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I have been on a hiatus because of the sudden change on the home front; my grandson, Landon, was born in March this year. His father (my son) came home from Iraq to see the baby and a week later he was gone back to Iraq.
So I had to put a lot of things aside to help my daughter-in-law with the new arrival and their 9-year-old son, Jovi, who is a very talented soccer player.
As you know, life has its challenges and we can do nothing else but rise to the occasion.
Well, the worldwide economic slow down has taken a toll on many people among all social strata. Even my well-to-do friends are feeling the economic pinch…Yah Mon!
But the economic downturn should not stop anybody from having a good time. And, because of the economic situation, we may have to eat a little less and (tek yu ‘han tun’ fashion) change things around, but all in all, Christmas is time for celebration with family and friends.
I will enjoy Christmas this year, as I suspect you will, too. And in the spirit of this season (economic downturn or not), Mavis and I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR….YAH MON!!!!
Here is an article I wrote back in 2004 Christmas for “Foodie Jamaican” that is still applicable this season.
JAMAICAN CHRISTMAS CAKE
Tis’ the season to be jolly, Yah Mon!
Well it’s that time of the year again when everyone gets into the festive mood no matter where you are on this earth. And some of us really overdo it…but be that as it may, it’s a once-a-year thing so I can understand.
Now Christmas in Jamaica is not a one day celebration. The spirit of this yuletide season affects Jamaicans around the beginning of December and lingers through the early part of January. Although we are not Orthodox Christians, who celebrate early January, we tend to find some reason to prolong the holidays just for the sake of it.
Why? I don’t know and I am not complaining. No Mon!
We like to show off, in a nice way, by “inviting” our neighbors to taste our Christmas cake and Sorrel drink. The “invitation” is not formal in the usual sense; it’s just done by giving away a Christmas cake to someone who lives closest to you.
Another thing that you will find strange is, everybody is baking the same type of Christmas cake but no one passes the recipe around. And it seems like it would take forever and a day to try to get anyone tell you what was done to make her Christmas cake taste unique.
Saying that to say this, when you make your Jamaican Christmas cake this year, do not hesitate to experiment with this recipe.
And unlike some people in Jamaica, PASS IT ON and tell your friends. After all, what good is achieved by hoarding good information about food? y’know what I mean?
Alright then, just for you I have solicited the help of a cook-extraordinaire, Sabrina Spencer from Kingston, to give you a basic Jamaican Christmas cake recipe. This recipe is a little bit different from the one my Aunt use to make back in the old days, but I highly recommend it.
So here goes…
450 gram soft margarine
450 gram dark sugar
4-6 medium eggs
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons nutmeg
6 tablespoons browning
3 cups red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla
450 grams mixed fruits
1 cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
2 gradually beat in eggs one at a time
3 combine flour, mixed spice, baking powder, nutmeg
4 divide the flour mixture in three and liquid in two
5 fold the flour mixture into the cream mixture alternately with wine and fruits
6 stir in almonds flavoring and vanilla
7 pour into a greased and lined baking tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours at 180 degrees Celsius
8 allow cake to cool
Now I have to put in my two cents worth on this cake… just because I am like that. After making this cake, let it sit for a couple of days and each day sprinkle the cake(s) with four capfuls of Jamaican White Rum, or Bacardi Rum, or any other kind of your favorite rum.
Let me backup a little. Make enough cakes to give away as Christmas gifts and if you or your friends/relatives can handle alcohol then do as I say above, but remember keep the kids away from the rum cakes. Give away the “virgin cakes” (non-alcoholic) to your non-drinking friends.
Another favorite drink during this season is Eggnog. You can buy commercial grade eggnog at your local grocery, but if you feel like doing a little sump’n sump’n try this:
2 cups Milk
1 cup Sugar
½ tsp. Grated Nutmeg
1 tsp. Vanilla Flavoring
1 tbsp. White Rum
Separate yolks from eggs in a bowl and beat until the color changes, by this time the beaten yolks should be thick and fluffy. Before you beat the egg whites remove the little white things (we call them eyes) with a fork from the egg. We do this to cut down on the raw smell from the eggs. Now beat the whites until smooth.
Gradually add the rest of the ingredients to the yolks while beating. When you’re finished, put everything in an electric blender and beat again on the lowest cycle for 1 minute.
You can also add a half cup of vanilla flavored ice cream to this eggnog to thicken it a little if you like but you will increase the sweetness of this drink by far, so take this into consideration. Chill and serve in small glasses with a pinch of nutmeg. Yah Mon!
NEW YEAR'S DAY
Well what are you going to cook on New Years’ Day? How about cooking-up one of my favorite soups my Aunt Estelle made for us way back then. Alright then, this is Gungo Peas (Soup) or Pigeon Peas as they are commonly known.
You will use the ham bone from the ham bought for Christmas breakfast/dinner. The same one you were going to throw away in the garbage. Just leave it in the fridge until January 1st.
1 cup Pigeon Peas
1 stlk. Scallion
4 Allspice beans (pimento)
2 stlk Thyme
½ lb. Yellow Yam
1 lb Flour for dumplings
1 lb. Beef Stew (bite size pieces)
Boil peas in water with ham bone, onion and beef on high. In the meantime make the dumplings,peel yellow yam and slice into ¼ inch pieces. Add the yams and dumplings to the pot when the beef is soft. Taste the soup now. If it’s too salt remove some of the soup and add some warm water to the pot. If not, add the rest of the seasonings and reduce the heat to medium; cook until ready. Serve in soup bowls.
‘Til Next Year…
SEASON’S GREETINGS AND ALL THE BEST FOR THE NEW YEAR FROM UNCLE ZACK AND AUNTIE MAE-MAE @ JAMAICAN-RECIPES.COM
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