The increasing availability in the UK of new and exciting fresh produce from around the world is creating a wealth a new possibilities to be creative in the kitchen, according to a couple who recently launched a recipe book on Caribbean and Asian-style cooking.
Broadcasting team Sherrie Eugene-Hart and Patrick Hart first had the idea to make some YouTube videos cooking dishes inspired from their mothers’ recipes, which before long led to their own popular TV show.
The couple later launched ‘The Carib-Asian Cookery Book: Rhythms and Rhymes’ in December, and they will be showing off some of their concoctions at the London Produce Show being held on June 7-9.
Speaking to PBUK, Sherrie and Patrick emphasised they were ‘everyday people’ who were not chefs by profession, but had a ‘real handle’ on their recipes.
“We both grew up watching our mums cook, smelling the aromas, and enjoying the fruits of their labour,” Sherrie said.
“Making the book we had a really nice, nostalgic time remembering the recipes and talking about them, and the interesting thing is we put our own slant on the recipes. Own mums are very influential in these dishes but we’ve put our own twist on them.”
Patrick said his background was Anglo-Indian-Asian and Sherrie’s was Caribbean, and they had found there were more similarities to the two cooking styles than they had anticipated.
“That’s how the whole Carib-Asian concept came about really,” he said.
He added the book had been received really well in its first few months. The couple are now not just looking at doing a re-print for later in the year but will also film a new TV show in which they judge contestants’ gastronomic creations.
An integral idea in the book is about how people can experiment with flavour and ingredients, both by using them in different ways and by branching out to try new things from different parts of the world that until recently were not readily available throughout much of the country.
“In our recipes there is meat like chicken and beef and there are the spices, but funnily enough some of the most exciting parts are with the vegetables and fresh produce that are now available, but that once upon a time you could only get from a specialist shop,” he said.
“So it’s opened up such an amazing possibility of creating recipes that use great fruit and vegetable products that really enhance our dishes.
“Sherrie just loves it, you can leave her in a store full of vegetables and she doesn’t come out for a couple of hours.”
Sherrie highlighted sweet potato and plantain as examples of produce items that until recently were not were not very well-known in the UK but were now gaining recognition.
“People know them but don’t necessarily cook with them, so we want to encourage people to try new things, experiment with their cooking, with their fruits and vegetables and see what happens,” she said.
“We’re learning all the time. It’s a learning process every day for us and we always try and come up with creative ways of putting food on a plate.”
The couple also noted that cooking fresh produce everyday at the family home had undoubtedly helped their eldest daughter become an international netball athlete.
“She always knew she wanted to play netball and be fit, and she trained every day,” Sherrie said.
“When she was growing up it’s just as well that we gave her a lot of fruit and a lot of vegetables and we always said ‘if you eat your vegetables you’re going to be big and strong’ and now she’s playing netball for England.”
Wanting to highlight the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables for children growing up was one reason why it was a “real passion” to do the London Produce Show, they added.
At the event, Patrick and Sherrie plan to cook lamb cutlets with a mango salad, but preparing some of the ingredients using their signature creative style.
“In our recipe we flash fried the mangoes so they were warm with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and peppers, and some of the camera crew were thinking ‘I’ve never seen that happen before’,” Patrick said.
“So we try and be creative as well because it’s not just about the colours that fresh fruit and vegetables bring – it’s about the flavours.
“Now there’s a massive movement with different religious faiths and cultures, with many people who don’t eat meat. So more and more people are asking for different choices, and using Caribbean and Asian spices and aromas you can make some amazing tasty dishes and think ‘wow, I didn’t need the meat’.”
Patrick also highlighted that by merging cooking styles from two cultures, they had realised that they garnered the interest of people from all over the world.
“At our demos we have people from lots of places, from English people to Italians, to Asians to Caribbeans to Africans, and they all find something that they get out of it,” he said.
“So for us if our cooking, especially in this political climate, can bring people together it’s a great thing. Our recipes are fluid and all-inclusive.”