Spring is in the air. In some countries, the clocks have gone forward. In wintry places, significant signs of the change of season are the burgeoning bright green colours of trees and plants, flowers such as daffodils making an entrance, the presence of the sun is more prominent, the emergence of some animals after a long hibernation, and the birth of baby animals. In Jamaica we do not have these obvious changes, but spring is my favourite season after dreary winter when I am overseas. Individuals are less miserable and appear chirpier. It's amazing how climate affects one's mood. It also influences what we eat as we begin to crave lighter foods which coincide with fresh produce changes; for example, green peas are a sign of spring.
Lent is currently on its last legs as we approach the Easter season. For some it is a very holy period, for others who are non-religious, a time to relax and enjoy the long weekend at home or in the countryside, others may fly out to overseas destinations for a mini break. Whatever one's motivation, Easter is a time of year that many enjoy for various reasons. Of course, in all of this, food plays a starring role in different cultures.
Here in Jamaica, it is bun and cheese season. Not just regular cheeses, mind you, but the iconic orange-coloured Tastee cheese. I must confess it is the only time I eat it. Its creaminess pairs perfectly with our local bun with its spice and fruit. I have been around some heated debates where people heartily defend their bakery of choice for their favourite bun. Bakeries across the land are super busy at the moment, not only supplying the local demand, but for meeting the demands of the Diaspora as well. I am sure the courier services are doing more business than usual. Imagine if we could take a peek at those airport x-rays and see the outlines of square packages filled with buns in the luggage of passengers leaving the island!
Fish is another signal of Easter. The price of fresh fish normally goes up and in some instances it has been scarce, since fried fish and sprats are another traditional feature of Easter in Jamaica. You'll find many people ordering quantities of fish in advance from their local fishermen because their Easter tables are incomplete without it. White cane vinegar, onions, carrots and Scotch bonnet peppers are prized now to make the tangy and spicy escoveitch pickle we so love on fried fish, the juices of which are sopped up with either thick slices of those nice big Easter loaves of hard dough bread, festival or bammies.
In England, the land of my birth, I really miss hot cross buns and chocolate Easter eggs. Of the latter, you could get all sorts from the commercial Cadbury's Easter Eggs to the miniatures and more posh sorts wrapped in elegant packaging. Chocolate Easter eggs are either plain shells or come filled with a creamy fondant, caramel or other delicious surprises. Chocolate bunnies are also popular treats. Easter egg hunts are so much fun for the little ones. Get together with other families and plan one for your children.
This is the ultimate pasta which features the flavours of spring. I adore the fresh, clean taste of this vegetable combination. Typically it features spinach, peas, zucchini and asparagus, all green vegetables. You can turn it into your own and use whatever local green vegetable you have on hand to make it more Jamaican, yet sticking to its international roots. Primavera means spring in Italian. This vegetarian dish is also vegan friendly (without the cheese garnish) and makes a great Meatless Monday meal. I always get requests for pasta dishes. Please enjoy!
1 pack of spaghetti or your preferred pasta
2 small zucchini, diced
200g/1 cup frozen peas
1 pack of local spinach or callaloo
1 bunch of asparagus or string beans
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped (or regular parsley)
A couple sprigs of fresh mint, leaves finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon or lime
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese for garnishing
Freshly cracked black pepper (optional)
In a large saucepan cook pasta according to package directions in salted boiling water.
Add asparagus and zucchini during the last three minutes of cooking, and the frozen peas at the very last minute.
Drain everything and add the spinach (the heat will cook it).
Mix together olive oil, herbs and lemon zest to make a dressing and pour all over pasta, toss everything together and mix the ingredients.
Serve immediately in four bowls and garnish with Parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper (optional).
Pork Chops with Dijon Mustard Sauce
My pork-loving readers have been asking for a pork recipe. I have also been asked to provide more classics as it seems last week's piece was enjoyed by many, based on reader feedback. This is an oldie but goodie and is a fast midweek meal. You can use either Dijon or wholegrain mustard for the sauce. It's lovely with mashed potatoes or with crusty bread to mop up the sauce and seasonal vegetables on the side. Let me be honest, this recipe is indulgent and not for the diet-conscious as it contains butter and heavy cream! Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine for a treat.
4 pork chops, about an inch thick
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
2 shallots or 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 glass of white wine
175ml/3/4 cup chicken stock
175ml/3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps parsley, chopped
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat add vegetable oil, when heated through add butter until it melts.
Season pork chops with salt and pepper and fry on each side for 3 minutes until brown. Remove chops from pan and set aside. Pour off excess fat from the pan.
Sauté shallots or onions for a couple of minutes and then add wine to deglaze the pan, then pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer.
Return pork chops to the pan and allow to cook for another 15 to 20 minutes (might be longer depending on their thickness). Remove chops and transfer to a plate, keep covered to retain warmth.
Reduce liquid by half in the pan and then add heavy cream and cook for a couple of minutes more until it thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, check seasoning and adjust to your taste with salt and pepper. Add parsley and serve pork chops covered in sauce.
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