Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mango

20130818 Mango 02I have been away from Trinidad for 15 years now. It almost feels like another life and true to form as time goes by the rose in the tint rises. I want to talk a bit of the local fruits there and I hope the old grey matter has a true enough story to tell.

Julie, Teen, Rose, Starch, John, Calabash, Doudouse, Graham, Egg, Long, Spice, Hog and Turpentine are the mangoes that I’ve all eaten during the Mango season which starts midway through the Dry season at about Easter and runs for a couple months. (If you can add more to this list, that will be nice, in the comments)

Mangoes are useful from an early stage where green ones are used to make chutneys or mango chow which is a quick peel-slice-salt&pepper snack. For many the emphasis is pepper. As the mango ripens it becomes raw vegan material. When the mango season takes flight, everyone is happy.

It is a remarkable fruit. I’ve eaten it since I was a baby. Back then the prized mango was Julie. It is big and pulpy. I suspect it was a graphed version as the trees planted in back yards were never that tall compared to those up on the hills. If you can get through four at one sitting, you’d do well. Very sweet, quite filling.

As luck will have it we never had a mango tree in our yard. We tried a couple times to get one going but it never happened. We had Governor Plums, Pommerac, Soursop, Bananas and Dasheen but no mango. And were we to have one, it will have most likely been??

Mr Maraj planted a row of Starch mangoes on his side of the fence when he moved in. He had great foresight and I had great fortune long before I knew it. When those trees grew old enough to reach into my yard, Starch by then was the fashionable mango. I’d start the day eating five or more off the tree.

One of the bigger trees refused to bear on Mr Maraj’s side, so coming close to the end of the crop, he’d be getting bowls of his m20130818 Mango 01angoes from me. Nice living.

 

Magna Carta

20130907 FTF Magna Carta IIOn the 27th of August, my family and I went to St Albans Cathedral for the Magna Carta exhibition. We got to see one of the four surviving Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was borrowed from Lincoln Cathedral.

King Offa founded St Albans Abbey which later became a cathedral. St Albans Abbey was where the 1213 meeting was held (later in the article).

On the 15th of June 1215 King John was forced to seal the Magna Carta at Runnymede. But on the 19th of June the Magna Carta was created.

WHAT WAS FEUDAL SYSTEM IN ENGLAND?

The feudal system was introduced to England by William the Conqueror.

All of England belonged to the king

The barons controlled the land given to them by the king. But they had to pay for the army.

The knights worked on the land given to them by the baron in return they would have to fight for the barons.

The peasants worked on farms in return for protection from the king, baron or knights.

WHY THE MAGNA CARTA HAPPENED?

It was the first document to limit the power of the king and he had to follow the law of the land. This also meant that peasants could not be arrested or imprisoned except if they had gone against the law of the land.

On the 4th of August 1213 a council meeting was held at St Albans Abbey with Archbishop of Canterbury, bishops and barons. In 1213 there were 1,000 people living in St Albans.

King John was losing wars and needed money from the barons, but they wouldn’t give it to him because they thought he was a coward. The barons had had enough and started a fight with King John.  So when he lost the war against France he asked the barons for money and army but he could only get it if he signed the Magna Carta. So King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta. Before he became the king he was called Prince John Lackland.

Of the 63 clauses of the Magna Carta, 3 are still used today. The writers used small letters in the documents because parchment (stretched sheep skin) was expensive. Runnymede was selected as a meeting point and where the Magna Carta was signed because, it was near the Barons HQ and King John’s place at Windsor.

Scribes made many copies of the Magna Carta which were sent across England. Today there are only 4 left and I got to see one in St Albans.

Resources:

St Albans Cathedral – http://www.stalbanscathedral.org/news/st-albans-magna-carta-festival

Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta

 

Buljol

IMG_20130901_174247_1I haven’t done this for some time and I really felt like it when I found these smocked mackerels in the fish aisle. So I did Buljol, my way.

Buljol is a Trinidadian dish Mr FTF introduced me to and it is a breakfast regular there. Actually, it’s made with salt fish and it has a distinctive flavour which I love. Provided I manage to source a good quality one over here. Although, salt fish is quite messy and laborious to prepare: it includes soaking in warm water then removing the bones and bear in mind not to soak it too long or your meal will be flaky and tasteless. Because it’s bony, it doesn’t matter how much attention you give to removing them from the flesh, some will always find its way onto your plate.

All this effort will reward you with a very unique taste; seaside salty air, tangy, fleshy and lip smacking. Don’t mind the occasional bone.

We’re quite busy though and salt fish is a treat so I tried it out with smocked mackerel once and that was a hit! The bones were way easier to clean. Even my Trini mother-in-law loved it. So here we go.

You need to discard the mackerel skin and shred the flesh with your fingers. Then slice finely tomatoes and onion. The ratio of ingredients depends on your choice. I prefer less onion more tomatoes. Then season it with pepper, salt (taste before you add any as smocked mackerel is already quite salty) and add olive oil to make the mix moist. Let the flavours blend for some time in the fridge and serve at breakfast or lunch with avocadoes or side dish of your choice. Trinis would serve it with local breads mostly called bakes.

As we keep an eye on our grain intake, we serve it with cassava, eddoes, sweet potatoes or even chips. Today was chips with Polish mayonnaise, a favourite of Mr FTF.

You have to be careful with processed chips. Most have wheat or maize flour to give a crunch and the list of additives can be quite long. I found just one that I use in a pinch that has just potatoes coated with sunflower oil. When I make it from scratch I use goose or duck fat. Simply the best!!

Ingredients:

  • smocked mackerel
  • tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper to taste

Resources:

Smocked mackerel – http://goo.gl/SHpWu9

Polish Mayonnaise – http://goo.gl/2SvB65

Chips – http://goo.gl/T2vELg