the roux or whatever the right proportion would be.  But a little more or a little less will still be just as delicious.  You will just have less or more gravy.) 

Cook over a low to medium heat, stirring regularly while it is still pale but stirring constantly as it gets darker.  





You are looking for a deep toffee/chocolate color at the end.  This could take as long as 30 minutes.  Be very careful near the end as it darkens rather quickly and you do not want it to burn.

Chop your onions, bell pepper and celery by hand or in a food processor.  

Sometimes celery here has tiny little stalks but it still tastes the same. 



Celery - leaves and all. 

I chopped these one by one in the food processor but didn't think you needed a photo of each one.  


When the roux is dark enough, add in the vegetables and mix thoroughly.   Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the vegetables have softened.  





Spoon the roux into the bottom of your roasting pan. 


If you have a fatty side on your pork roast, season that side with the salt, black pepper and cayenne.  


Put it fat side down in the roux.  Season the other side well and add water about half way up the roast.



Cover tightly with foil and then the roaster cover (if it has one) and put it in your preheated oven.  Set a timer for four hours.  (If you are doing this overnight, you can skip this and the next step.  Set your timer for eight hours.  10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is perfect.)

After four hours, turn the roast over, stir the gravy around, ladling a little of it over the top of the roast.  I also sprinkled a little more salt, black pepper and cayenne on it.   

After four hours of slow roasting.


The other side with with gravy on and more seasonings.
Cover again and slow roast for a further four hours.  

Remove from the oven and skim the grease off the top of the gravy.  Discard. 

After eight hours of slow roasting!


I also chose to take most of the top fat off with a spoon but you can leave it on, if you prefer. 

With the extra fat removed.

Stir the gravy around and check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve over the pork with mashed potatoes or rice.  This roast falls apart at the touch of a spoon.  No knife necessary!  No kidding.


Enjoy!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Best Friend Birthday Cake



Do you have a very special friend?  Someone who is always there for you and is always delighted to see you?  You can be away from each other for five minutes, five hours or five days and the effusive greeting you get upon your return just about bowls you over?  I have a friend like that!  He is never in a bad mood, always listens to me with interest, especially when I am in the kitchen cooking, and he is never happier than when he is snuggled up next to me.  His love for me is total, unconditional and borders on adoration.  You may have guessed that I am talking about my dog.

I have to tell you, we started out rough.  He is skittish by nature and he didn’t take well to change.  We got him as a puppy in the summer of 2007 and from the very beginning, he would run behind our legs when a city bus went by our house in Houston – despite the fact that we were behind an eight-foot wooden fence, in our own yard.  

Cutest puppy ever.

After we went home to Malaysia, he stayed with my sister and her family until he was old enough for his first rabies shot and she said that when her Beagles would bark at a noise, he would run and hide.  Brave was clearly not in his vocabulary.  

Already bigger than them but not as brave. 

While he was there, my sister noticed he was lethargic and felt hot so she took him to the vet.  Thank God she did because, as it turned out, despite having had all his shots on schedule, he had Parvo.  He spent several days in the vet clinic on an IV drip until he was deemed healed enough to return home.  As you can imagine, we prayed fervently the whole time.  We were already so attached to his cuteness.  He recovered, got his rabies shot and they sent him on to us.  He was with us but a couple of months when we were transferred to Singapore.  It was a mere four-hour road trip but required 30 days in quarantine to enter the country.  We visited him every day that we were allowed but bless his little soul, he was a basket of nerves when he got out.  He is still a nervous Nellie but he is also a little sweetheart.


Today was his birthday and I made a cake for him.  He watched me, as he usually does when I am in the kitchen, but, frankly, the whole picture taking and candle lighting did try his patience.  He loved his cake and we love him.  You might want to make this no-bake "cake" for your pooch.  As if he or she doesn’t already love you enough!

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups or 180g dog chow of your choice (1 1/2 cups is Beso’s usual amount of dog food for each meal.  You can adapt this to your dog’s normal meal using his or her usual amount of chow and following the instructions proportionally with the hot water.  One can of sardines will probably add enough flavor no matter the amount of chow.)
1 can sardines
Your choice of dog treats for garnish

Method
Put one cup or 125g of the dog food in a heat resistant bowl.  Pour in 1 cup or 240ml of very hot water.  Cover with cling film and allow the chow to absorb the water.




Open your can of sardines and pour out the oil and save it.  Mash the sardines with a fork.



Once the dog chow has absorbed the water and is softened, mash it with a fork.  Add in the sardines and then the half-cup of dry dog chow, to add a little crunch.  Mix thoroughly.






Line two ramekins with cling film and pour half the reserved sardine oil in each.   Fill the lined ramekins with the chow/sardine mixture and pack them tightly.



Turn them out onto a plate, one on top of the other.  Decorate using whatever dog treats you have on hand. 





 Light a candle and sing Happy Birthday to You.  




Let your most faithful friend enjoy!

Whoa! Candle finally blew out.  Let's eat!


Check out that long tongue!

Just a little alarming.  Top layer fell off!

Never mind.  Still tasty.



And, it's gone!



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