Celebrating Caribbean cuisine and culture with The Island Gurl

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Raquel Fox is known as the “island gurl,” famous for bringing her love and passion for all things Bahamas to the Canadian culinary scene. Fox is a professional chef, teacher, cookbook author and media personality who loves to share all the tasty and fabulous things about her beloved Bahamas.

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With Caribbean culture, food and fun being shared this weekend at one of North America’s biggest festivals, taking place in Toronto, we recently asked Fox what’s on in the Caribbean that has everyone jumping for joy.

Kamalame Cay, Andros Bahamas, with Chef Raquel Fox
Kamalame Cay, Andros Bahamas, with Chef Raquel Fox

“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” said the effervescent Fox, who grew up in the Bahamas where she learned all about the island’s traditional cuisine from her grandmother. “I was born in Nassau and grew up with my grandmother who I always honor as a pivotal person in my life,” Fox said. “I inherited my love of Bahamian cuisine from her.

“And when I think of Bahamian cuisine, I think of all the influences that make the dishes so unique,” ​​added Fox, official chef for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism in Toronto and author of dinner in paradise. “Like citrus fruits – so refreshing and delicious in many of our dishes.”

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Fox says the cuisine’s major influences date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, “when Loyalists and their slaves brought southern and African cuisines with them to the Caribbean. Recipes like travel cake – or johnny cake – a deep food with so much history and made with ingredients that have taken them a long way, while sustaining them throughout their journeys.

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There’s so much warmth and love when Fox talks about her own travels and adventures – attending international schools, assembling authentic family recipes from friends around the world, her and her husband’s establishment, the restaurant Ruben’s Bahamian, The Wine Lounge, which USA today voted as one of the top 10 salons in the Bahamas.

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But she wanted to learn more, and a few years ago she moved to Canada, where she studied at The Chef School in Toronto at George Brown College, (she now teaches her own Caribbean cooking class there) before moving on. embarking on its own brand, which is to instill a love of Caribbean culture and food everywhere.

Today, Fox is a multimedia personality, appearing on popular television programs like CityLine on a regular basis, developing its own range of food products and always creating delicious dishes.

Its message is simple: “Love the food, love the people.

All recipes courtesy of Chef Raquel Fox (islandgurlfoods.com).

Scallop & Mango Salad (or Ceviche)
Scallop & Mango Salad (or Ceviche) Photo by Raquel Fox /provided

Scallop & Mango Salad (or Ceviche)

There are many versions of this delicious dish in South and Central America and Mexico. This recipe is traditionally Bahamian, replacing the conch with the scallops. Bright, refreshing flavors in a citrus and chili marinade. For 4 to 6 people.

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1 lb bay scallops

1 firm but ripe mango, diced or julienned

1/2 small red onion, diced

1 large ripe tomato, diced

1/2 English cucumber, julienned or thinly sliced

Juice of 1 Seville or bitter orange

Juice of 1 lime

1–2 Scotch Bonnet peppers, seeded, finely diced

Fine sea salt to taste

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Season to taste with salt, mix again. Cover with plastic and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Spoon into scallops, mugs or bowls, serve immediately with store-bought sweet potato chips or homemade Carnival potato chips.

Cat Island French Fries (Journey Cakes or Johnny Cakes)
Cat Island French Fries (Journey Cakes or Johnny Cakes) Photo by Raquel Fox /provided

Cat Island French Fries (Journey Cakes or Johnny Cakes)

This charming, slightly sweet and flaky “bread” reflects a powerful history of snacks that could be assembled and transported for miles. Brought to the Caribbean islands by colonists and their slaves, where the recipe is a representation of the cultural history of that part of the world.

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2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1/2 cup frozen shredded coconut, thawed (optional)

1 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. lard (butter flavor or regular butter)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over low heat and melt the lard. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and stir with a fork. Add the butter and, using your hand, combine with the flour mixture, breaking it into small pieces. Add the coconut, and mix. Slowly pour in the milk while mixing with your other hand to form a ball of dough (the dough should be soft and easy to handle).

Sprinkle a clean surface with flour and knead the dough several times. Divide into four balls of dough (lightly flatten into a disc) to make individual fried buns or leave as a whole and flatten into a 3-inch high disc with your hands. Place the individual or whole batter in the heated skillet, cover with a lid and fry in 5 minute intervals on each side for about 25 minutes. You can also transfer to a preheated 350°F oven after the first 10 minutes to finish baking.

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Serve immediately with butter or jam.

Goombai Smash
Goombai Smash Photo by Raquel Fox /provided

Goombai Smash

“This is one of my favorite island cocktails to go.” It was first created in Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, by Mrs. Emily Cooper, owner of the Blue Bee Bar. For 2.

2 oz EACH pineapple juice and orange juice

1 oz. coconut rum

1/2 oz. EACH coconut cream, spiced rum and dark rum

Ice

2 pineapple wedges

2 cherries

Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake well to cool. Serve garnished with pineapple wedges and cherries.

Jerk Turkey Legs
Jerk Turkey Legs Photo by Raquel Fox /provided

Mango and Mango Turkey Thighs

A quick and flavorful celebration of traditional Jamaican jerk spices with a subtle hint of tropical mango. Note – look for mango jerk sauce at your local grocery store or supermarket. For 4 people

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4 turkey legs

1 tbsp. White vinegar

Salt to taste

1 bottle mango jerk sauce, divided

Turn on the grill to medium heat. Rinse the turkey in a large bowl with cold water and 1 tbsp. White vinegar. Dry with paper towels.

Place turkey in a large bowl, add 1 cup mango jerk sauce, cover with plastic wrap, place in refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour. Place the marinated turkey on the grill and cook on both sides, brushing occasionally with additional jerk sauce. Grill for about 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Transfer the turkey to a platter and serve with a side of extra sauce for drizzling with your favorite barbecue sides.

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Michael M. Tomlin