Tis the night before Christmas Eve and all through the house not a creature is stirring'… just a moment, this is not a Christmas story and this is the day before Christmas Eve, so this is about the wonderful scents, odours, that hopefully are wafting through your home whether it be small, medium or large. What are you serving this Christmas? Is it the traditional ham, turkey, pork, roast beef, macaroni pie, rice and peas (oops, peas and rice), sweet potato pie with mushrooms, potato salad and vegetables with the cheese sauce? Are you doing your ponche crème the same way?
Well, look, I am a BIG traditionalist (but before I go any further, I must let you know that in my last column I included — apart from Delisa's beautiful tree — what really to me looked unfortunately like a very tired North American "modern local Christmas Tree", but I was blown away going to the Hyatt Hotel on December 13 to see a MAGNIFICENT modern tree! Coconut husks, I was told, sprayed a super red, tall, strong and SO original standing magnificently in the centre of the reception area and along the corridors slim, red bamboo Christmas trees with glass or silver decorations! (Belgium with your old china, eat your heart away). There is NO comparison to the talent right here in Trinidad and Tobago! And, of course, who did these trees? Brian MacFarlane of course! He of the talent and the fame and no, the EU cannot have him; he belongs to Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.
But back to the scents of Christmas — what about considering (is it too late, I wonder) — a Guyanese pepper pot? I have a most excellent organiser who is Amerindian and even though the recipe below is taken from the Internet, she approves! So here goes with the recipe from the Internet:
1 lb stewing beef or 1 lb beef brisket
1 lb pork, trotters (or cow heels) (optional)
1/2 lb pig tail (optional)
1/2 cup Amerindian seasoning (cassareep)
1 red hot pepper
1 cinnamon stick (1 in x 1 in)
1 ounce sugar
2 stalks basil
1 bunch fine fresh thyme
1 large chopped onion
3 chopped garlic cloves
1. Soak pig tails and scald.
2. Cook cow heel or trotters in covered pan with water to boil.
4. When half tender, add all the other meats and hot water to cover.
5. Add all other ingredients and simmer gently for about one hour until meat is tender.
6. Adjust flavour with salt and sugar.
7. Note: This dish develops flavour when left over a period of days. If left unrefrigerated, it must be reheated to a boil every day (at about the same time).
8. Pepperpot is popularly served with dense bread and butter, though it is equally as good with rice or roti.
Now is it really too late? Today is Sunday can't you pop into your supermarket and pick up the ingredients, but I know cassareep is the secret and the key!
And why not end with my mother's fantastic sauce on top of your Christmas pudding (as we say in Jamaica), or cake as we say in T and T. Try this:
1 cup (or half a pound) butter – I know low fat butter is best but hopefully you can use REAL butter for this.
2 Cups Icing (confectioners) sugar.
Very simple method
Cream butter until it is very soft, then add sieved icing sugar, A LITTLE AT A TIME, creaming thoroughly until all is added.
Now add small amounts of dry sherry OR brandy while continuing to cream until your desired flavour is attained.
Do not warm this, serve cold on top of your slice of plum pudding or your Christmas cake.
So a Happy and Blessed Christmas Day, a Trini Christmas but with a little bit of this and a little dash of that from Caribbean cousins, sisters and brothers and when we pray at our various churches, mosques and temples, pray for the parents, the grandparents, the spouses and the children who were taken away by evil so swiftly in Connecticut on Friday, December 14 on a bright, beautiful Winter's day.