Vegetarian, gluten-free, slow, healthy, good food.
Because of the ethnic diversity in Trinidad and Tobago, it follows that there is also a lot of diversity in the national cuisine. Think of any food right now, chances are incredibly high that you'll find it here. As it is, the place is a paradise for vegetarians - more so than any other place I have visited on this Caribbean trip so far. The reason for this is the large Hindu population; 40% of the country's people are of East Indian origin and a large part of them are Hindus. Because of that, you can get vegetarian food in lots of restaurants and on lots of street corners and in lots of people's homes.
This post is about this greener side of Trini food. (Although I now realise I haven't really told you about the non-green side of Trini food yet... in time I will!)
One of my favourite local veggie foods, surpassed only by vegetarian roti (dhalpourie roti with channa, alloo and pumpkin), is geera broccoli. It is so good, in fact, that I am going to share the recipe with you. I looked over the shoulder of one of my favourite cooks - the inventor of this dish, so you know it's special and exclusive - on the island and I had him write down all the ingredients and all the steps that I had previously observed in Sans Souci and taken a few pictures of.
Geera is a different name for cumin, although I like it a lot more than I like cumin, so I am - of course - convinced that everybody on the internet made a mistake and it is, in fact, not the same stuff. Geera is often used for meat dishes, like geera pork or geera chicken, but in my opinion this application of the seasoning trumps all others.
So, let's get cooking!
Here's what you need for your geera broccoli:
broccoli + cauliflower + carrots (or just broccoli, if you don't feel like mixing it up)
three garlic cloves
one tablespoon roasted, ground geera
seasonings, fresh or dried (whatever you like, and not much of it)
a little vegetable oil (I recommend coconut oil.)
First, chop up your broccoli and other veggies, if you decided to add any. Separate the stems from the florets as they take different amounts of time to cook, make sure to keep it chunky and not cut everything up into too small pieces. Chop your onion into fine bits, use a helper for that, if you can, to avoid having your eyes erupt like tear-volcanoes. Now do the same with your garlic, but sans tears.
Heat some oil in a big saucepan and once it's hot, add the onion and garlic and allow them to brown slightly. In a cup, mix the geera with a little water to create a paste of sorts, then keep adding little bits of water until it's the right kind of runny. What kind is the right kind? I have no idea, that knowledge comes as you keep making it and then some day you stand in your kitchen and you just know. To give you some help, it should be kind of like liquid mercury.
Get the onion and garlic to one side of the saucepan and put the geera mix in on the other side, so it can sizzle on its own for a moment and a half. Then, mix it all together. Of the vegetables, add the carrots first, if you're using them, because they need the longest to soften. Next, add the broccoli (and possibly cauliflower) stems. Chop your seasonings (parsley, chadon beni, chive, rosemary, thyme, etc.) and sprinkle it all over your saucepan's contents. They are just going to add a little depth to the already existing flavour, the main texture comes from the geera and the garlic. Not even the onion bits are going to figure largely in the final mix of aromas. Then, the florets will be the last ingredient to enter the pot once everything else has started to soften. It all stays in the pot for a while on medium heat, with the lid on, so it can simmer and steam for a bit. About five minutes, maybe, tops. The longer you leave it all in, the softer it's going to get so if you're like me and you like your vegetables crunchy, then don't leave them in for too long.
This can be served as a side for chicken or fish if you're not actually a vegetarian. Otherwise, if you are a vegetarian or just don't want any meat in this instance, get yourself a big bowl, fill it with geera broccoli (et al) and munch away. If you want to make it even better, sprinkle some plain sunflower seeds over it all. I haven't actually done this myself, because I haven't found plain sunflower seeds in any supermarket or grocery store yet, but I have a feeling that would take the dish to perfection.