Dasheen seems like a simple, somewhat humble root vegetable meant only as a side - a quiet support for the other ingredients on the plate with the primary intention of filling hungry stomachs, but not necessarily thrilling discerning gastronomes.
While that may be true, dasheen can be transformed to attain gourmet perfection. All you need is a pinch of talent, a dash of patience, and copious imagination.
So if you’re looking to create impressive, internationally inspired dishes all using this “blue food” as a base, look no further. From appetizers to dessert, here are some ideas for you to create a dasheen-inspired four course meal for a special occasion, intimate dinner party or just because.
Appetizer: Dasheen fish cakes
In Trinidad and Tobago, fish cakes are a common appetizer, made with salted cod (saltfish) or fresh fish that is deboned and flaked.
For a delightful twist to this dish, dasheen fish cakes includes an element of dasheen with a balanced mix of fresh herbs including parsley, chive and celery to enhance the undertones of the root tuber while tempering the fresh undertones of the seafood.
The full recipe can be found in the recipe book Taste of Tobago- Blue Food by Tobagonian dasheen connoisseur, Yzanne Williams-Chance. The book can be purchased at the Tobago Blue Food Festival’s Blue Food Shop.
Soup: Cream of dasheen
A light first course such as hot soup stimulates the palate in anticipation of the epicurean experience that lies ahead. For this course, a Cream of Dasheen soup, inspired by the Crema da Yautia soup from the Latin American country of Cuba is a perfect fit. Yautia (also known as Malanga) is in the same family as dasheen, with almost indiscernible differences in flavour, colour and texture.
In addition to the dasheen, this deceptively simple recipe calls for garlic cloves roasted in olive oil, cream, chicken/vegetable broth and salt and pepper. The resulting blended cream of dasheen soup has an unforgettable velvety texture that is simultaneously comforting and stimulating.
Try it yourself with the full recipe online at the Mr Food Test Kitchen (www.mrfood.com).
Entrée: Dasheen gnocchi with a callaloo reduction
For this main course, give dasheen the Italian treatment by transforming the root into gnocchi. An interesting substitute to pasta in classic Italian dishes, gnocchi is a dumpling usually made of potato and flour with optional seasonings. However, for this four course meal we say goodbye to the plain potato and hello to Dasheen Gnocchi with a callaloo reduction - a blue food dish that uses both the root and the leaves of the dasheen plant.
The gnocchi retains its customary soft and silky-smooth texture by straining boiled dasheen through a sieve before kneading with eggs and flour to form a sticky dough. For a Caribbean flair to this Italian dish, the dasheen gnocchi is tossed in callaloo, and can be served alone with or with a meat of your choice.
To up the ante of this delectable dasheen creation, pair your entrée with a home-made dasheen wine for a trifecta of dasheen flavours that will satisfy even the most demanding of diners. Pick up your bottle at the Tobago Blue Food Festival on October 15, and check out the recipe for dasheen gnocchi on Martha Stewart’s website (www.marthastewart.com).
Dessert: Dasheen pudding
In Jamaica, dasheen is most often used in soups, but the underlying nutty flavour profile of the dasheen can be perfectly blended with coconut and dehydrated fruit for a tasty dasheen pudding.
The pudding combines dasheen with brown sugar, whole-wheat flour and butter with coconut milk. Freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of vanilla extract complement the soaked fruit and additional dehydrated coconut for a mouth-watering, moist and sweet dessert. For a sinfully scrumptious addition, the warm pudding can be topped with a scoop of ice-cream (we recommend home-made dasheen-coconut ice-cream) and a sprinkle of desiccated coconut to garnish. The dasheen pudding recipe can be found at Jamaicans.com
To sample dasheen ice-cream, dasheen wine, and a mouth-watering array of blue food dishes, come to the Tobago Blue Food Festival at the Bloody Bay Recreational Grounds on October 15 from 10 am and find the inspiration for your next gourmet creation.