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
October - December 2009 ZiNG 65 ¦ Q How did you get the idea to write the book? All the while, I had continued to develop my interest in Caribbean cuisine and, in 1992, I published a little book called Cooking with Caribbean Rum. In 2000 my husband Trevor and I opened a restaurant, The Cove, on Barbados' beautiful east coast. We decided to serve only food from the region and our patrons seemed to love it. Many were keen to learn more about my kitchen secrets so I began to think about researching and writing an authoritative coffee- table style book. ¦ Q So the book was many years in the making? I wanted my book to truly encapsulate the cuisine of all the English- speaking islands and Guyana, so it presented a huge challenge. Over the years I talked to cooks from right across the region. I also set about conducting intensive research on the origins of Caribbean cuisine. The result was a book with 272 pages and over 400 different recipes, from traditional to modern, spiced with family memories. I also took most of the photographs. It was an incredibly fulfi lling venture which took six years to complete. So, you can imagine my nervousness when I gingerly unwrapped the fi rst parcel that arrived from the printers in Singapore! It was an amazing feeling to actually hold a copy of the book in my hands! ¦ Q What did you learn about the origins of Caribbean cuisine? It was fascinating to learn how the islands' different histories and cultures shaped their cuisines. Caribbean food owes its origins to a host of these cultures; from the Amerindians to the Caribs and on to the settlers, the English, Dutch, Portugese, Spanish and French. Then, of course, the Africans were brought here and different tribes took their individual cuisines to different islands. Later the Chinese, Indians and people from the Middle East arrived. But, you know, they all had to adapt their recipes to embrace Caribbean herbs and The book was an incredibly fulfi lling venture which took six years to complete. You can imagine my nervousness when I gingerly unwrapped the fi rst parcel that arrived from the printers in Singapore! spices, which were the only ones available to them. So, our wonderful yams, sweet potatoes, eddoes, breadfruit, tropical fruits and, of course, rum have always played a part in the region's cuisine. ¦ Q How has Caribbean cuisine developed during your time in the industry? It is not that long ago that many dishes could only be found in the place of their origin. For example, if you wanted to taste the delights of pepperpot you would have to go Guyana, where it originated. Now, you can fi nd pepperpot across the region. And the herbs and spices from each island are now readily available everywhere too. For example, cassareep, which once only the Guyanese put into pepperpot, is now found throughout the region. Caribbean cooks love to use chives, chopped garlic, onion, hot pepper, parsley and marjoram. But the cooks in one island will use them differently to those in another. As an example, salt fi sh cakes are found everywhere but the spices added vary from place to place. I believe the main development has been that the cuisine has become more universally Caribbean, rather than Grenadian or Trinidadian etc. ¦ Q Have you had any cooking role models? My mother defi nitely inspired me as a child and I was fascinated by The Galloping Gourmet, the fi rst television celebrity chef. While he was cooking, he always downed a bottle of wine during the 30- minute show! ¦ Q What are your personal favourite foods? I adore the wonderful seafood and ham that we have in the Caribbean, and I have a real weakness for salmon. ¦ Q Who was responsible for the magnifi cent art sketches in your book? They are all the works of my late Dad, Gordon Parkinson. We have a Gallery of his work at The Cove so his spirit is never far away from me. ? LAURELANN'S TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT DINNER PARTY 1The more you can do in the preceding days, the better. Make your garlic bread the previous week and stick it in the freezer. Choose desserts that can be frozen and prepare them a day or so beforehand. 2 Pick lots of hibiscus early in the morning and put them in a bag in the fridge. Hibiscus does not need water. Decorate your table with them but not in arrangements - they are there to provide colour. 3 Don't go overboard with your selection of dishes for the main course. Cook enough of one main dish so that everyone can have a second helping. 4 Always have a pot spoon, a large long-handled stirring spoon, handy. It has a myriad uses. 5 Keep it simple, keep it good, keep it tasty.