Sunday, January 22, 2017

Off The Charts In Guyana - The Cooking Lesson

Sabrina, Racquel, Kathy, Anna
Key ingredients laughter and smiles

Any successful cooking lesson needs fresh ingredients, sufficient equipment, wise instruction and generous helpings of laughter.  We had all those with the last being in abundance. 
Prepping the chicken

Kathy on sv Inishnee had been talking to the cook at Baganara resort about a possible cooking lesson.  Paul the manager said ok and cook Racquel agreed.  She asked us to come up with a list of items we would like to learn.  Paul raves about her Chicken Curry Roti so that was high on our list along with Coconut Bake, and the meatball thingies we have been eating in Bartica on each shopping trip.  BTW - First lesson – those meatball thingies are called Cassava Meatballs.  It’s basically minced meat mixture surrounded by mashed cassava and fried up.  However, as we would soon learn, there is much more to them than meats the eye…..meats….get it?  Bahahaah.  Also on our list were many things to “ask about” as we were cooking – clarification on the various roots (cassava, eddo, dasheen, sweet potatoes), sour sauce, plantains, saheena and Racquel’s pineapple salsa. 
Coconut cracking lesson - use the back of the cutlass

Easy Peasy boyz

She suggested we go into Bartica with her to shop for the ingredients.  Fantastic!  A personal shopping lesson as well – Score!  Going to the fresh market with her was great as she has her favorite vendors that she deals with.  We only had to stop at three stands total.  Kwesi our boat driver carried all the bags for us.  Soon we were headed back to Baganara Resort to cook.
Peeling and cutting up cassava root - FYI you DO NOT use a veggie peeler
Coconut grater or wall sconce - your choice

“Ok, I will cut up and cook the chicken, grate the coconut and peel and chop the cassava in preparation and then you can come get me and we will start to cook.”  Racquel said. “Oh………we want to learn from the first step including those you just mentioned.  You cut up chickens different here in the Caribbean than we do in the USA and we have NO clue how to prepare a coconut and cassava.” I said.  "Oh.  Okay, ok, ok.”  We had hoped to cook in the kitchen at the resort as our boat galleys are tiny.  My galley is a one butt galley and as we were soon about to find out, Kathy’s is a two butt galley, but we managed.  We ended up cooking on sv Inishnee.   I sat on the steps and took notes and pictures.  Anna off sv Giraff joined us as well.  We all rotated in and out taking turns trying the various techniques Racquel was teaching us;  grating the coconut, peeling the cassava, rolling out the roti, making the cassava meatballs. 

Picture taker - another shot of the coconut wall sconce grater
Note taker
This was Racquel’s first time on a yacht.  Kathy showed her around and explained the “challenges” of cooking on a boat like….limited space (D-UH), limited equipment, how to handle trash (biodegradable and other), the need for efficient use of cooking gas and water. 
Making roti while keeping a watchful eye on the other dishes

Anna tried her hand at making Cassava Meatballs

Then we got down to business and started cooking.  Racquel guided us through, shifting from dish to dish and then back again as we prepped and then started “cooking”.  She had NO notes, it was all in her head, “ a tablespoon of this, 2 teaspoons of that, mix with your hands like this, it should feel like this” and so on and so forth.
Coconut Bake ingredients 

The first big giggle of the day occurred right off the bat.  Racquel brought her coconut grater.  It is a large one, about a foot long with wooden frame and rounded tin with tiny holes cut in it for the grating.  It actually looks like a wall sconce you might find at an art fair in New Mexico.  In fact, Kathy said “Why do you have a wall sconce with you?”  Racquel nearly fell out laughing and we giggled about it the rest of the day.  My comment to her was “Just think of all the funny stories you will have to tell you family and friends from your day with the crazy cruisers.” 
Racquel's secret way to roll and cut roti

My turn to try rolling out the roti

Tom hung out in the cockpit with Jim waiting like cats at the kitchen door.  However, Racquel did put them to work early on when she taught them to crack open the brown coconuts and remove the meat.  They also cleaned the coconut grater aka wall sconce.  Poor Jim had the big clean up at the end but it was all worth it.  We continued mixing and stirring.  Soon the coconut bake was rising, then we were cooking up the chicken curry, then mixing up the roti, then draining and mashing the cassava pieces, etc…..
Kathy shaping the cassava

Kathy adding the meat under Racquel's watchful eye

I took notes as detailed as I could.  However, directions alone would be tough.  We all agreed that you really have to SEE the techniques and try it with an experienced cook like Racquel to really understand how to do all the things involved.  Her grandmother and mother were cooks so she started cooking at an early age.  She attended formal cooking school in Suriname.  It is in her blood to cook.

Four and half hours later the dishes were complete and we put a call out on the VHF to Peter on sv Giraff and Bruce on sv Wild Matilda to join us.  Jim said to Wild Matilda “We are having a tasting of the things the ladies made today from the cooking lesson if you want to come over and join us.”  He didn't have to ask twice, Bruce said immediately “I am on my way.”
Clapping the roti

This gives it that ROTI texture

We all sat around the cockpits silently savoring the day’s work.  It was all simply delicious.   The chicken and potato curry was tender with a wonderful depth of flavors.  Turns out,  I have been doing my curry all wrong.  The cassava meatballs were everyone’s favorite.  The best of all the cassava meatballs we have tried ashore since coming to Guyana!  And we helped make them!  The coconut bake was light and golden with just enough nutmeg to make you smile. 

Racquel confessed that we were her first cooking lesson ever.  It never showed.  She was so calm, collected and patient.  She said we were good students.  We thanked her profusely, took more pictures with big smiles of success on our faces.  We paid Racquel for her time, had a round of hugs and Jim delivered her safely back to shore. 
Coconut bake - cooking

What a fun and interesting day.  Thank you Racquel!!
"It smells SO good!"

Chicken and potato curry with roti

*I will try to post the recipes and directions on Beyond Burgoo but without personal instruction, it might be hard to understand the techniques involved.  But give them a try if you want.  It was all so yummy.
Clean up crew - in more ways than one as there was not a morsel leftover

1 comment:

  1. How cool! I bet that was a great day, fun and educational; and you got to eat the results! I hope you'll post the curry recipe (or tips) as I found your comment about doing curry all wrong interesting. I know what a good cook you are, so I am curious what you learned.