Tun Han’ an’ Mek Fashion -Jamaican Proverb
Translation: Turn your hand and make fashion
Meaning: Use your creativity to make something. Use whatever you have and make something great.
This is one if not my favorite Jamaican proverbs because of how well it describes Jamaican people and culture. Jamaicans are extremely creative. You see it in the art, hear it in the music, and taste it in the food. Jamaican creativity is beautiful and I love it. It’s an endearing and amazing quality, but more importantly, it’s inspiring.
As you may or may not know, many of us Peace Corps volunteers did not commit our lives to this experience for the money. It’s very important (for many reasons) that our lifestyles and stipend is similar to that of our in-country partners regardless of currency exchange rates. That being said, we need to “tun our hands and mek fashion” when it comes to many things related to money matters, and one important thing related to that is food.
This isn’t as difficult as I make it sound or thought it would be. Local Jamaican produce and products are for the most part affordable (compared to US prices). Imported goods and specialty items are not. What this simply means for Michelle and is an increase in fresh fruits and vegetables, and a decrease in sweets, treats, and meats.
Every now and then I’ll be posting recipes and pictures of this cooking adventure. My hope is to marry basic Jamaican dishes with slight American/Hawaiian/Asian twists to them. Somethings to note about my cooking:
- Michelle and I do not like spicy food. Thus for any recipe, please feel free to add spice as necessary, ie. black pepper here, scotch bonnet there, Siracha, etc…
- I do not use actual measurements. I’m a feeler (as far as the meyers briggs test goes). If I feel the amount is right, booyah. I cook this way. I don’t bake this way.
- It’s for fun. I love learning from others and make it up as I go.
Calaloo is Jamaica’s version of spinach. Unlike the American version of spinach, calaloo does have a particular taste to it (I haven’t figured the best way to describe it). It’s great to cook down and use in stews or sauteed. I’m not sure about smoothies (we used to put spinach in our smoothies), but I’ll try it and let you all know.
The first couple steps are the basic steps to make calaloo the way Jamaicans do (sort of) and you’ll see me use this later in posts to make other dishes. This alone without pasta can be a meal in itself. Overall, this meal is pretty healthy too (if you don’t use too much seasoning, oil, and cut out the cheese). Of course you can always add meat or other ingredients. Make it the way you think would taste best to you.
As I mentioned, I don’t measure. Sorry. The only really expensive item is the cheese, but that can be used multiple times, so it still has decent value. It’s also the only ingredient (well, also the seasoning) that isn’t made locally. Overall this dinner (and leftovers for lunch) costs a total of: $500 Jamaican or roughly $5.60 US (for both of us)
Makes enough for about 4 reasonably sized adults with reasonable appetites.
1 Package of your favorite pasta (2 depending on the size of the bag)
4 Cloves of garlic
3 Small onions (or 1 Large onion. Jamaican onions are small)
3 Large handfuls of Callaloo/Spinach
3-4 Sprigs of Thyme
Your favorite seasoning to taste
Vegetable oil or Olive oil (Veggy Oil is a lot cheaper on the island)
Cheese (you can see I went for the white cheddar)
Extra Veggies, etc…
Chop up onions, carrots, and garlic and saute in a couple glugs of oil
As the onions and carrots cook down, start dicing the tomatoes and prepare the thyme. You’ll know the onions and carrots are ready when the onions become translucent. Add some of the seasoning at this point.
Again, allow all the items in the pot to cook down a bit, stew together if you will for about 8-10 mins. In the mean time, start preparing the callaloo by washing in a colander and adding after discarding excess water. At this point start preparing the noodles in another pot.
Fold the callaloo into the other ingredients and cover to cook for the next 10 minutes or longer. You want the callaloo to cook down and get softer. I would suggest covering it for 5 minutes and then opening to boil off some of the water from the combined ingredients.
At this point, because your timing is perfect, your noodles should be done and ready to go (of course you cooked them Al dente and saved a little bit of the water). Add the noodles to the vegetable pot (along with the pasta water for the sauce, optional). Fold the noodles in and allow it to absorb and finish cooking in the sauce. Season to taste and add some shredded cheese (if you desire).
Finish with some cheese on top and there you go, an affordable meal and left overs for the next day. Enjoy. 🙂