Veni Mangé: Recipes from Allyson Henessy

If anything comes close to being local Trinidad cooking, it would be Allyson Henessy's and Roses Hezekiah's kitchen at Veni Mangé

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Allyson is a Trinidadian chef with “a real sweet hand”, and a local TV personality; her sister Roses is the one with the nose ring and gypsy personality. Together they try to create a warm family atmosphere at their Port of Spain restaurant on Ariapita Avenue, the upstairs dining room shaded by deep Demerara windows, cooled by ceiling fans and lit by streaming sunlight. There is often local art, painting, batik, craft or sculpture on exhibition, and you might meet a Caribbean celebrity like calypsonian David Rudder or cricketer Brian Lara.

Allyson came back from England in the 70s with Cordon Bleu training, and has developed a distinctive style that shows off the best in Caribbean cuisine. Here are some of her favourite recipes for you to try.

Saltfish Cakes with Mango Salsa

2 cups shredded salted cod (soaked for one hour and drained)
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Oil for deep fat frying

Mix fish, onions, peppers in a bowl. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add water, 2 tablespoons oil, pepper sauce, garlic and chives, and mix until smooth. Mix with the fish mixture. Set aside. Heat a frying pan with about 2 inches of oil; when hot drop in the batter and fry until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Mango Salsa

1/2 cup sweet mango chutney
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped green pepper

Mix all ingredients together and serve with the saltfish cakes.

Vegetarian Devilled Tofu Kebabs

6 medium onions
3 green peppers
30 medium mushrooms
1/2 fresh pineapple
8 tomatoes
2 oz. butter
3 oz. seasoned flour (salt and pepper)
1 lb. tofu cut into 1 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup soy sauce
20 skewers

Soak tofu in 1/2 cup of soy sauce for one hour; then drain. Dredge tofu in flour, then fry in butter. Cut wedges of pineapple, tomatoes and onion. Cut peppers in large pieces and leave the mushrooms whole. Place vegetables, pineapple and tofu on the skewers and bake in an oven for 15 minutes. Baste with Devilled Sauce (see below). Serve on a bed of white rice.

Sauce

1 cup ketchup
4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons rum (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and set aside

Peanut Chicken Casserole

1 chicken (chopped in pieces)
3 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
6 tablespoons peanut butter
2 onions
1 cup shelled raw peanuts
6 whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Cut and wash chicken, drain well. Place chicken in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, ginger, garlic and vinegar. Set aside for two hours in refrigerator. Heat the oil in deep sauce pan. Add the chicken and allow to brown. Add the peanut butter, tomatoes, sliced onions, tomato paste, chicken stock; stir well and lower the heat when the mixture has come to the boil. Simmer for 45 minutes, add the raw nuts and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Sweet Potato and Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 finely chopped onions
8 oz. sweet potatoes
1 lb. skinned tomatoes
4 oz. orange juice/2 pints vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped chives

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and soften. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Add them to the saucepan with stock, orange juice, tomatoes, salt, pepper and chives. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Place cooled soup in a blender, liquidise and reheat. Serve hot.