Review and Giveaway: Caribbean Vegan

When I first discovered Taymer Mayson’s blog Vegan in the Sun I was very exited. She blogged about Caribbean food, a cuisine I knew almost nothing about. Taymer changed my lack of knowledge. In every post she described  authentic foods from the Caribbean Islands, including information about their traditional and special ingredients.

Now Taymer’s book Caribbean Vegan finally hit the market. She includes recipes from Barbados, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, and the French West Indies. You’ll find condiments and sauces, breakfast dishes, appetizers, soups and stews, entrées, side dishes, items for a Caribbean tea party, desserts, and finally drinks and cocktails.

In the introduction, Taymer explains that Carribean cuisine is a very complex cuisine, with influences from many other regions. And indeed, if you look at the contents section, you will find some recipes that may sound familiar: Macaroni Pie, Pizza, Chow Mein, Ratatouille, Spaghetti, Roti,  Banana Bread, Gingerbread. But you will soon realize how different these recipes are from what you might be used to. The Macaroni Pie is in fact a Bajan Macaroni Pie, the Ratatouille is a Creole Ratatouille and the Gingerbread is made with a special Caribbean Caramel. They all have a very distinctive Caribbean influence and are made with authentic Caribbean ingredients. These recipes come with wonderful explanations about how the foods came into the country and how they were adapted by the locals.

Many recipes on the other hand might not sound so familiar. Breadfruit Cou-Cou, Steamed Plantains with Sauce Chien, Buss-Up-Shut Roti, Cassava Pone, and Mauby for example were completely new to me. Although this may sound like you need to make a trip about town to fetch all your ingredients, many recipes call for very easy to find ingredients.  Taymer includes recipes for all of the condiments and spice mixes you might need. One of them is Bajan seasoning, a seasoning traditionally used for meat and fish dishes. The main ingredient in this seasoning is green onion, seasoned with lime, several herbs and spices, and preserved with vinegar. This seasoning adds a lot of depth to the dishes it is used in. Here’s my jar of freshly made Bajan Seasoning:

Bajan seasoning is, for example, an ingredient in the Caribbean Green Split Peas Soup, which is probably the best split pea soup I ever had. The Bajan Seasoning really makes a difference. The recipe also calls for vegan ham, another recipe you’ll find in the book. I substituted some homemade vegan sausage.

An example for a recipe made from basic, easy to find ingredients is this Chickpea Curry. It has a bright orange colour and makes a wonderful quick lunch or dinner. This saved me from starving last week when I was very busy and didn’t have much time for cooking.

Taymer also includes recipes for bread and baked goods in her book. One of them is for salt bread, the go-to sandwich bread in Barbados. As Taymer explains, this bread is not particularly salty.  The name just indicates that this bread is savoury and not sweet. It’s a great bread for the Island Burger, also found in the book. Whenever I make this bread, I usually have to add more water to the dough than the recipe calls for. The result is a wonderfully fluffy and soft roll that I don’t make too often, because I’d live on it alone.

You will also find flat bread recipes that go with some of the other dishes. I made Buss-Up-Shut Roti with Yellow Split Pea Dal. Buss-Up-Shut means “Busted up shirt”, as Taymer explains, and that’s because you have to beat the bread until it falls apart. I didn’t do such a good job here, I think my bread wasn’t thin enough to be properly beaten. So it looks more like a new shirt than like a busted one.  But it was still very delicious and I love the name of this bread. Combined with a bowl of dal this makes a very comforting and filling dinner. By the way, there is a photo insert in the middle of the book with many detailed step by step introductions. Buss-Up-Shut is made by using a very interesting shaping technique, which is explained with helpful photos.

The next item is my all time favourite from the book. I am a huge fan of sweet yeasted rolls and breads. Taymer’s Barbadian Coconut Turnovers are the most amazing yeasted rolls I’ve ever had. A soft and fluffy yeast dough paired with a sweet coconut filling. Need I say more?

So far everything I made from the book was really delicious. I’ve only had bad luck with one recipe. I wanted to make a cake that sounded just heavenly: Rum cake made with rum infused raisins and lots of brown sugar. But it didn’t turn out well although I tried the recipe twice. The first time it didn’t cook properly although I baked it much longer than the instructions called for. When I removed it from the pan, half of the cake stuck  to it. I thought that reducing the liquid might help, so I cut out half of the soy milk for my second attempt. The texture was much better this time but unfortunately the cake sank and broke when transferred to a plate. There are no instructions about when to remove the cake from the pan, removing it after 15 minutes might have been too early. Or I should not have messed with the liquid and instead reduced the baking temperature and increased the baking time.

Anyway, I am not ready to give up on this cake as the taste is so amazing. I love rum in baked goods but many recipes that use rum, only call for 1-2 tablespoons. Which means you never really taste it. With this cake, that’s completely different. It has a rich flavour and the rum is preserved in the soaked raisins. The rum flavor also matches so well with the brown sugar and the cinnamon called for.

There is just one thing I didn’t like so much about the book. The measurements are both in US cups/tablespoons/teaspoons and in metric grams/millilitres. Unfortunately there are several mistakes when it comes to the metric measurements. Sometimes they are also missing. So if you are in Europe and using the metric measurements, make sure to recheck them. If you stick to cups, you’ll be totally fine though.

To sum up, I have enjoyed cooking from this book very much. I read through it and learned so much about a cuisine I wasn’t familiar with at all about a year ago. I love to explore new foods, recipes, and techniques. I love to use new ingredients. It’s wonderful that Taymer not only includes food eaten in the Caribbean islands on a daily basis, she also provides lots of additional information about their history. Taymer put so much time and effort into this book to make Caribbean recipes accessible for everyone, vegan or not. Because that is the best part about this book: everyone can enjoy these recipes. She even veganized Barbados’ national dish Cou-Cou and Flying Fish. In the book you’ll find a vegan version of a dish, that in is traditional version of course no vegan would ever touch. Taymer did a good job to introduce vegans to a an animal-free version.

Thanks to Experiment Publishing, you can win one copy of Caribbean Vegan on this blog. To enter, just leave a comment. The giveaway ends next Sunday, December 12th at 12 a.m. Central European Time. I’ll draw one winner randomly.

Please note: The winner will receive their copy directly from the publisher Experiment Publishing. This means that unfortunately the giveaway is only open to people who live in the USA or Canada.

Update: This contest is now closed.

88 thoughts on “Review and Giveaway: Caribbean Vegan

  1. I havent gotten to go to on a vacation in a while, so the Caribbean Vegan would be a great “poor-gals” tropical trip!

    The Coconut-Orange Cake was amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I would love this book!!! I had my first taste vegan caribbean food at a restaurant called Harry Singh’s in Minneapolis. So good!

  3. WOW! I’ve never had Carribean food but this all looks so amazing! I’m for sure tracking down this book so I can try some of this stuff!

  4. Oh goodness your post makes me long for a tropical vacation now that it’s almost winter here in Boston! Those coconut rolls do sound amazing!

  5. Would love to give this book a try. Thanks for sharing all those great recipes and info on your site.

  6. I love trying cuisines from around the world! This book would fit perfectly with my other cookbooks.

  7. Oooh it all looks amazing! I’m definitely looking forward to purchasing a copy when I get back to the US. And love the new look of your blog btw!

  8. I love her blog & and the book sounds so great! I’m definitely craving one of those coconut turnovers now. Great review!

  9. Also not eligible for the book, but it might have to get on my xmas list. With the cake, are you able to get North American brown sugar there? I ask because I haven’t seen it in HH, and it could make a big difference in the texture of the cake… Gorgeous breads, by the way (as usual). And I lovelovelove the black and white dishes. The whole color palette in this series of photos is really creative and just beautiful!

  10. I love all the great photos you’ve posted now I can’t wait to try her recipes. I was born in Bermuda, so I wish she’d been able to include some recipes from there too.

  11. oh i would love to win this book! i have always wanted to cook my own carribbean foods after sampling some ital vegan foods made by a rasta friend. and i am excited to use some of the local-but-rarely-used foods like breadfruit, plantains, and cassava in a carribbean, rather than polynesian, recipes. aloha from maui, andrea

  12. Oh hey, I’m working on a review of this book too! Glad to have your input, sound like you made some delicious choices. Can’t wait to share my thoughts, too (and of course, no need to enter me in the contest since I’m already enjoying the book)

  13. I am very curious – have followed her blog for a little while, intrigued, but have yet to make any recipes. Now I’ll have to – your pictures make my mouth water!

  14. hey there,
    what a great review. I love the pictures and the honesty about the (relatively few) least favorite things about the book. I love Taymer’s blog and, just like you, this isn’t a cuisine I’m familiar with. I’d really love to check it out. For some reason, in this moment, that super special Caribbean Split Pea Soup sounds the most enticing. How odd, usually I would be all about those coconut rolls! :) Hope all is well.

  15. The Bajan seasoning sounds so tasty, as one enamored of pickles! I am afraid, though, that the book will increase my desire to flee the East Coast for warm Caribbean islands and fresh coconuts.

  16. Great review! I have to confess that I, too, know very little about Caribbean cooking, and I would indeed like to learn more. The coconut bread you described sounds scrumptious, especially if it’s the best yeasted roll you say you’ve ever had. When I scrolled to the bottom, I was reeeeeeeeeeeally hoping the recipe would be there ;-) Thanks for the very objective review!

  17. loved your honesty and the review..I love this review. Sorry abt the cake make it often and always follow the recipe and temp and never had this problem seems the humidity issues and everything that has been hurting my testing with book number 2 is coming to light in CV but it is a good cake and I do not know where to start to troubleshoot as it was tested by others problem free but we will see.
    Hopefully I will iron out those metric and imperial issues in edition number 2 and hopefully photos for everything in the book. I think it is really important that it just does not have cups but I really need to look into this asap to try to fix this issue.
    Whenever I see Bajan Seasoning on someones blog you cannot imagine the joy I get that this unknown condiment that is from my homeland is being consumed by people all over the world…that really makes me wanna tear up:)

  18. I am so grateful for people like you that try the recipies out, and then let us know how to tweak it for it to work. I am a brand new vegan, and I love your blog. I am learning to use seitan. I found out I LOVE tofu!
    Thanks again for all the sharing you do here.
    Lib

  19. That cookbook sounds great. Since the giveaway has pulled me out of the woodwork I’ll take the opportunity to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I’m planning on trying the almond lebkuchen spice cookies you posted recently for Christmas – if I can muster the will power to grind all the spices in my trusty mortar and pestle.

  20. Yeah for the book, boo for the North American only winners (I mean yeah for them, but boo for we Europeans!).
    Am sending you an email tomorrow. ;)

  21. Given the sub-zero weather we have had here the last week, reading your review of something tropical based warmed my heart. My husband is a rum and raisin kind of guy and I know he would love that cake, it sounds delish. Warm and spicy food is just what we need right now in Germany.
    I realise that living here means I’m not legible for the giveaway but might add it to my Christmas wish list anyway – after all, Santa is a pretty clever guy.

  22. Well, there you go, another book to add to my wish list! Thanks for the write up on it! It’s nice to know about books that are a little more unique than the others.

  23. I went to Barbados as an omni 5 years ago, and loved eating breadfruit and flying fish. I would LOVE to recreate these amazing flavors at home, but vegan-style!

  24. I’d be really curious to see this book, especially to see which ones of the flavors I remember from my stay in Grenada I can find in there. It would be so wonderful to be able to recreate some of those dishes! I know I’d turn straight to the dessert chapter in order to see if Taymer has included my absolute favorite: the sweet potato pudding…
    Thank you for this review, and for offering a chance at winning a copy of the book. :)

  25. I think our biggest mission as vegans is to inform others. So many people just don’t have the information they need in order to make the best choices as consumers. Our most important vote is our vote as consumers. We make that vote every day.

  26. Yum! All the recipes that you made and talked about sound so good! I would love to win a copy of it, and I definitely need to go do some perusing of her blog. :)
    -K

  27. Those coconut buns look and sound like something you can find in Chinatown. Except the filling is bright orange-yellow and they draw two lines of something (not sure what it’s made of) on either end.

  28. What a great review! I really appreciate it when bloggers don’t just say, “Every recipe was great and there’s nothing wrong with this book at all!” A little honesty can only help! :)

    Your photographs look fantastic, by the way. Mmm…

  29. Ahhh want! Everyone has been reviewing this lately and all the photos look delicious… I’m going to have to get my hands on a copy, somehow. If I don’t win this one, I’m going to demand that someone buy it for me for Christmas, hehehe!

  30. This book sounds awesome. I am always looking for new flavor combinations, and I’m not as familiar with Caribbean food.

  31. I love trying new foods! Caribbean is a kind of food I never really delved into. I’d love to give it a try.

  32. Can’t wait to check this out! My boyfriend is Bajan and has been flirting awfully close with the vegan lifestyle. :)

  33. Looks like an interesting read! I always appreciate cookbooks with a little background on the recipes. And your photos are amazing. I’m sure I’ll check this one out, one way or another….

  34. This looks like such a great book, but as I live in Scotland…..
    You seem to have made that bajan seasoning? I love split pea soup and this sounds as if it would make it even better! And I like the look of the chickpea curry.
    Thanks for another great post. :)

  35. I spent a couple weeks in the Caribbean this year and was disappointed at how much of the food I couldn’t eat. Would love this cookbook so I can try my hand at enjoying the cuisine at home!

  36. Wow! The recipes posted here look great, especially that bajan seasoning. I would love a copy of this book!!

  37. What a thorough and interesting review; I feel like I really know a lot about the cookbook, and it sounds like one I’d like to own. Thanks for all the cool photos of the delicious-looking stuff you’ve tried.

  38. We’re doing a Caribbean themed christmas this year so this would be the perfect book to guide our menu.

    Your rolls look so professional. I’m impressed.

  39. I’m really enjoying this book too!!! It has some really nice recipes and things I haven’t heard of before!! It’s such an adventure.

    (Please don’t include me in the give away as I already own a copy and don’t live in the US!)

  40. I just recently discovered Taymer’s blog and have been avidly marking recipes to try in the upcoming weeks. The book sounds terrific.

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