Pimento Grain

the recipes of a nomadic Jamaican

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Photos from a Bread-full weekend at Hains House

My first loaf was a basic sandwich bread. I added too much flour the first time and patient Pat allowed me to start all over again.
My first loaf was a basic sandwich bread. I added too much flour the first time and patient Pat allowed me to start all over again. This bread is probably best known as weekender in Jamaica, much better that hard dough in my opinion.

I spent last weekend learning how to bake bread. No, I spent last weekend actually baking some delightful breads. When I signed up for a three-day class at Hains House, I anticipated a lot of lecturing and theory but from the moment I entered the classroom, I had my hands in flour, and I continued to learn by doing for the entire weekend. Forewarned to come with comfortable shoes, the few breaks we took were for delightful meals at the farmhouse table prepared by our industrious instructor-hostess, Pat Hains. I hauled home nine large loaves of bread and several smaller buns crafted by my own two hands, scones and even some hard-to-find fresh yeast that our master instructor was willing to share.

Farm-fresh eggs give a boost to the color of brioche.
Farm-fresh eggs give a boost to the color of brioche.
I elected to add fresh rosemary to my batard
I elected to add fresh rosemary to my batard
Pull-apart rolls from the very versatile brioche dough
Pull-apart rolls from the very versatile brioche dough
Butter for brioche!
Butter for brioche!
We even made bagels
We even made bagels
Pane Francesa
My batard has been formed in the banneton, scored and ready for the wood oven
My batard has been formed in the banneton, scored and ready for the wood oven
Lovely rosemary loaves
Lovely rosemary loaves
Margherita toppings
My chewy batard with pumpkin seeds
My chewy batard with pumpkin seeds
Fresh out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven

We are still going through all the bread I made this weekend (lots of bread pudding and french toast are on the horizon) but I am already gathering the tools to bake some loaves at home – I even made a little bread nook in a room adjacent to the kitchen. Thanks, Pat, for this immersion into the world of artisan breads and the courage to go forth and bake!

Jamaican Christmas Fruit Cake (Black Cake)

I had absolutely no intention of baking this year but when I happened upon a special section in the supermarket bedecked with candied peels, I couldn’t help myself. The intention was to soak the fruits for a month and bake just before Christmas but the influx of appetizing cake photos from Jamaica made me decide to whip up a premature half batch. I hope you will enjoy the rummy delight of this smooth and decadent black cake. I used a Japanese plum wine in my recipe but you can use any combination of wines, fruit juices and spirits. Remember, if you haven’t been soaking your fruits, you can buy them when you are ready to bake and gently stew them in some rum and wine to produce an excellent flavor. Just remember the 5 cups of fruits the recipe calls for are measured after soaking and draining.

Rummy delight with a scoop of french vanilla ice-cream

Rummy delight with a scoop of french vanilla ice-cream

1. Cream until light and fluffy

1 lb butter (4 sticks)

1 lb sugar (I always use Demerara brown sugar)

2. Gradually beat in

12 eggs (one at a time, removing the ‘eye’)

3. Stir in

2 tbsp vanilla

1 tsp pimento (allspice) liqueur

4. In a separate bowl, combine

1 lb flour

2 tbsp mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, pimento/allspice, mace)

3 tsp baking powder (only 1 tsp if using self-rising flour)

a pinch of salt

4. Blend until well incorporated, (in batches if your blender is too small)

4 tbsp browning

3 cups sweet red wine

1 cup rum

1 cup orange juice

5 cups soaked mixed fruits, drained

5. Fold a little fruit mixture into egg mixture, then a little flour mixture, continue folding in alternately until everything is combined.

6. Scrape into three or four, depending on depth, greased and/or lined 8-inch baking tins

7. Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes, then tent with aluminum foil, then bake for another 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool and serve.

It is traditional to splash the cake with rum and/or wine but you will be forgiven if you don’t.



  • The first step before baking this cake is soaking the fruits in red wine, adding a little rum or sherry if you so desire.
  • Half the flour can be substituted with breadcrumbs.
  • Mixed spice is simply a mixture of the spices indicated in bracket. If you cannot source mixed spice, then you can create your own combination with as little or as much of each as you desire.
  • Pimento (Allspice) liqueur is also known as allspice dram. If you can’t find any, you may add a splash of Angostura bitters or any other spicy liqueur you believe will compliment the cake.
  • Madeira and Port are traditionally sweet wines. There are some dulcet, fruity wines designed just for baking these cakes that may be available at your local Jamaican store. You may also use the liquid reserved after draining the fruits.


Karee Curry Goat

Curry goat, or curried goat for those of you who prefer the grammatically correct to the culturally sound, is one of the traditional dishes served on special occasions in Jamaica.  At birthday celebrations, weddings, nine nights or wakes, a ram is usually killed and its intestines, head and manly parts used to make a spicy soup called mannish water. The rest is cooked down in a yellow Madras-style curry and served with fluffy white rice. This is my variant of the Jamaican classic.

Scotch Bonnet/Habanero

Habaneros are a good alternative to Scotch Bonnet peppers

A few weeks ago I bought some goat in a hispanic meat market and after 4 hours it was not entirely cooked. I ended up doubting my method but last weekend I tried again and had fork tender goat in two and a half hours. I am accustomed to getting freshly butchered goat from the open-air market in my Jamaican community but my recent move to the state of Washington put me in a position where I have very little control over the source of my meat. I will share my recipe with you but bear in mind that it is possible that the quality of the package of goat you buy will affect the cooking time. I recommend preparing goat a day ahead of serving because, from my recent experiences, you don’t know just how long it will take and the flavor is ten times better when it has been reheated after a day or two plus it is easier to skim the excess fat when the dish has cooled.  This recipe will work excellently with lamb but should take less time to cook.

Well-seasoned goat

Well-seasoned goat

1. Marinade

 3 lbs goat

overnight in

2 tsp salt or 1tbsp creole seasoning

1 tbsp powdered ginger

2 tbsp shredded or diced fresh ginger

1 tsp thyme leaves

5 pimento (allspice) berries, crushed

1 tsp ground peppercorn

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp turmeric

6 extra large cloves garlic, crushed

minced skin of one small Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper (do not use veins or seeds unless you can handle immense heat)

sprig of fresh thyme

2. Fry on medium-low heat until slightly brown but still juicy

1 large onion, sliced


4 tbsp preferred cooking oil

3. Stir in

2 tsp cumin

2 tbsp Madras curry powder

4. Cook covered for 5 minutes, allowing powdered seasonings to blend and permeate onions. If pan is dry at this point, add a couple tablespoons of water

5. Push onions to one side of pan, increase heat and add goat pieces, searing well on each side

6. When goat is seared, cover and return to low heat for around 30 minutes before adding

1.5 cup water

7. Bring to a slow simmer then decrease heat to lowest setting that will maintain a simmer

8. Allow meat to cook, covered, for 1.5 to 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes that the water has not dried out

9. When meat is tender, add

3/4 cup coconut milk

10. Stir and allow sauce to reduce to desired thickness

11. Serve with hot white rice and a sweet slaw to balance the pepper


Enjoy with hot white rice and sweet, cooling sides like this apple slaw and cucumber relish.


Jamaican Cornmeal Porridge

This morning a Facebook friend shared what he was having for breakfast and it awakened an intense longing for a couple of the delights of my youth – bits of hard dough(hardo) bread broken into a hot bowl of  cornmeal porridge and the simple pleasure of a tough water cracker, also known as a granny cracker, dipped in hot chocolate tea. I had all the ingredients for porridge on hand so one of my desires was fulfilled; perhaps Amazon can help with the other one as soon as I get over the fear of ordering stale crackers online.

Jamaican cornmeal porridge wit

Garnished with cracked pimento and a strip of sourdough toast to sop it up.

1. Bring to a boil then turn on medium-low heat

4 cups water

2 whole pimento (allspice) grains

1 cinnamon stick (cinnamon bark)

1 cinnamon leaf, crushed but not broken

2. Mix together in a small bowl

1 cup refined cornmeal

2 cups water, at room temperature

 3. Slowly add cornmeal mixture to simmering water, whisking gently.

4. Continue to whisk for 3-5 minutes after all cornmeal has been added, ensuring there are no lumps.

5. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, whisking every 5 minutes to ensure no lumps are forming.

6. Add

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup coconut cream

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

7. Mix well. Let porridge remain on lowest heat for an additional 5 minutes.

8. Sweeten with

1/4 cup agave syrup

Serves four.

Jamaican cornmeal porridge with hard dough bread

Good morning!


  • Sweeten to your desired taste, 1/4 cup agave will make a less sweet porridge than most Jamaicans are used to. You can use brown turbinado or Demerara sugar, even honey instead of agave. The common Jamaican way is to use sweetened condensed milk so there is usually no need for an added sweetener.
  • Porridge is excellent cold so refrigerate any leftovers for dessert in the evening. As I write this, I am eating a small bowl of cold cornmeal porridge with huckleberry honey drizzled all over it.

Stout Beef Stew with Leeks and Baby Potatoes

The days are beginning to get progressively cooler and shorter, which means fall will soon be upon us and we will be requiring heartier meals to warm our insides. This stew is fairly simple to prepare and customize and can be served with your favorite side or by itself.

Cubed, Seasoned Beef

Cubed, Seasoned Beef

1. Combine

1 kg cubed stewing beef
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
3/4 Tbsp Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2. Cover and leave to marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour

3. Sear beef cubes in

4 Tbsp olive oil

until brown on each side. A dark crust should form in your pan.

4. In same oil lightly fry

1/2 a medium leek, sliced


2 cups baby potatoes, halved

Top half of a leek

Top half of a leek

5. Set leeks and potatoes aside.

6. Return beef to pan on medium heat, add

2 cups stout (I use Guinness)

7. Stir well, making an effort to dissolve the sticky dark glaze formed by searing.

8. As soon as the beef starts boiling in the stout, reduce to a simmer.

9. Add

2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp crushed pimento (allspice)

10. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hour, checking every 30 mins to ensure there is adequate liquid in the pan. If your pan is drying out, which it shouldn’t be if on low heat, add water; you can add more stout but it might make your stew a little bitter.

11. Mix in fried potatoes and leeks along with

1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped celery

12. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

13. Serve hot.

Serve hot

Serve hot


  • Sear the beef for at least 3-5 minutes on each side for better flavor
  • Do not change the pot after searing, the glaze on the bottom will enhance the flavor of your stew.
  • Be sure to fry the leeks first as the potatoes will absorb all the remaining oil.
  • Measure the stout when the foam has settled, too much head means your stew will dry out.
  • Finally, be mindful of the cooking time of your meat. Check every 30 minutes for desired texture.
  • Add your favorite vegetables (peas, carrots, peppers) for a little pop.


Flavorful caramelized crust forming on the pan during searing. Do not remove, just mix it into your stew for flavor.

Flavorful caramelized crust forming on the pan during searing. Do not remove, just mix it into your stew for flavor.

baby potatoes

These potatoes are so pretty but the color doesn’t stay after cooking.

Spiced Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler

Served warm with a small scoop of coconut gelato… yum!

I bought a five pound bag of frozen blueberries at Costco a few weeks ago and yesterday I realized that I probably won’t prepare enough yogurt smoothies to use them all up, so I decided to make a cobbler.


To give my recipe a little character, I added two of my favorite spices, cardamom and ginger, to the crust and filling, respectively. If I may say so myself, the crust turned out excellently and I will be using cardamom in pastries more often.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Grease deep pie dish using

1 tsp coconut oil

3. Mix together

2  cups frozen blueberries

1/2 cup sugar (Demerara/turbinado)

1 tsp shredded ginger

Set aside in refrigerator.

4. Combine

1 cup sugar (Demerara/turbinado)

1 cup self-rising flour

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, combine

3/4 cup milk

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

6. Slowly add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth

7. Pour batter into greased pie dish

8. Remove blueberries from refrigerator and evenly sprinkle over batter; wait for them to sink

9. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes

10. Serve hot with a scoop of your favorite ice-cream.

Serves six

Blueberry Cobbler

Pimento or Allspice

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