Happy Birthday Belize!
Wow, we’re 30 years old today, and that calls for a party.
Now, there’re several must haves for a good party, and let’s check them off…
Music – Andy Palacio, we still you miss you dearly, but your spirit stays alive, especially today when all over Belize people will be dancing to the magical legacy you bequeathed to us. Punta rock!
Also shining down from heaven will be Mr Peters as he sees people all over jumping up to Brukdown beats. Anyone see my donkey jawbone?
And then tonight, when the lights are low and you may be lucky enough to be in the arms of someone you love, or at least like very much, Aurelio Martinez will hopefully be setting the stage in the background with those oh so sweet Belizean melodies.
OK, Music, check. Now, of course, we need a few refreshments to keep the party lubricated. Where’s the checklist? Oh, yeah, under that bottle of Caribbean Rum. Hmmm, might as well fetch the cold cokes, some ice, cut the limes and get this started.
Now, one of the wonderful things about rum is that it’s as versatile as a Belizean politician. Coke was obviously invented as a mixer for rum, but there are some other delicious avenues for refreshment. I personally like rum and coconut water, and expect the boys at Big H will be selling a lot of that Belizean nectar today. Poured into a nice tall glass with a squeeze and slice of lime on top – oh yeah.
But let’s not ignore our national beverage on our national day. Bring on the Beliken! Beer, stout or Lighthouse, Beliken is the thirst quencher of choice throughout our lovely land and no wonder. Remember when the British forces were here with their tall cans of Tennents Beer with those girls on the label (Penny in the Morning had that certain smile…) Well, after several taste testings the evidence was conclusive – Beliken is the beer for Belize.
But let’s not forget our other national staple – Craboo and Cashew wine, ginger beer and, to stay in the pink of health, bitters (which will be popular for tomorrow’s post-celebration revival, I’m sure).
OK, we got the music, check! We got the refreshments, check! And, as neither man nor woman can live by bread or tortillas alone, bring on the food!
Now, I’m overseas this year, but that doesn’t dampen the national pride – just ask any member of our vast and colourful Belize diaspora. The only drawback is finding some of our favourite ingredients, like recados or fresh allspice leaves, habaneros and such. But in true Belize style, we make do, and to prove it, here’s what we’re serving today.
The barbeque is heating up, and will soon be ready to receive the Belizean Jerk Chicken that’s been marinading overnight. There are many recipes for this delicious Caribbean dish, and I’m using the one from Chaa Creek’s website today. Couldn’t find the allspice leaves here, but I’ve tried this before and the powdered stuff works just fine. Also, to make it easier on yourself, which I’m doing today, I substituted about 3lbs of mixed chicken breasts, thighs and legs.
Belizean Jerk Chicken
3 whole chickens
For the Jerk seasoning:
4 sweet peppers
2 tomatoes (not too ripe)
10 cloves garlic
2 habanero peppers (can be reduced)
1 inch ginger
10 leaves local oregano
1 table spoon dried oregano
1 table spoon thyme leafs
½ table spoon paprika powder
½ table spoon cumin
½ table spoon crushed black pepper
½ table spoon salt
3 oz dark rum
3 oz lime juice
2 slices orange peel
20 cilantro seeds
4 leaves all spice
Some olive oil to liquefy
Cut the onions, pepper, garlic and ginger roughly before putting in the food processor
Then add the dry herbs and spices, the lime-juice and the rum. Blend the mixture on full speed and add as much olive oil as needed to give it a smooth texture.
Rub the chicken pieces with the jerk seasoning and allow marinating several hours (overnight is best)
Place the chicken on a baking tray and roast on a smoky barbeque oven for up to 45 minutes on low heat.
Drizzle or brush the chicken with the marinate regularly
This version of the jerk seasoning is best after about 24 hours of marinating. Apart from chicken this preparation can be used for pork, lamb and even fish.
Belizean Rice and beans
First, you make
1 pound/ ½ kilo (2 cups or so) dry red kidney beans
3 – 6 cloves smashed and minced garlic
1-2 medium onion, chopped
1 pig’s tail, or pieces bacon or salt beef (I used three rashers of bacon today, but sometimes I use bacon bones. My butcher looks nervous when I ask for pig tails, so I gave up…
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup coconut milk (not lite – we want that fat content)
Place beans in a large pot and cover with cool water; soak overnight or 6 hours. Drain, add garlic, onion, and meat and boil until beans are tender. Add salt, pepper, thyme, and coconut. Stir and continue to let boil while preparing rice.
41/2 cups white rice
Rinse the rice and add to the beans, stir, and then cover. Stir occasionally, cook until rice is tender.
My kids don’t consider this a Belizean meal without coconut bread. Who am I kidding? I LOVE the stuff myself. It’s actually quite easy and is a treat. It makes killer French toast as well, especially with sliced bananas with lime squeezed over them on the side.
This is another one from the Chaa Creek website. I add a bit of vanilla extract to mine, but any way you slice it, it’s wonderful. Make sure you knead it well so it has that satiny finish when you place it to rise.
Coconut Bread Recipe – A Unique Belizean Treat
1 lb. all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. melted butter
¼ cup white sugar
¾ cup dried grated coconut
1 ½ cup coconut milk
1 egg well beaten
Method: combine all the ingredients and knead well, if dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, if it is too dry, add more coconut milk or warm water. Place dough in a mixing bowl covered with plastic film or a kitchen towel. Let it rise for an hour. Punch down dough with your hands and shape bread, grease a baking tray or place a non-stick baking mat and arrange balls of breads separated one to another. Let the bread to rise again until double its size, bake at 350 C for a space of 30 min or until golden brown.
Tip: if you want to achieve a better golden brown colour on the top brush the dough before it is baked with 1 egg beaten with 2 tsp. milk.
Of course, there’re many other things to grace a Belizean Independence day table, including garnaches, salbutes, tamales, and a host of other unique culinary treats from the Jewel, but this is what I’m putting on today, and I don’t think anyone will be going dissatisfied.
So Happy Belize Birthday Belizeans wherever you are, and lets raise our glasses to another 30 years and more as we all work together to keep polishing the Jewel and making it shine.
And see you all for the amazing Maya Winter Solstice 2012 celebrations next year. I’m saving my pennies and will be booking into – where else? – Chaa Creek soon to reserve my space.