Comfort Food for a changing season


Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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Afternoon showers are a significant feature during this time of year as the rainy season peaks. The sun also sets earlier so we know that autumn is here as darkness descends faster in the evenings. Jamaica does not so much have the sharp changing of seasons as more temperate climes, but evenings are cooler in contrast to hot days. This time of year, comfort food is welcome especially when it is pouring outside. Soups and stews become more popular than salads as they are more soothing to the soul. It always amuses me how Jamaican fare is naturally hearty and ideal for cold weather — quite ironic.

My kettle is in heavier use when the rain falls as hot drinks not only warm you up, but provide comfort in a cup. Sometimes I like to enjoy a hot brew with biscuits or cake. Not all the time, of course, because I have to watch my weight and would be enormous if I indulged in a sweet treat each time I took a sip of my beloved tea. However, creating a tea time for friends this time of year is fun. The Brit in me cannot let go of this tradition. I like to go out for tea sometimes with my mother or with friends, but most times create my own version, making scones, pies and delicate sandwiches with a Jamaican twist.

Instead of apples for pie-filling, I use cho-cho as a substitute or a mixture of local fruit, and instead of sultanas in my scones I will use guava or mangoes when in season. In fact the article on tea published a few years ago remains one of my fondest and yours, too, based on the positive feedback I received. Teatime is definitely becoming more popular in Jamaica, so today I will share an easy cake recipe that is a part of my tea repertoire.

My mother makes excellent stews and casseroles and it is from her that I learnt to use vegetables creatively: nothing goes to waste. In culinary school, we always had a stockpot going to which we added vegetable trimmings. Making your homemade stock is healthier and better for your budget. I receive so many e-mails from readers who are really feeling the economic pinch of late, yet still want to cook something different I suggest you make cooking a family affair.

Lorna's Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Chicken Casserole

I've named this dish after my mother who always sneacked vegetables into our food while we were growing up. This warming casserole is chock-full of mushrooms in a creamy sauce and the chicken is tender. This recipe is mild (not a typically Jamaican spicy dish) yet the smoky salty bacon gives it a lovely lift. Sometimes she makes corn fritters to accompany this recipe. You can pair this dish with pasta, baked or mashed pumpkin or potatoes or rice. I've also had it with French bread to mop up the sauce.


1 standard pack of streaky bacon, cut into strips

1 chicken, washed and cut into eight pieces


Salt and pepper (to taste)

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 standard carton white mushrooms, cut into halves

500ml/2 cups chicken stock

200ml/ 1cup low-fat cooking cream

Parsley, for garnish


Place a large casserole pot over high heat; once it is hot, add bacon and fry in its own fat until browned, and remove from pan

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and coat in flour, then add to the same casserole pot and cook until golden brown in bacon fat.

Next add onions, mushrooms, celery and carrots and cook for a couple minutes.

Pour over chicken stock and slow-cook over medium heat for an hour then add the cream, add salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further half-hour until chicken is nice and tender.

Serve garnished with parsley.

Juicy Chef's Coconut Tea Cake with Lime and Ginger Syrup

Coconuts, lime and ginger are tastes of the island and a fabulous combination in dessert. This easy- to-make cake is perfect with tea or coffee. Even if it does not have a dramatic appearance, trust me, it is rather moist and delicious and you will want more than one slice even if it is naughty to do so!


125g/ 1 1 /4 cup unsalted butter 3 eggs, beaten 150ml/ 3 /4 cup vanilla-flavoured almond milk

500g/ 2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder 150g/ 3 /4 cup caster sugar 200g/ 1 cup unsweetened

macaroon coconut plus 1 tbsp

extra for garnish

3 limes, zest and juice separated 1 /2-inch piece of ginger, skin removed and minced 50g/ 1 /2 cup caster sugar


Preheat oven to 350F

Lightly grease a standard size 8-inch cake pan or a rectangular baking dish and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and add the almond milk and eggs, whisking to combine.

In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, sugar and coconut, mix well then add milk mixture. Stir to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven.

Next prepare the syrup by adding lime juice, ginger and caster sugar to a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer over low heat until mixture is syrupy, remove from heat.

Pour syrup evenly over the warm cake and garnish with extra coconut and lime zest.

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Bon Appétit!



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