When cooking meat dishes SPUNJI-I is a very good marinade. Mutton, chicken, pork and beef are the principle meats eaten in the Caribbean. SPUNJI-I is used at two levels in this process.
When cooking meat it is important to start the process with washing the meat carefully. This is for two reasons: firstly to inspect the meat and get rid of any unwanted bits and secondly to clean the meat and to set the baseline for starting the dish. After washing the meat, put the meat in a large bowl and liberally use either lime juice or vinegar to cover the meat portions. Make sure you work the juice or the vinegar in with your hand as this is important to reduce the rawness in meat.
It is at this stage that we would talk about adding salt, black pepper, fresh herbs and SPUNJI-I .Give it a good mix, either with your hands or a large spoon, making sure you get the herbs and mixture into the inner crevices of the meat portions. Cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge for at least one hour but ideally for twenty-four hours.
After marinating the meat, it is at this stage that most Caribbean food preparation diverges from western food. Most Caribbean cooks like their meat dishes to be cooked down to tenderised pieces falling off the bone, filling the mouth with flavour and juice. Sometimes hints of pepper that doesn’t burn the mouth but tickles the throat leaving you with a signature cough to clear your throat!
Take the meat pieces from the fridge and out of the bowl. Shake off all the herbs making sure you remove all the pieces the herbs i.e. the garlic and onions, so that they do not burn in the browning process.
Put the meat pieces in a hot pan of oil and shallow fry, making sure to brown both sides of the meat pieces. Place all your brown meat pieces into a new/clean pan with your herbs and vegetables, add the stock and cook slowly.
After half an hour go back to your pot and taste. At this stage, you start to add your final small measure of SPUNJI-I seasoning to your pot depending on your taste. SPUNJI-I strengthens the taste and consolidates the flavours.
SPUNJI-I is excellent fish seasoning. There are many fish and seafood dishes cooked in the Caribbean. My task is not to cover all of them but to share with you the main approach adopted by many cooks in the Caribbean to prepare and cook excellent fish dishes.
In the West, many fish dishes are presented as filleted dishes, but in the Caribbean, we prefer to cook the whole fish with its bones as we consider this gives the fish dish a deeper flavour.
SPUNJI-I is used both at the marinating stages as well as in the final stages when we are finishing the dish.
The Caribbean and in particular Jamaica has a strong tradition of eating and making vegetarian dishes. The Rastafarian faith and lifestyle are built on an understanding of energy balance and body well being and the food they prepare and eat is known as ‘I Tal’ Food. The principal tenants that I know are that, dishes are prepared using no salt and meat is not eaten. The best way to understand vegetarian eating in the Caribbean is to see the fruit, vegetables and pulses as working in partnership to create taste and texture, which then sit alongside each other on the plate, creating layers of taste. SPUNJI-I acts as a catalyst to fuse the different taste in a bed of naturals seasoning, without overpowering or taking over the intention of the cook.