Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Belizean-style Habanero Pepper Sauce

I originally posted a recipe for homemade habanero pepper sauce (also called onion sauce, depending on the ratio of onions to peppers) in my post on serre, a classic Belizean fish preparation. However, this ubiquitous sauce really deserves a post of its own.

Pepper or Onion sauce
This is an essential accompaniment to many Belizean dishes. Dont eat serre or other coconut milk based foods without it-the acidity of the lime and vinegar and the heat of the habanero cut the richness of the coconut milk and create a perfect balance of flavor. Whether you call it pepper or onion sauce depends on the ratio of onion to habanero-go with what works best for your tastebuds and heat preference.

Habanero peppers

Onion

Cilantro (optional)

Carrot (optional)

Lime juice

Vinegar

Preparation: Mince an onion and add to taste a quantity of finely minced habanero pepper. Remove the seeds and white internal membrane if you want to tone down the heat even more. Add minced cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Some people like more vinegar, some like more lime juice. Experiment and see which you prefer. Let the whole concoction sit in a glass container. You can leave it covered on the counter for several weeks and it will stay perfectly fresh as the onion and pepper pickle themselves in the lime juice and vinegar.

NOTE: Most Belizeans do not mince the onion or habanero pepper, instead slicing them up into bigger pieces as you see in the photo above. I mince it because I like to have little bits of habanero all over my food. Its up to you which you prefer. Some folks use large chunks of pepper and onion and then never actually dip the pepper out, instead leaving it to flavour the vinegar, which is used to spice up food, and the pickled onions. Some people also add sliced carrots and even cucumber to the jar, which makes for some very spicy and delicious pickles.

Serve this with Serre and other heavy stews, with refried beans at breakfast, on top of guacamole or anytime you need some hot pepper flavour.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Ideal treat: one of Belize's iconic frozen snacks.


Behold the incredible edible plastic bag of bliss known to Belizean children across the country as an ideal. This sweet frozen treat is usually made with flavoured, brightly colored snowcone sugar syrups mixed with water and poured into small plastic bags, knotted shut and stuffed in the back of someone's freezer until an overheated schoolkid shows up at their door with a shilling and a quest for something cold, sweet and refreshing. While ideals could easily be made with real fruit juice, I have never seen one.

Milkyways, the ideal's dairy-laden cousin, are where local flavours most often get a chance to shine. Sweetened condensed milk thinned with water and tasty additions such as soursop, mashed craboo or sugar corn make milkyways a heavier, richer sweet than the refreshingly simple ideal. According to my research so far, most Belizeans consider ideals to be drinks-something cool to enjoy on a hot day.

We are not a country known for ice cream, so if you come to Belize I highly recommend you buy an ideal or milkyway and participate in this local frozen tradition. It may not take the sweat off your face but at least it will put a smile on it!