I can’t believe it’s been four months since I last posted about Trinidad food. Not having grown up there I don’t have a full arsenal of dishes at my disposal. Besides, Karen’s the expert in our house, and the only dishes that I’ll post about are the ones she doesn’t make.
Karen made oxtail soup once when we were newlyweds. This was long before I truly opened myself to foods from other cultures, so as expected my reaction was less than enthusiastic. Apparently this was quite traumatic to my young bride so she’s never made it since. Her mother is visiting us right now, so I asked if she’d be willing to share her recipe and wisdom with me and my blog for posterity. She graciously obliged.
My blog is called “Mark Ruins Dinner.” Did you know just how skilled I am at this? I can ruin dinner even if I’m not the one cooking. How, you may ask? First, I lose the rocker that goes on top of the pressure cooker that regulates the pressure. Without this, the pressure cooker is just a covered stock pot.
But Mummy knows this recipe like the back of her hand, so even my best efforts didn’t ruin the soup. It did, however, take about three times as long to cook. Here are the oxtails after an hour:
That’s not what they look like when they’re done. And the split peas don’t look like that when they’re done either. They’d been in for a half hour at this point.
Also because of me there was one ingredient missing:
Usually they’ll put one of these habenero peppers into the soup whole and let it steep. But I’m a wimp so they left it out. Can I blame the kids?
Any negative comments about this dish will be deleted. This is Karen’s mother, after all. Recipe follows.
Mummy’s Oxtail Soup
1 lb. oxtails
2 small carrots, sliced coarsely
1 rib celery, sliced coarsely
1/2 cup yellow split peas
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sweet potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 small butternut squash
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced rather thin
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt, pepper, sugar, and green seasoning to taste
The first thing to do is marinade the oxtails in some crushed garlic, salt, and a little green seasoning overnight.
When time comes to make the soup, put the oxtails and enough water to cover them in the pressure cooker. Start the pressure cooker, and after fifteen minutes put in the split peas. After another fifteen minutes the meat should be cooked and the split peas will have exploded themselves into starchy goodness all over the soup.
In the meantime heat some oil in a soup pot and sweat off the onions and celery. When that is complete add the carrots, squash, and bell pepper and continue to cook. When the pressure cooker is done, dump the contents into the soup pot and add the sweet potatoes and the secret ingredient.
You can omit that hot pepper mentioned above and it’s still technically Trinidad food. But not the Golden Ray. It goes by two names: Golden Ray (obviously), and salt butter. Looking at the package I’m not sure why they call it salt butter, but this is what makes it Trinidad food.
Cook the soup until the sweet potatoes are cooked. Then take the cornmeal and the flour and mix them together. Add enough water to make some dumplings.
Put the dumplings in the soup and simmer long enough to cook them, about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Serve. Eat.