Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 – Review​ | Champagne​ Twist

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 Review

Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?

Caribbean food month, August 2018, Champagne Twist

Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.

If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.

 

Bernie Spain Gardens Southbank - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.

In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.

JFB Jerk Grill - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.

Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.

Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.

Jerk Hot sauces - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.

I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.

Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.

For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat.  I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce.  While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region.  Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.

Grace Foods stall - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’.  Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.

Chef Solomon Smith, Brixton Soup Kitchen Charity - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist
Chef Solomon Smith with host Nicola, Caribbean Food Week Festival, Bernie Spain Gardens, South Bank, London

The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.

Picnic Bench - Caribbean Food Week Festival | Champagne Twist

The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.

Brixton Soup Kitchen charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival.  As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity.  It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.

Brixton Soup Kitchen - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Brixton Soup Kitchen Chef Solomon Smith charity van - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.

The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.

It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.

Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.

bean bags green black yellow Jamaica - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.

There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.

Grace Food products - Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 | Champagne Twist

 

 

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Semaj’s Organic Dried Sorrel review | Champagne Twist

Hello,

Caribbean food month, August 2018, Champagne Twist

Traditionally enjoyed over the Christmas season in the West Indies, sorrel, fresh homemade sorrel that is, is a wonderful surprisingly fruity, spiced drink that is as refreshing as it is pretty in colour. Fill a glass with ice, pour the drink in, sit back and enjoy.

Sorrel drink | Champagne Twist

Which is why Semaj’s DIY pack version is such a disappointment.  Firstly, the substitution of whole cloves, an essential ingredient in for sorrel, with fennel seeds is inexcusable. If you can’t trust the ingredients list printed on the packaging, it will be difficult to trust the end product. Fennel seeds also tend to be cheaper than cloves, so it also makes me question the ‘value’ of the value pack.

That said, the product was easy to make, and adding cloves from my own spice cupboard, as well as other flavours made a difference. But having to source the spices defeats the object of buying this product.

Organic Dried Sorrel Semaj | Champagne Twist

As a quick introduction to sorrel, this drink had potential as a mixer. However as a stand-alone product, especially with the errors in the ingredients list, this drink cannot be described as authentic and in no way compares favourably with the real sorrel drink.

Rating 1 out of 5

 

 

Caribbean Food Month – Recipe ideas using coconut milk | Champagne Twist

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, coconut milk lends itself to a multitude of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes and everything in between.  Following are a few simple recipe ideas featuring coconut milk.

 

Elle’s coconut rice

Elle's Coconut rice - champagnetwist.com

Ingredients

1 cup of rice

1 1/4 cups of water or coconut water

3/4 coconut milk

2 sprigs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt (optional)

 

Coconut rice in bowl - champagnetwist.com

Method

  1. After washing the rice, place it in a large saucepan, with the water or coconut water and coconut milk.
  2. Add rest of the ingredients then bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked.
  3. Serve immediately. You can also use as a base for rice salad or as a side.

Rice salad - champagnetwist.com

 

Coconut Chai traybake – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/coconut-chai-traybake

Vegan Hot Coconut Drink – https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/horlixier_49938

George’s Dal – https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/georges_dal_75678

Sweet Potato Curry – https://www.connoisseurusveg.com/sweet-potato-caribbean

 

Dunn's River coconut milk champagnetwist.com

I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know if you try any of the recipes mentioned, it would be great to see how you use coconut milk.

More Caribbean Food Month treats on Monday, see you then.

Caribbean Food Month – Dunn’s River Coconut Milk review | Champagne​ Twist

Wow, how come it’s Friday already?

coconut milk Dunn's River champagnetwist

Hello,

For day 3 of Caribbean Food Month, it’s time for a review.  Coconut milk is one of the stables when it comes to Caribbean cookery. This versatile ingredient can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and lends itself to a multitude of international culinary treats. It also serves as an alternative to dairy.

Dunn’s River Coconut Milk has a thick, smooth texture with a light coconut flavour, meaning that it will work well with tea and coffee. It doesn’t have that sometimes clawy aftertaste when sampled on its own, although it does have a tendency to separate. But a quick stir with a spoon soon resolves that issue.

Dunn's River coconut milk champagnetwist.com

As a product in its own right, I can’t find much to fault it.  As the saying goes, it say’s exactly what it is on the tin. As an ingredient, it works well without any problems, responding to heat well. It’s a great product to have in your pantry.

Coconut milk champagnetwist.com

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Tomorrow’s blog includes recipe ideas featuring Dunn’s River Coconut Milk. Please return to find out more. Thanks for reading and if you’re in the UK or Spain – try to stay cool. I adore the sun, but 38 degrees is my limit. The thought of having to work in potentially 48 degree heat, makes the mind boggle. Best of luck!

Jerk Seasoned Roasted veg with rice - Caribbean food month | ChampagneTwist.com

Caribbean Food Month – Jerk Seasoned Roasted Vegetables​​ – Champagne Twist

Hello, happy 1st of August and happy Caribbean Food Month here on ChampagneTwist.com!

We’re deep into summer now and the heatwave we’re currently enjoying in the UK is akin to the summers enjoyed in the Caribbean. All that’s needed is a golden sandy beach, a bowl of rum punch and a tropical music soundtrack.

Well, I can’t provide the beach or the soundtrack, but I may be able to produce a few food and drink ideas for the Champagne Twist, Caribbean Food Month.

Caribbean food month, August 2018, Champagne Twist.jpg

Kicking off this month’s culinary extravaganza is Jerk Seasoned Roasted Vegetables. Jerk seasoning is fairly well known as a Jamaican herb and spice blend used to season meat, particularly chicken. But in this recipe, I thought how could vegetarians get in on the act?

This is an easy, flexible recipe staple which allows for a quick exit from the kitchen – let’s face it, who wants to spend hours in a hot kitchen in 32-degree heat? Make a large batch and portion up for healthier frozen meals or barbeque side dishes.  The vegetables are cut into different shapes, of roughly the same size to provide visual interest and to ensure even cooking.

Jerk Seasoned Roasted Vegetables | Champagne Twist

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish.

Fresh vegetables - Caribbean Food Month | ChampagneTwist.com
Fresh vegetables | ChampagneTwist.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 or 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, cut into batons
  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 large broccoli head, cut into florets
  • 1 large carrot, cut into batons
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium courgette/zucchini, cut into batons
  • 1 corn on the cob, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2tsp jerk seasoning (try Dunns River)
Cut vegetables Caribbean food month | ChampagneTwist.com
Cut vegetables – Caribbean Food Month | ChampagneTwist.com

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and ensure all the vegetables are completely coated with the coconut oil and jerk seasoning. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Place the contents of the bowl into a large roasting tin. Roast for about 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
  4. Allow to cool slightly before transferring into a serving dish. Enjoy with plain white or coconut rice.  You could also create a rice salad by simply mixing the seasoned veg with the rice. Try substituting with brown rice for a nuttier flavour.
pre roasted root vegetables - Caribbean Food Month | ChampagneTwist.com
Pre-roasted vegetables | ChampagneTwist.com

Remember with Jerk seasoning, a little goes a long way. Err on the side of caution, use a scant 1/4 tsp of Jerk seasoning if you prefer a mild flavour. Don’t be too heavy-handed, it will taste great, but it will feel like your mouth is on fire. Use the wet mix, not the dry spice blend.

Jerk seasoned roasted vegetables | ChampagneTwist.com
Jerk seasoned roasted vegetables | ChampagneTwist.com
Jerk Seasoned Roasted veg with rice - Caribbean food month | ChampagneTwist.com
Jerk Seasoned Roasted veg with rice ChampagneTwist.com

 

 

The national dish of Barbados, Cou Cou and Flying Fish

August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist

August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist

August. The 8th month of the year, the summer holidays are in full swing and the temperatures, for once, rival that of many a West Indian island.

So, in celebration of the new month, summer and the relaunch of the Champagne Twist website, August has been designated Caribbean Food Month.

Vegan Jerk seasoned vegetable medley | Champagne Twist
Vegan Jerk seasoned vegetable medley | Champagne Twist

Caribbean Cuisine despite its popularity amongst holidaymakers, has been omitted from the fashionable culinary radar in the UK. Elements have on occasion had it’s 15 minutes of fame, such as ‘Jerk Chicken’, ‘Jerk Pork’ and ‘Jerk just about everything else’, but it hardly matches the success of other culinary greats such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Indian food.

When attempts have been made to delve into the genre of Caribbean food, the results have been misleading at best.  Adding coconut or pineapple to fish and chips doesn’t make a dish traditional West Indian fare. Nor does eating rice and peas with everything constitute Caribbean style.

The national dish of Barbados, Cou Cou and Flying Fish
A modern take on Cou Cou and Flying Fish, the Barbadian National Dish

So in an attempt to put this right, over the next few weeks there will be new recipes, product reviews and a few surprises, in celebration of this undervalued cuisine.

All starting from tomorrow, here on Champagne Twist.

Cold Pressed Golden Delicious Apple Juice by Coldpress

Apple juice. It’s sharp, tart and tongue-twistingly sweet. Coupled with the often odd, unnatural looking colourisation, which let’s be honest can be mistaken for something else, apple juice is usually best avoided where possible.  Or so I thought until I tried the cold pressed Golden Delicious apple juice from Coldpress.

DSC_4204

As it’s namesake suggests, the apples are cold pressed rather than heat treated to extract their juice resulting in a clean, fresh, refreshingly enjoyable drink.

The ingredient list is reassuringly short, just apple juice and added vitamin C. An added bonus, the usual saccharin sweet flavour associated with some apple juice drinks, has been usurped by a true apple taste that can only come from apples, in particular, the Golden Delicious variety.

DSC_4206

Instantly impressive it is clear to see how the cold-pressed process has enhanced this juice, to produce a product that can be regarded as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks.

Straight out of the fridge cold is the best way I believe to enjoy this apple juice, and beyond the obvious thirst quenching qualities, as an ingredient, this drink could prove ideal for cooking and baking recipes, such as smoothies, apple pies, cocktails and apple bread. At around £1.40 for a 250ml bottle, the price isn’t bad either.

Being the best apple juice I’ve tried since I can’t remember when, the only fair score I can give this drink is a full 10 out of 10.

DSC_4205

 

Just V Show / Love Natural, Love You Show – Day 1|Champagne Twist

Allergy and Free From Show / Just V Show / Love Natural, Love You Show / Eat Smart Show|Champagne Twist

Day 1 – Friday 6th July 2018

 

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Allergy and Free From Show / Just v Show / Love Natural, Love You Show / Eat Smart Show – Champagne Twist

 

With 4 shows under 1 roof, Olympia is the place to be if you’re a foodie.

 

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B Free stall, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

 

Last year I felt overwhelmed by the vast number of stalls, the bags of free food, the number of talks and demos.  So this year I planned ahead.  I downloaded the show map, exhibitor list, and timetables yesterday, studied which talks I wanted to attend and the quickest routes to take to get from 1 talk to another.

 

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Good To Bee stall, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

 

Friday, I’m guessing, is the least busiest day, due to work and school commitments,  and major events such as Wimbledon, Grand Prix, World Cup and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.  Plus, with this unusually prolonged summer heat wave, where we actually have sunshine and the associated hosepipe bans to contend with, who wants to be cooped up in a huge building contending with massive crowds?

I also noticed this year that more people have followed my lead and brought their trolleys, suitcases and wheelie bags. I’m such a trend setter!

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Personally, I find it funny that I have attended a health show and purchased various chocolate puddings and cakes, with plans to purchase more. But I do this for 2 important reasons – 1, to review the produce purchased and in the case Freaks of Nature puds, to stock up.

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Freaks of Nature Puds, show offer sign, Allergy and Free From Show, Olympia, Kensington, London | Champagne Twist

I’m going again tomorrow and on the final day of the 3-day event – which I didn’t manage to do last year, mostly because I found the whole event overwhelming.

But not this year. I have a plan!

More to follow.

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