Crispy cauliflower burgers may not sound particularly Jamaican, but Shaun and Craig McAnuff assure me they are “very, very good” examples of how tasty vegan Caribbean cuisine can be.
The brothers behind Original Flava coat the veggies in a spicy batter before frying until crisp and golden.
“The texture is fantastic,” says Shaun, 35. “It’s an alternative to chicken and it works.”
Offering further proof that vegan food never has to be boring, as well as challenging stereotypes about West Indian cuisine, the couple have written Natural flava, a cookbook of plant-based Caribbean recipes like this one, that are sure to help anyone who wants to add a little spice to their Veganuary.
It’s inspired by dairy-free mac and cheese, fried “chicken” made with banana blossom, banana lasagna, and fluffy roti with curried chickpeas.
“I was vegan for a year in 2018,” Shaun explains. “I wanted to try something new and I enjoyed it, it was a very positive experience. My mother did the same and continues like this. It has been very good for her and has reversed her diabetes. There is a lot to be said for how it affects health and opens you up to more vegetables, more fruits.
“In the Afro-Caribbean community, problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure are high. We’re not saying stop enjoying anything, but having the opportunity to show a different side of Caribbean food has been great. “
The couple, from Thornton Heath in south London, rose to fame five years ago after they posted a video recipe for bread and cheese, a true Caribbean classic, on Facebook. They amassed over 1 million views in 24 hours and saw an opportunity. Since then, almost every Saturday at 9 a.m. M., They have shared recipes online for homemade family dishes like rice, peas, salted fish, and ackee.
“I think people were really interested in learning how to make typical Caribbean food at home,” says Craig, 32. “It’s been popular in the UK for a long time but it’s not in everyone’s repertoire I guess and people haven’t. I stopped to learn how things are done. That has been changing. ”
It wasn’t long before the brothers published a cookbook themselves. It did well, and the second was the subject of a bidding war. Bloomsbury got the deal and sent them to Jamaica so they could find out more about the techniques and flavors of traditional cooking and take advantage of what they had learned from their family.
“Our grandmother and mother taught us a lot,” says Craig. “First it was salted fish and ackee, the national dish, and they are masters of the fried dumpling. We also stayed with an aunt in Kingston to experience the place a little more and get into real life and real cooking – using fire to grill meats, visiting markets. “
One of the overriding sentiments of the brothers that they have long tried to convey is that Jamaican food is not just jerk chicken, however special a dish may be.
In Natural flava, the “fundamentals” of Caribbean cuisine are maintained: ingredients such as Scottish chilies, thyme and all-purpose seasonings are used, and techniques such as marinating meat and using coconut milk to soften the spiciness of a curry. But through plant-based exploration, Shaun and Craig say they have been more experimental.
“We use a lot of the same processes, principles and flavors, but we’ve converted the dishes and had a lot of fun,” says Craig.
“In Jamaica, things like bell pepper and seasonings are vital. But we’ve put our own spin on things. We have coconut ramen, for example, and a pizza with a dumpling base. We adapt our methods and try to be fun and inclusive.
“Jamaican food is already influenced by many other cultures, so it makes sense to mix up a shepherd’s pie and cook it with Caribbean vegetables and spices.”
Neither is entirely plant-based – completely dispensing with your mother’s curried goat would be a step too far, they admit. They frequent the inimitable Tasty Jerk in Selhurst, close to their homes, loved in the area for cooking chunks of chicken and pork over flames, licking off old oil drums, then coating them with a thick, spicy sauce and serving them with the rice and beans. tastiest peas you can imagine. .
“It’s right around the corner,” says Shaun. “Obviously we love it. There is so much more to Jamaican food. It is broad, diverse, and family-centered. That is what we wanted to show people. It’s great that there is so much interest. ”
For vegan food, they recommend Eat of Eden, another South London favorite in Brixton Village. Diners can enjoy dishes filled with chickpea curry with red or black rice, dumpling, seaweed fritters, callaloo, made with a native leafy vegetable, lentil stew, and banana.
Prescription Rasta pumpkin pasta
A creamy, plant-based thriller! Taking inspiration from traditional Rasta pasta, which uses cheese, we have created a vegan alternative with our creamy pumpkin sauce. Roasting the garlic chili squash helps give it a jump, before it thickens in the pan to the creamiest sauce you’ll ever see. Give it a try – it’s super fast, easy, and delicious.
500 g pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 whole garlic bulb
1 Scottish hat or chilli, seeded and minced
Olive oil for cooking
200g coconut yogurt
Leaves of 2 sprigs of rosemary
6 fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 vegan bouillon cube
400 ml of coconut milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
500g dry penne pasta
1 onion, sliced
3 red, green and yellow bell peppers, all seeded and sliced
1 tablespoon jerk paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of chopped parsley to serve
Preheat the oven to a fan of 170 ° C / 190 ° C / gas mark 5. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Add the diced pumpkin or squash, garlic bulb, and scotch hat or chili, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper and mix. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes until cooked through and beginning to caramelize.
Let cool for five minutes, then place in a blender, squeezing the soft garlic cloves to remove the papery skin. Add the yogurt, rosemary and thyme and crumble in the bouillon cube. Add half of the coconut milk, the syrup, salt to taste and a splash of water. Blend until smooth.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, then drain. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until hot. Add the onion and bell peppers and sauté for 5 minutes until soft, then add the mixed pumpkin sauce, remaining coconut milk, and jerk paste. Stir, then simmer, uncovered, for five minutes until thickened.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and combine well to coat. Add a pinch of parsley and enjoy.
The brothers, who say they rarely eat meat at home these days, continue to adapt the original flavors and natural cuisine, so another cookbook can’t be far behind.
“We will continue to open as many people as possible to the joys of Caribbean food,” says Craig.
“There is much more than that. We have so much fun making plant-based recipes. We’re not sure what we’ll do next, but we’ll definitely do something. ”
I readers can buy Natural Flava: Quick and Easy Caribbean Plant Based Recipes by Craig McAnuff and Shaun McAnuff (Bloomsbury) at half price for just £ 11, no shipping, on WHSmith.co.uk through Monday, using promo code FLAVA2022. Terms and Conditions apply