Arroz Caldo

Arroz Caldo is a Filipino chicken and rice soup or rice porridge. In this dish the chicken is cooked with a sauteed onion, garlic and ginger base before adding in rice, fish sauce and chicken stock. When served the soup is garnished with a boiled egg, spring onion and crunchy toasted garlic. Additional fish sauce and calamansi (a type of citrus fruit that is a hybrid of a kumquat and an orange, native to the Philippines) are also normally at hand to bring the flavours out even more if desired.

In the Philippines this dish is typically eaten during the cooler rainy season days, sometimes as a breakfast dish. However, my mum makes this for my daughter and I when we’re feeling under the weather. It is the ultimate Filipino comfort food.

Some people make this with glutinous rice, but I use basmati rice. I’m not a huge fan of fish sauce so in my version I substitute this with oyster sauce. Calimansi is also difficult to find here in the UK, so I substitute this with lemon instead. For extra depth of flavour I marinade chicken thighs overnight in garlic powder and soy sauce, this gives the chicken a richer brown during the initial browning.

Arroz Caldo Recipe

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes – 12 hours
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped
  • 1.5 l chicken stock
  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 1tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 stalks spring onion finely chopped for serving
  • lemon slices for serving
  • boiled eggs for serving
  • fish sauce or additional oyster sauce for serving

METHOD

  1. Marinade the chicken: Cut 2 slashes into each chicken thigh, add them all to a large bowl and combine with the garlic powder and soy sauce. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour or overnight.
  2. Toast the garlic: Add the oil and chopped garlic to a large saucepan. Put over a medium heat and stir as it all heats up. Cook garlic until golden brown. Pour into a metal sieve and place the sieve on a plate lined with kitchen roll to absorb the excess oil.
  3. In the same pan brown the chicken thighs in batches on a high heat for around 5 minutes per side. Then set aside.
  4. In the same pan fry onions on medium heat until soft. Add in the crushed garlic and the ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Add in a little stock and stir well to de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Then add remaining stock, rice and the chicken and stir well. Simmer for 25 mins.
  6. Serve in bowls topped with a boiled egg, spring onion and toasted garlic garnish and a slice of lemon.

NOTES

  • Yes, the fried garlic garnish is a bit of a faff (peeling garlic is so tedious), but it definitely makes this dish pop – the effort is so worth it.
  • Tip: when peeling the garlic slice off the hard end of the clove (where the cloves join together in the bulb) then place the clove under the handle of your knife. Press down firmly on the handle to very slightly crush the clove. This will loosen the skin and make it easier to peel off.

Saltfish Fritters

Saltfish fritters are a popular snack across the Caribbean, but growing up in the UK I’ve been more accustomed to having them at West Indian parties. They consist of dried salted white fish (usually cod) mixed up in a batter with onion and spices. They are normally shallow fried until brown and crispy on the outside and slightly soft in the centre. The salted fish gives it a unique flavour and texture. Although they are common to many of the Caribbean islands they go by different names. In Jamaica they are known colloquially as “stamp and go”, and in Barbados they take the moniker “Bajan bakes“, whereas in Dominica they are called “accra”. It is thought that they originate as an adaptation of the Ghanaian black eyed peas fritters known as akara or accara. Whatever you call them I’m sure you’ll agree on how deliciously more-ish they are.

Salfish Fritters Recipe

Makes: Around 20 fritters

Preparation Time: 12 hours

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 360 g dried saltfish
  • 130 g plain flour
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp scotch bonnet pepper sauce
  • 0.5 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • 0.5 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion stalk finely chopped
  • 120 ml water
  • 60 ml vegetable oil for shallow frying

METHOD

  1. Rinse the dried saltfish under the cold water tap and place in a large bowl. Fill the bowl to the top with cold water. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak overnight.
  2. Drain water then place the fish in a pan, fill with cold water. On a high heat bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the water and when cool break the fish into small chunks.
  4. In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients apart from the oil (saltfish, flour, thyme, pepper sauce, all purpose seasoning, onion, spring onion and water) to form a thick batter.
  5. Put the oil in a deep frying pan and heat over a medium heat.
  6. Use one tablespoon to scoop the batter from the bowl and another tablespoon to push the batter gently into the hot oil. Fry the fish fritters for around 5 minutes each side until golden brown.
  7. Drain well on kitchen roll before serving.

NOTES

  • Serve with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica. In Jamaica it is eaten as a breakfast dish, but I think it is perfect for any time of the day. Ackee is a fruit, and like in this dish, it is often cooked as a vegetable. When cooked it resembles and has the texture of scrambled eggs, but has a mild nutty and slightly sweet flavour. The saltfish is dried salted white fish, normally cod (but sometimes pollock or snapper), that has been soaked or boiled in water to rehydrate it and remove most of the salt it was preserved in to make it palatable. The preservation method definitely gives the saltfish a flavour that you cannot obtain from using fresh fish. When combined together the nutty sweetness of the ackee melds so well with the texture and flavour of the saltfish, and it’s so deliciously unique.

Ok, so by now if you were not already familiar with ackee and saltfish then you’re probably thinking of exploring the other parts of my blog or leaving my site completely, BUT PLEASE DON’T RUN AWAY! As exotic as ackee and saltfish seems, it is actually such an easy dish to cook. The ingredients can be found in the “World Foods” section in many of the larger UK supermarkets. And the flavour explosion you’ll have is definitely worth sticking around for.

Now, from my “About” page you may already know that I’m half Jamaican. I’m very proud of my Jamaican heritage, which is why I’d love to share a little bit more about the history and origin of this dish which is steeped in colonialism. I think ackee and saltfish is a perfect reflection of the history of the Jamaican people and is so fitting as a national dish.

Ackee is actually indigenous to West Africa and was brought over from Ghana to Jamaica in the eighteenth century. The fruit itself grows on trees and the closest thing I can liken it to in appearance is a sweet pepper (or bell pepper). As the fruit grows it changes colour from green, to red to orange and as it does this it splits open to reveal three black seeds, and this is how you know it is ripe and ready to be picked.

As for saltfish, this was introduced to the Caribbean in around the seventeenth century. It was brought over from North America in trade ships which would return from the Caribbean with delicacies of this era such as rum and sugar. The preservation method of the cod was ideal for preventing the fish from perishing during the long transatlantic journey. Due to the abundance of cod at the time saltfish was bought as an inexpensive source of protein for the enslaved people. It blows my mind to think about how people going through so much injustice, pain and sorrow could find the passion and creativity in their hearts to produce a dish as resplendent and flavoursome as ackee and saltfish. I’d like to imagine that when this dish was eaten it provided a moment of comfort and hope, even if it was just a fleeting moment.

Ackee and Saltfish Recipe

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g skinless and boneless salt fish
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 0.5 tsp dried thyme)
  • 3 spring onions (white and green part separated and finely chopped)
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 0.5 Scotch bonnet chilli finely diced
  • 4-5 pimento berries crushed
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 540 g tinned ackee (drained)

METHOD

  1. Hold the salt fish under the cold tap to rinse off the visible flakes/grains of salt. Then place in a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Cover the fish with cold water and bring the pan to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Use a fork to break off a small piece of and taste it to check the salt levels.
  4. If it is too salty then drain the water and repeat steps 2 and 3 until the salt level is just right for your taste. Remember, you want to remove most of the salt, but leave in just enough for the flavour.
  5. Once the salt level is to your taste drain the water and use two forks to break the fish into large chunks. Set aside for later.
  6. Next, preheat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan using a medium heat.
  7. Add in the onions, the white parts of the spring onion, chilli, pimento, and thyme and give them a good mix. Then add in the garlic.
  8. Once the onions have softened and are translucent add in the chopped tomatoes and stir for about 3 minutes.
  9. Stir in the salt fish and season with black pepper (and salt if you feel you have removed too much during the boiling of the salt fish).
  10. Add in the ackee. Gently use a wooden spoon to distribute the ackee evenly in the pan, but do not mix it as it is very soft and delicate and will start to break up. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to steam for five minutes. Garnish with the green part of the spring onion before serving.

NOTES

  • As I mentioned above, saltfish, ackee, pimento and the scotch bonnet pepper can normally be found in the larger supermarkets here in the UK. Head to the fruit and veg section for the scotch bonnet pepper. The ackee, saltfish and pimento should be found in the “World Foods” section. The ackee will be in a tin, the saltfish will be packaged in a plastic tray normally wrapped in a clear plastic film, and the pimento berries are normally packaged in a plastic tube.
  • Break the saltfish into large chunks around 2-3 cm long as it will break down further when cooking.
  • Tinned ackee is very soft and fragile (it is boiled first prior to being tinned) so always add it in last and do not stir heavily.
  • Serve with white rice, fried dumplings or hard food (a combination of boiled yam, green bananas and dumplings).