October - December 2009 ZiNG 63 Julian Armfi eld meets LaurelAnn Morley, whose passion for Caribbean food led to her writing the ' bible' of the region's varied and exciting cuisine. PHOTOS BY RISÉE CHADERTON orn in Venezuala and now a resident of Barbados, LaurelAnn Morley is truly a woman on a mission - to put the Caribbean fi rmly on the world's culinary map. She speaks with enormous enthusiasm about the joys of cooking and clearly loves every minute she spends in her kitchen. Her fi erce determination to promote the region's cuisine led her Cooking Up A CARIBBEAN STORM ll B to self- publish her book - a venture that is always frought with high fi nancial risk. However LaurelAnn is most defi nitely not a woman to duck a challenge and her gamble succeeded in some style when the book not only became a best- seller but also carried off one of the world's most coveted international awards. In 2006, the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, the cookery equivalent to the Nobel, voted Caribbean Recipes Old & New as the Best Woman Chef Book in the World. So what makes LaurelAnn so passionate about our cuisine and how did it all begin?
interview 64 ZiNG October - December 2009 nQ Did you show an interest in cooking as a child? In those days, there were no cookery classes at school but, even as a small child, I loved the kitchen in our home and used to run in there whenever Mum was at the stove. I would shout ' Up, up, up' and would not move until she gathered me up and put me on the counter. I would watch, with fascination, everything she was doing. Mind you, Mum used to follow recipes closely while I later became a ' throw in' chef. The family moved from Venezuela to Barbados when I was 12 and I threw my first dinner party when I was just 15. That was a daring undertaking because I had 20 guests and my parents were away in Trinidad, their home country, at the time. I cooked a suckling pig and everybody left with smiles on their faces! nQ Ho w did your love of Caribbean cuisine develop? It all started in London where I went to take a teaching course after I left school. I shared a flat in Notting Hill with seven other girls, each from a different country. Of course, we all felt homesick but one day I had a brainwave - to cook up regular meals from the countries where we all came from. It was easy to find the ingredients in all those wonderful London markets. So we all mucked in and ate Kuwaiti style on a Monday, Norwegian style on a Tuesday and so on. My Caribbean evenings were really popular and I loved collecting all the herbs, spices and other ingredients and cooking them. From that point, I knew there could only be one long- term career path for me to take. nQ Did you pursue that career when you returned to the Caribbean? Not immediately. I actually went into the airline industry for a spell, working as a tour representative for the British Overseas Airways Corporation. The job gave me the opportunity to travel the world, often with my parents, and wherever we went, Mum and I used to buy little cook books and experiment with recipes when we got home. We would enjoy feasts of, say, Indian or Chinese food and create the atmosphere of the country by playing the music of that country and putting up travel posters. When the word got out about our fun and games, lots of people asked me to stage ethnic evenings for them and that's how I got into the catering business. Ducana from Antigua & Barbuda You'll need y 1 ½ cups flour y ¼ tsp. salt y ½ tsp. freshly- grated nutmeg y 1 tsp. Caribbean brown sugar y 2 cups each peeled finely grated sweet potato and coconut y 1 cup milk y Dash of vanilla extract y Banana leaves singed and cut into 8" squares Mix the flour, salt, nutmeg and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the sweet potato and coconut. Gradually add the milk and vanilla to form a soft dough. Place a heaped tablespoon of the mixture on a banana leaf, fold over the leaf, tucking in the sides parcel- fashion. Tie with soft string. Drop into a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for 20 minutes. Particularly delicious served with salt fish stew! One of LaurelAnn's favourite recipes DucanA