Green Beans and Potato Curry with Trinidadian Spices

Cooking up all this Trinidadian food made me think of V.S. Naipaul, the literary genius and Nobel prize winner who hailed from Trinidad, although he later became a British citizen.

Naipaul, like many of Trinidad’s natives, traced his roots further back to India– he was the descendant of indentured Indian laborers shipped into the Caribbean by the British colonizers (that’s why Caribbean food has strong overtones of Indian cuisine). I was a kid when Charu, who’s married to my cousin Neetu and who was a journalist for a Bombay newspaper, got the enviable job of interviewing Naipaul and accompanying him as the writer researched some of Bombay’s venues for a book.

Neetu’s sister, Maithili, was my best friend, and I’d spend a lot of time at their home. Every day Charu would return with stories that I don’t remember any more but which, I recall, dovetailed perfectly with Naipaul’s fame as a rude, cranky, egotistical and eccentric character. But there was no doubt that Charu was enjoying every minute he was spending with this legendary personality.

Just how lucky he’d been became clearer to me when I read my first Naipaul book (also Naipaul’s first): a short novel written in 1957, called The Mystic Masseur. The book was made into a movie some time in the last decade with Aasif Mandvi (the “brown guy” on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart) in the lead role and it was pretty good too.

Mystic Masseur remains, to date, my favorite Naipaul work because I’m a sucker for intelligent humor and irony, and this book has loads of it. The story centers around a Trinidadian of Indian origin, Ganesh, and the hilarious journey he makes from an unsuccessful masseur to a super-succesful mystic who “miraculously” heals people, to a politician.

What makes the book truly remarkable is the beauty of Naipaul’s writing, the delightful character of his words and how beautifully they capture the colloquialisms of the English spoken in Trinidad:

“My mother distrusted doctors and never took me to one. I am not blaming her for this because in those days people went by preference to the unqualified masseur or the quack dentist.

‘I know the sort of doctors it have in Trinidad,’ my mother used to say. `They think nothing of killing two three people before breakfast.’

This wasn’t as bad as it sounds: in Trinidad the midday meal is called breakfast.”

You could definitely have my Green Beans and Potato Curry for a Trinidadian breakfast, along with these delicious stuffed rotis that I posted yesterday. Here’s the recipe, adapted from a Sri Lankan curry from World Vegetarian. Enjoy!

Green Beans and Potato Curry With Trinidadian Spices


2 cups french-cut green beans (I used frozen)

2 medium potatoes, diced

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp finely grated ginger

2 green chillies, minced

2 tsp Trinidadian spice mix (recipe follows)

1/2 cup canned or fresh coconut milk (should be quite thick)

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Lemon juice to taste

Heat oil in a skillet. Add the curry leaves and onions and saute until the onions turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and saute another minute.

Add the green beans and stir-fry around 2 minutes. Now add the spice mix and turmeric and stir to coat the vegetables.

Add the coconut milk along with 1/2 cup of water, the potatoes and salt to taste. Bring the curry to a boil over medium heat, then cover, lower the heat, and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes or until all the veggies are tender.

Stir in the lime juice.

Serve hot with Stuffed Rotis or with any flatbread.

Trinidadian spice mix:

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

10-15 black peppercorns

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp of mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

Roast all the spices together in a small, dry skillet until they turn a couple of shades darker. Be vigilant and stay with them– you don’t want them to burn.

Grind into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Store any unused spice mix in an airtight jar in a dark place.


I’ll be posting the roundup of IAVW: Malaysian this weekend, so stay tuned for some great recipes. And don’t forget to send your entries for IAVW: Indian to Graziana at Erbe in Cucina all of this month.

Have a great weekend, folks!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Trinidadian Rotis Stuffed With Split Peas

I was visiting yesterday with my friend Roshani and we got to talking about Trinidadian food. Before long, I had a serious craving for something hot and spicy and Caribbean.

By the time I got home, the thing uppermost in my mind was to get into the kitchen and make something divinely Trinidadian.

I was in luck. My favorite cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, had quite a few choices. What I really wanted to make was Doubles, the dish Roshani had been raving about and which is a fried bread topped with a spicy chickpea stew and mango chutney. But I settled instead on a healthier choice that required no deep-frying: A roti or a flatbread stuffed with a spicy lentil mixture.

I don’t easily change other cooks’ recipes the first time I make them because hey, how could I improvise on something when I don’t know if the original tastes better? In fact, the only reason I do make changes when I cook a recipe for the first time is when I need to veganize it because this is, after all, a vegan blog, or to make a recipe healthier, or when I don’t have the exact ingredients on hand.

I did healthify Jaffrey’s recipe: for the roti, I cut down on the fat, used canola oil instead of butter (a much healthier alternative), and I substituted whole-wheat durum flour for the all-purpose. I didn’t make any changes to the stuffing, however, which was delicious except–again–to cut down on the fat.

The great thing about these breads is not only are they exotic and delicious, but they are also very well balanced nutritionally– the lentils and wheat together form a perfect protein, which is great for anyone looking to eat healthy. I served this with a gorgeous Green Beans and Potato Curry with Trinidadian Spices, and I’ll be posting that recipe tomorrow.

Here, then, is the recipe. The process for making the stuffed bread is very similar to the way we Indians make parathas, but I included some additional pictures to demystify the process.

Trinidadian Rotis Stuffed with Split Peas

(Makes 8 7-inch rotis)


For the dough:

3 cups whole-wheat durum flour

2 tbsp canola oil

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Mix the ingredients and rub the oil into the flour with your hands to get a coarse, grainy texture. Using just enough water, knead into a soft, smooth, pliable dough that’s NOT sticky. (You can do this in a stand mixer or a food processor). Place in an airtight container and set aside.

For the stuffing:

1 cup yellow split peas or tuvar dal, soaked at least 2 hours, drained, then covered with water and boiled until tender with 1/2 tsp turmeric.

1 onion, minced (you don’t want large pieces of onion that will tear through the dough when you’re rolling out the bread).

2 green chillies, minced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste

1 tbsp canola oil

Heat the oil in a skillet.

Add the onions, saute for a couple of minutes until they start to turn translucent, then add garlic and green chillies.

Stir fry until the onions begin to brown. Now add the split peas, cumin, salt and black pepper.

Stir well and cook another two minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

To put together the rotis:

Divide the dough into eight parts. Form 8 smooth balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Set aside covered with a kitchen towel.
Divide the stuffing into eight parts and again, form 8 balls.

Now roll out one ball of dough to a diameter of 4 inches. Place a ball of stuffing in the center.
Gather the edges of the dough around the stuffing and seal them at the top. Press down to ensure a tight seal.

Using a little flour, roll the ball out to a roti about 7 inches in diameter. Repeat for the rest of the dough and stuffing.
Heat a cast-iron or non-stick griddle.

Smear with just a tiny amount of oil or using a non-stick spray. Now place the roti on the griddle.

When you see bubbles forming on the underside, flip the roti over and let it cook on the other side another 1 minute.
Now flip over again and cook for another half minute. Repeat for the other side.

Serve hot with the Green Beans and Potato Curry With Trinidadian Spices, which I’ll post tomorrow. Until then!

These rotis are heading over to Sia’s place for the 15th helping of MLLA, that wonderful event started by Susan. Thanks, Sia and Susan!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.