So skip the rat base and spice up some chicken à la author in the Grenadines
Right now, my friend Susan is swinging in her hammock, sipping something fruity and cold while gazing out over a Caribbean harbour view of sailboats and sand.
Sickening, isn’t it?
When I first started exchanging letters with Susan, a Canadian living on the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it was a
likewise penchant for
food and a sideways
sense of humour that
fasted us together as friends.
At first, though, I never would have guessed that what oddly started as a recipe exchange, which we both used to avoid schoolwork while enrolled in the Humber School for Writers, would become a lasting friendship.
Nor would I have supposed she’d use my April Fools’ recipe for mock possum casserole in the novel she’s writing.
In fiction, however, it will be mock manicoo, which Susan describes like this:
“We have this awful little rat-like animal called a manicoo that eats carrion and half of any piece of ripe fruit hanging on a tree; papayas, mangos, whatever it can reach and munch on.”
Apparently, the tropical vermin can even be found in Bequian grocery stores, extremities intact, tails ornamentally arranged like a garland around them.
They’re also hunted, although it turns out that after-dark marksmen tend to miss the manicoo and sight in on electrical transformers instead, plunging entire areas of the island into darkness.
According to Susan, manicoo are an island delicacy (although I think she’s having fun with me on that point) so long as one removes the scent glands.
The stench’s reputation alone is supposed to be enough to put you off food once and for all.
Susan, however, swears she’s not tried manicoo yet, save the mock version which, not surprisingly, tastes like chicken.
But I have my suspicions.
What I do know,
however, even if based solely on recipes and
second-hand reports one of which is found
in Anne Vanderhoof’s travel book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes is that Susan is an amazing cook.
Who knows? She might even be able to make manicoo taste good.
But in lieu of being able to jet off and pull up a chair, or a hammock, I’ll have to content myself for now with thinking Caribbean thoughts and trying out one of her recipes.
(contributed by Susan Toy of Bequia)
1/2 cup sugar
6 chicken legs, separated into
drumstick and thigh
4 large onions, chopped
4 large heads of garlic, minced
3 tbsp. ketchup
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. Caribbean curry powder
1/2 cup green seasoning
Hot sauce to taste
2 chicken bouillon cubes,
2 cups green or brown lentils
1-½ to 2 cups long-grain rice
In a large, heavy pot over high heat, add oil (don’t use your best pot). When oil is very hot, but not smoking, add sugar all at once in the centre of the oil. Do not stir, no matter how much you may want to! The sugar and oil will bubble like a volcano, caramelizing the sugar, a process know as “bun-bun” that gives the pelau its distinctive taste. Let bubble and burn until it becomes dark.
Add chicken. Stir until chicken is well-coated with the bun-bun, scraping up all the burned bits on the bottom.
When chicken is coated, add onion, garlic, ketchup, salt, curry powder, green seasoning and hot sauce. Stir well.
Add water to cover, along with the bouillon cubes and lentils. Stir and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer until chicken is very tender, about an hour to an hour and a half.
The pot can sit off the heat until you are almost ready to eat, then bring it to a boil again and stir in the rice and more water if necessary; simmer about 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is cooked and all the moisture absorbed.
Darcie Hossack’s recipes are available online at http://www.foodpage.blogspot.com/.