Monday, June 21, 2010

Scaling a Recipe

Many of us have trouble scaling or converting recipes mostly when we have to cook in large amounts for family gatherings or simple social events but here is great news! Its not as difficult as it seems. I just have to share it with you!

Let's say you have a recipe that serves 6 people, but you want to make it for 2 people instead. Or even trickier, what if a recipe serves 4 people, but you need to make it for 6 Or 14?

It doesn't matter whether you're increasing a recipe or decreasing it the procedure for adjusting the ingredient quantities for a different number of portions is the same. We call this scaling a recipe.

How It Works

The first thing you need to do is calculate your conversion factor, which is a number you're going to use to convert all the quantities. There's a tiny bit of math involved, but it's OK to use a calculator that’s what they're there for!

To find your conversion factor, simply divide the desired number of servings by the original number of servings. The resulting number is your conversion factor. Here's the formula:

Desired servings
———————— = conversion factor
Original servings

Scaling that 10 portion recipe down to six portions involves two steps:

1. Divide 6 by 10, which give you a conversion factor of 0.6.

2. Multiply each ingredient amount by 0.6.

Let's work through a simple example to illustrate how this works. Say your recipe calls for 2 quarts of vegetable stock. All you need to do is multiply 2 quarts by your conversion factor of 0.6:

2 quarts × 0.6 = 1.2 quarts vegetable stock

The 1.2 quarts can now be converted to ounces:

32 × 1.2 = 38.4 ounces

We can round that down to about 38 ounces, but that's still kind of a weird amount. It'd be clearer if it were given in cups. There are 8 ounces in a cup, so:

38 ÷ 8 = 4.75

Which means 1.2 quarts is equal to approximately 4¾ cups. That's all there is to it!

My encounter with the Dead!

Going to the abattoir in the Port-of Spain general market is not for the faint of heart. Upon entry you are greeted by the pungent smell of fresh meat married with that of fish and other seafood also as part of the greetings are the crude shouts of the butchers advertising their variety and prices, horrifyingly clad in blood stained clothes and leatherette aprons that looked like a 3-dimentional abstract piece created by the guts, intestines and liver of the various animals that had fallen prey to the blade of the butcher’s chopper.

If that was not enough visual torture, seeing the severed heads of pigs and goats lined up in rows, some with their tongue’s hanging out and others with an eye or piece of an ear missing, would definitely persuade you to believe that you were part of a scene from the animal version of SAW the movie.

If you ventured further you would notice how all the butchers were busy at work in their own sections, which was separated by stone slabs, either advertising, tending to customers or hacking through the carcasses before them. Their display counters were also made of stone and displayed items for sale such as various cuts from, pigs, goats, cows and fish and other seafood, interestingly displayed for the customer. Apart from the various items for sale, the butcher’s tools were neatly laid in order of priority. These tools ranged from very sharp paring knives to choppers, boning knives, sharpening stones and many others gadgets unknown to me.

If you were in doubt about the sharpness of these tools upon further exploration I am certain you would come across a butcher in action, skillfully carving his meat into its various parts with the swift action of his blade that worked its way through bone effortlessly. I would not recommend slippers for your trip to the abattoir unless you are comfortable with splashing of the blood and water mixture that would frequently make its way across the foot path of customers.

However, apart from the gruesome visuals, if you are looking for the freshest cuts of meat at the best prices then the Port-of-Spain abattoir is the place to go. It’s unlike your exalted visit to Price Mart’s meat section but the variety offered at the abattoir are more appropriate to our local traditional culinary culture such as geera hog head just to name one. For me, going to the abattoir is not just for getting the freshest cuts of meat at bargained prices its also done to encourage the local art of butchery and be a part of the experience of this indigenous modern day practice, instead of going to the grocery to purchase imported processed meat products and by-products. The environment at the abattoir may take some getting used to, as I have vividly described, but believe me, its worth the effort!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

All Out Pasta Salad

You will need:

· 500 g penne pasta

· 6 tbsp olive oil

· 500 g baby plum tomatoes , (or cherry)

· several fresh basil leaves

· 2 tbsp capers

· 70 g black olives

· 110 g coarsely grated parmesan cheese

· 100 g tinned fillet anchovies

· 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes

· 2 roasted red bell peppers

· 8 oz marinated feta cheese

· salt and pepper

· 1 large cooking pot

· 1 chopping board

· 1 large knife

· 1 small knife

· 1 colander

· 1 wooden spoon

· scissors

· 1 large bowl

· paper towel




15 minutes

Cooking Time:

30 minutes

1. Step 1: Heat the water

Fill the cooking pot ¾ full of water, add a sprinkle of salt and bring to the boil.

2. Step 2: Rinse and dry the basil

While the water is boiling rinse the basil leaves under a cold tap. Place a paper towel over a chopping board and spread the herb over the towel. Pat the basil dry but be careful not to damage or bruise it.

3. Step 3: Snip the basil leaves

Pull the basil leaves away from the stalk and, using the scissors, cut them into coarse strips (reserve some for garnishing with later on).

4. Step 4: Slice the baby tomatoes

Using the small knife cut the baby tomatoes in half.

5. Step 5: Cook the pasta

Add the pasta to the boiling water and allow to boil until al dente. This should take approximately 11 minutes. Stir well and leave to boil.

6. Step 6: Drain and rinse the pasta

Use the colander to drain the pasta and rinse thoroughly under a cold tap. Drain and rinse again to extract any excess water.

7. Step 7: Mix all the ingredients together

Heap the pasta into the large bowl and add the tomatoes, capers, chilli peppers,roasted red bell peppers, feta cheese, basil, olives and anchovies. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Finally, sprinkle the parmesan cheese and mix well.

8. Step 8: Serve

Present the pasta on a large serving dish and decorate with a sprig of basil. Enjoy with a glass of white wine and some ciabatta bread.

Rice Anyone?!

Everyone has a favorite rice recipe in their recipe files. Rice is a versatile food; it can be used in appetizers, side dishes, main dishes and even desserts. It can be used as a comfort food, filler, or a wonderful culinary centerpiece.

With all the rice recipes to be discovered there are also a great many types of rice. For each rice recipe in the cooking world today, there is a type of rice that fits the recipe best.

Rice may seem like a plain and simple dish to prepare, but with the many varieties of rice, there are almost endless ways to prepare rice recipes.

Coconut and Saffron Rice

· 1 cup long grain rice

· 1 cup water

· 3/4 cup canned coconut milk

· 5-6 saffron threads

· ¼ cup vegetable stock

· 1 dash of angostura bitters


Combine water, coconut milk and vegetable stock in a saucepan with a snug fitting lid. Bring to a boil and add rice and saffron threads. Return to a boil then add bitters; reduce heat so the rice will simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed (about 25 minutes).

This dish can be garnished with toasted desiccated coconut.

Suggested servings 4

It’s a must try!

Trini Pepper Steak

This is a basic recipe of pepper steak that I modified to incorporate a bit of a local touch. It’s a must try! With the addition of mainly the molasses and the ginger it unlocks hidden flavor that would just send your taste buds wild!

Serves 6

6 (6 oz each) fillet steaks

1 tbsp oz salt

1 tbsp black pepper

2 oz margarine

1 ½ oz Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp tomato paste

4 pimentos chopped

1 bunch chopped chive

1 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp rum or wine

1oz chopped parsley

1 bunch shadow beni

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp molasses

Hot pepper (to taste) minced


1. Season steak with salt, black pepper, ginger, shadow beni and molasses.

2. Heat half of the margarine and sauté steak for 8-10 minutes; remove from the pan.

3. Add remaining fat to the pan; stir in hot pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, pimentos, chive, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and wine or rum.

4. Turn up heat, stir and cook for 1 minuet; adjust salt and pepper to taste.

5. Return steak to pan and stir quickly over high heat until well blended.

6. Cook for a further 20 min or until tender.

My Bizarre Affair

I pushed the door to the entrance of the restaurant and automatically started to scan the dining area for my friends, completely oblivious to the hostess offering her assistance. “There they are!” I exclaimed and proceeded to the noisiest group of people in the dining area. After the usual routine salutations I signalled to the waiter to bring me a beer. Now it was time to order cutters so we perused the appetizer section of the menu and ordered from there. Being unfamiliar with this restaurant I preferred to stay within my comfort zone and ordered Buffalo wings.

The food began arriving, first came a basked of lobster wantons served with garlic chili sauce, interesting, I thought. Then came a wooden platter adorned with what looked like a huge white tablet that was oozing melted marshmallows, this in fact was brie and crackers. Preceding this was my wings, neatly presented on an oval platter accompanied by blue cheese dressings and celery sticks. At this time I was interrupted by an incoming call which I answered and had a brief conversation. As I returned my attention to the table I noticed there in the middle was something that left me stupefied for a while. What was it? What was it doing on the table? It was something you would expect to see in a cat’s litter box! Upon inquiring Bevon revealed that it was escargots in garlic butter, in plain terminology it was snails soaking in a pool of garlic butter! Was this even legal!

I sat for a while in solitude observing this appetizer, I always thought that an appetizer was supposed to open your appetite not make you feel to puke! Has Bevon lost his mind! I watched in horror as he meticulously transported each escargot from its nestling place into his mouth. The most astonishing thing was to see how crazy my friends were about these snails. Weren't they afraid of the peril that could befall them by devouring this creature? Suddenly the attention was shifted to me, Havella was offering me the last, lonesome, single escargot in the dish. Without hesitation I firmly refused. This however just led to a collective cheer for me to eat the escargot that seemed to move in the dish as if taunting me. I begged them to stop but they only cheered louder with no regards for my sanity and the other diners. Soon enough to my dismay the entire restaurant was cheering for me to consume this escargot that looked liked tainted shrimp. Was this a planned conspiracy? I began to cold sweat and went totally numb. I didn’t know if it was due to the cheers of the diners or the thought of having to quiet this persistent mob by gulping down the snail.

I had no choice. It was a losing battle so I decided to swallow the creature whole. As I drew the fork containing the escargot closer to my mouth the cheering was replaced by a dead silence. I held the fork between my teeth for a while before sliding it out. As the snail fell from the fork my tongue instantly retreated causing it to fall to the floor of my mouth. Now the final step was to swallow in one gulp and finish the process. I took a deep breath and swallowed but the snail would not go down! It just danced around in my mouth to my disgust. Spitting it out was not an option so I mustered up the courage to bite it then swallow, the end was near. Getting the snail between my teeth alone was a challenge, I eventually sandwiched it between my jaws and quickly broke the escargot into two and immediately swallowed but only half went down the hatch.

The strangest thing then happened, after biting the snail the juices travelled its way down my teeth and covered my tongue, this caused instant confusion in my mind. What was my tongue telling me? For reasons contrary to my initial expectations the taste of this snail's carcass was causing a downpour of salivary secretions in my mouth! The taste was surprisingly interesting. With the remaining half in my mouth I slowly masticated it to accurately inform my mind of what I had just experienced. Its robbery texture allowed secretions with every bite covering my pallet with a variety of flavors dominated by a distinct seafood taste. I was speechless much to the amazement of everyone and as I swallowed the final bit the applause came and this was the start of my bizarre affair.