Indian arrival flavours

Saheena -
Saheena -

TODAY we celebrate Indian Arrival Day. The arrival of the first set of indentured labourers on the Fatel Razack in 1845 who came to work on the sugar estates.

When journeying to the New World many of their familiar possessions were left behind. Some say that they brought with them spices and two types of animals. The water buffalo for hard labour and a type of humped cattle that provided milk for their beloved yoghurt, and butter which was made into ghee. It was at a later date, when the government became aware that the Indians were a good source of reliable and cheap labour, did they begin to obtain food stuff from India in order to keep them properly nourished. They then imported split peas with which they made dhal and paddy rice which we now call lagoon rice because they were unaccustomed to the hill rice.

The dried spices we are familiar with like coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek, cloves and mustard seed were ground and made into curry. When they started to plant their vegetable gardens on the small plots which they received when their contracts expired, they used the familiar curry when they cooked the vegetables and referred to it as “tarkarie”, which incidentally translates in true Indian cuisine to “spicy vegetable curry”.


Indian cuisine plays an important part in our culinary heritage. Nowhere else in the world can one find our Trinidad specific Indian cuisine: melt in your mouth rotis, Indian delicacies, chutneys, chokas, dhals, sweets and sumptuous curries, these were recipes born out of pure necessity to create the familiar.

Happy Indian Arrival day to everyone, here are some favourites for you to cook this weekend!

Lagoon rice kheer

½ cup lagoon rice

⅔ cup water

7½ cups milk

¾ cup sugar

2 cardamom pods

1 tbp toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

⅓ cup raisins

Soak the rice in ½ cup water for 30 minutes. Then boil the rice in the water until all the water dries up. Remove pot from the heat.

Add the milk and cardamom pods to the rice and stir well. Simmer on low heat for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally to ensure rice does not stick to the bottom and sides of the pan. At this point the rice will be of a creamy consistency.

Now add the sugar stirring constantly over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the rice is creamy.

Remove from the heat, remove the cardamom pods. Serve in individual bowls garnished with toasted almonds and raisins.

Serves 8.

Quick saheena

1lb split peas

2 cloves garlic minced

1 tsp saffron powder

¼ tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbs flour

1½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper sauce

1 bunch young or rolled callaloo/dasheen bush

Wash the split peas and leave it to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the split peas and grind it in a food processor or food mill until the consistency is smooth.

Add the garlic, saffron powder, baking soda, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper. Allow to rest for one hour. If the mixture seems too dry add a little water.

Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon, this incorporates air and lightens the mixture. Let stand.

Wash the dasheen bush thoroughly, and chop finely. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the dasheen bush for a couple of minutes until it turns bright green.

Combine the split peas mixture with the dasheen bush.

Heat oil in a deep fryer, and drop the saheena mixture by heaped teaspoonfuls into hot oil, gently flatten with the back of a spoon.

Fry until golden brown or until the saheena floats to the top of the oil.

Drain and serve immediately with tamarind chutney or mango chutney.

Makes about 6 dozen.

Tamarind mint chutney

2 cups peeled, ripe tamarind pods

2 tbs salt

2 cups granulated sugar

2 tbs freshly ground, roasted geera,cumin

½ hot pepper, seeded and minced (more or less to taste)

6 cloves of garlic minced

4 tbs chopped, fresh mint

Put tamarind pods in a small saucepan and barely cover with boiling water, let steep for 30 minutes.

Remove the seeds from the tamarind and discard, (a potato crusher works well to separate the seeds from the pulp).

Add the salt, sugar, geera, pepper and garlic, stir to mix.

Bring the mixture to a boil and remove from heat.

Cool, and stir in the mint.

Taste and adjust seasonings. The chutney should be slightly sour-sweet in taste.


"Indian arrival flavours"

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