ALSO called cassava, this root vegetable is a wonder food for its nutritional benefits, (it’s loaded with fibre and minerals), versatility and of course its delicious taste.

For me, this is the epitome of the root vegetable. Through the years of studying local cuisine and developing recipes, it has always struck me how wonderful cassava really is. In my Learn to Cook cooking class I make a dish called crushed cassava with lemon parsley gremolata. It’s essentially mashed cassava with butter and milk and the flavour brightened up with a mixture of fresh chopped parsley, crushed garlic and lemon zest. It is always a winner and students leave loving it, even the conservative ones. What surprises me the most are the number of persons who simply eat cassava peeled and boiled.

No specific recipes are needed to prepare cassava, it can be peeled and cut into strips, deep fried for cassava fries and enjoyed with a chadon beni pesto, it can be sautéed with aromatics of peppers, garlic and onions for a delicious side dish, it can be made into fritters. It is great in an oiled down in the absence of breadfruit. It can be crushed with butter and milk and baked for a cassava pie.

It is also the main ingredient in cassava pone, sticky, crusty and dark around the edges, slightly chewy, now who can resist that!

Creamed cassava with lemon parsley gremolata

2 lbs cassava

½ cup milk

2 tbs butter

salt

For the gremolata:

1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Boil cassava in lots of water for about 20 to 30 minutes, until very soft, drain and remove inner core.

Heat milk with butter. Add to drained cassava and crush cassava until creamy.

Add gremolata and stir.

Serves 4 to 6

Grilled cassava with lime garlic sauce

2 lbs cassava, boiled and drained

1 tbs chopped garlic

⅓ cup olive oil or vegetable oil

2 tbs lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbs chopped chadon beni

Remove inner vein from cassava cut into 2-inch lengths and place in a shallow baking dish.

Heat oil in a small saucepan, add garlic and lime, add salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes more, do not brown garlic.

Add chadon beni, stir and pour mixture onto cassava, covering all the cassava with the pieces.

Preheat broiler and place cassava under broiler.

Broil until hot and edges are browned.

Serves 4 to 6

Yuca/cassava tamales

[caption id="attachment_852265" align="alignnone" width="575"] Yuca/cassava tamales -[/caption]

Filling:

1 lb ground beef

2 tbs fresh thyme

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper

2 tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp paprika

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

8 ozs tinned tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

10 green olives, chopped

Season beef with thyme, salt and pepper

Heat oil in a sauté pan, add paprika and cook until oil is coloured, add onion, garlic, and pepper sauté for a few minutes more, add beef and stir well, cook for a few minutes, add tomatoes and oregano, simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally, taste and adjust seasonings, add olives and turn off heat.

For the cassava

1 lb cassava

6 tbs butter

2 eggs

2 tbs cornstarch

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt to taste

12 banana leaf squares 11x11 inches, softened

Boil the cassava in lots of water until very soft, drain, remove inner core and crush with a potato masher, do not use a processor.

Add butter and combine add eggs and mix well in between additions; you can use a hand mixer here.

Add cornstarch, baking powder and cheese, salt to taste.

Combine.

Assemble:

Place about 2 tbs cassava onto an oiled banana leaf, gently spread with a spoon, now place abut 1 tbs filling onto the cassava, fold the leaf over and press, fold the banana leaf like a package, tie either end with a piece of string, like a piece of candy.

Repeat.

Heat water in a large pot, place steamer insert into pot and place tamales on top, cover and steam for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Use shrimp in place of the beef, cook shrimp for a few minutes, then chop.

Pone

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1 lb cassava

1 dried coconut meat only or 2 cups freshly grated coconut

¼ lb peeled pumpkin, grated

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tbs butter

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

⅛ tsp black pepper

¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 350F

Peel cassava and grate finely.

Finely grate coconut

Combine cassava with coconut and pumpkin.

Add sugar and stir.

Rub in butter then add spices.

Stir together well.

Add bitters and stir.

Add water, just to moisten.

Mixture should be very thick but not slack in consistency.

Press into a well greased 9x9-inch baking tin.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.

Makes one pone or 9 pieces.

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