jamaican sunday breakfast: bully beef and johnny cakes

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This is the breakfast we ate on Sundays in Jamaica, especially at the beach house, when the morning was fresh and cool. We’d eat bully beef–corned beef cooked with tomatoes, onions, and to wake up the mouth, scotch bonnet pepper. Bully beef is actually colloquial Jamaican patois for tinned corned beef. A popular accompaniment to bully beef was johnny cakes, a kind of fried biscuit–in the American sense of the word biscuit; a savory but light round of wheat dough fried and best eaten when it is warm. Every cook in Jamaica has his/her own recipe for johnny cakes; my mother used to make hers with lard. Johnny cakes are also an accompaniment for another Jamaican favorite, ackee and saltfish. They can also be enjoyed with butter and jam.

Bully Beef
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients
1 tin corned beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1/4 to 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped, with or without seeds (optional)

Preparation
Heat a teaspoon vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the tomatoes and onions until the onions are translucent. Add the corned beef to the tomato mixture, breaking up the large pieces, until softened. Mix in the scotch bonnet pepper, if using. Serve at once.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from a Grace recipe)
Makes 18-24 cakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for flouring the board and rolling pin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
9-10 tablespoons ice water
oil for frying

Preparation
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and vegetable shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (1) until the butter and shortening are incorporated the size of small peas. With the machine on, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until the flour mixture comes together in a ball and the sides are clean. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low to medium speed (2) until the dough is smooth and elastic. Switch off the machine and remove the dough ball.

On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds.

Fill a 10 inch skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom and come 1/2 inch up the sides. Heat the oil.

Cook’s Note: My sister-in-law Lorraine showed me this trick how to tell the oil is hot enough. The oil will be hot enough to fry when a wooden chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, when inserted in the middle of the oil, gathers bubbles around the stick.

Fry the dough rounds in batches until they are puffed and lightly golden. Remove with tongs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool. Serve warm.

johnny cakes

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A johnny cake is fried bread eaten in Jamaica as an accompaniment to spicy dishes. Ackee and saltfish or bully beef (corned beef with tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnet pepper) are even more satisfying eaten with a fluffy chewy and hot johnny cake.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from Food 52)
Prep time: 45 minutes (includes resting time)
Cook time: 4 minutes per batch
Servings: Makes about 30-36 cakes

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup water
vegetable oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the water and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes. Roll out half the dough onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into rounds. Repeat with the other half.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet. Stick a wooden chopstick in the oil; when tiny bubbles gather round the stick, the oil is hot enough. Fry dough circles in batches of five. When one side is lightly browned, flip over on to the other side. Drain fried cakes on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat right away.

To reheat leftover johnny cakes put them in a 200˚F/100˚C oven for about 5 minutes. Never reheat them in a microwave as they become tough.

sriracha-cheddar biscuits with black bean veggie burgers and mango tomato salsa

Sriracha-Cheddar Biscuits (adapted from Savory Simple)
Sriracha is the name of a town in Thailand that is famous for its reddish-orange hot sauce. This recipe takes me back to the days I lived in Thailand, and the spicy flavors of the food. I served it with homemade black bean veggie burgers and a mango tomato salsa on a bed of arugula. Aroy.Delicious!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 10 biscuits

Ingredients
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes, chill in fridge until ready to use
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (can substitute other cheeses)

for brushing the biscuits:
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon Sriracha

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat liner or parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix the milk and Sriracha sauce until well blended. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Add the cold butter and cut with a pastry blender until the butter resembles small peas. Pour in the milk-Sriracha mixture all at once and stir until the milk is absorbed. Mix in the cheese, this time using your hands and being careful not to over mix. You’ll know the dough is ready to roll out when your hands and the sides of the bowl are clean.

Turn out half the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out the biscuits using a 3 inch round biscuit cutter. Place each round on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Brush the tops of each biscuit with the reserved milk-Sriracha mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven 14-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers (adapted from allrecipes.com)
While the biscuits are in the oven, make these black bean veggie burgers. These “burgers” are quick and easy to make, and have a mild flavor despite the Sriracha sauce, chili powder, and cumin.

Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 35 Minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Preparation
1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties. I scoop up 1/2 cupful, turn it out onto the prepared pan, and flatten and shape it with a spatula.
6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on greased baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes on each side.

Mango-Tomato Salsa (adapted from allrecipes.com)
This is a mild salsa; to spice it up add a Thai chile pepper or tone it down with a jalapeño pepper instead!

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: none

Ingredients
1 large mango diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sweet onion
1 chile pepper, optional
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

Preparation
Combine chopped mangoes, tomatoes, onion, chile pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Squeeze two halves of a small lime over the bowl. Toss and allow to stand until ready to serve.