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.