Caribbean Beat Magazine

Cooking APP a storm

These days you don't need to leaf through a pile of cookbooks or even surf the Net to find out how to make oildown or accras. You can download recipes on your phone. Franka Philip did just that

  • Photograph by Shirley Bahadur
  • Franka Philip uses the iPad to help with shopping. Photograph by Henrik Pettersson

What do most people do these days when they want a recipe? In the old days – the 20th century – they’d probably look in a cookbook or food magazine or call a foodie friend with lots of cookbooks and beg for a copy of the recipe. Nowadays, many people – including me, the owner of a huge pile of cookbooks – head straight to the computer and check on the Internet, where they can find many variations on the theme of the recipe they’re looking for.

But with the advent of the iPhone and other smart phones, the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle reader, finding recipes has become a whole lot easier. There is a world of applications or “apps” that we can download to our devices to make adventures in the kitchen that bit easier.

My favourite is the app from the popular recipe website Epicurious. This app is a gateway to the more than 28,000 recipes already on the website, and it’s very easy to use. They’ve even thought about different skill levels – with the “I can barely cook” – and “I cook like a pro” categories. As with most other recipe apps, you’re able to save favorites and produce an instant shopping list, which suits me fine because I’m notorious for leaving out ingredients when I’m copying them from a recipe.

Other free alternatives I’ve seen are BigOven, an app based on the recipe-sharing site, and Allrecipes, another popular Internet recipe database.

I don’t think a mobile device and cooking apps will take the place of cookbooks in my life. Cookbooks are simply more practical at home. I can refer to several different cook books at the same time and make notes in my cookbook about the recipes. That’s not possible – as yet – with the apps and my mobile phone.

And all you need is a kitchen towel to wipe away the spill from a cookbook. I don’t think your phone or iPad can withstand the drips and splattering from hot sauces and batter.

Ramin Ganeshram, Connecticut- based chef and author of Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago, thinks kitchen apps are the way to go.

“I don’t feel threatened by apps at all, I think smart writers know that if they are clever they can create an app component to their books. Cookbooks are ideally suited for this, since they are ‘how-tos’,” she said. “I don’t personally use any cooking apps, but I think there are some good ones for home cooks. Some good ones are Herbs & Spices, and Cooking Calculator, which does quick conversions and scaling of recipes.”

Accras de Morue

Epicurious has a recipe for a good old Caribbean favourite, accras. This recipe is available on their site as well as via their cooking app.

1/2 pound skinless boneless salt cod, cut into 2 -inch pieces and rinsed

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg

3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

a rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 garlic cloves. minced

a 4-inch-long fresh hot red or green chili. seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)

3 scallions, chopped fine

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander if desired

vegetable oil for deep-frying

sauce chien as an accompaniment (spicy dipping sauce)

1 In a large bowl, soak the salt cod in enough cold water to cover it by three inches, changing the water several times, for at least eight hours or overnight.

2 Drain the salt cod well in a sieve and puree it in a food processor.

3 Add flour, milk, egg, baking powder, allspice, and garlic and blend well. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the chili, scallions, and coriander

4 In a deep fryer or large, deep skillet heat 1 1/2 inches of the oil to 360″F and fry teaspoons of the mixture in batches, stirring and turning occasionally, for one – two minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

5 Transfer fritters as they are fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Fritters may be made two days ahead and kept covered and chilled

6 Reheat fritters on a rack in preheated 450˚F oven for five minutes. Serve with sauce.

For the sauce chien:

1 small onion, minced

3 scallions, minced

1/3 cup minced red bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 scotch bonnet or habanero chili,

seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves), or

1 teaspoon pepper sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

7/8 cup water

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander,

or to taste, plus a coriander sprig for garnish if desired

l In a heatproof bowl. combine onion, scallions. bell pepper, garlic. chili, salt, and thyme.

2 In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil with the vinegar. Pour over the vegetable mixture, and let it cool.

3 Stir in lime juice and oil.

The sauce may be made two days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature, stir in chopped coriander, and garnish sauce with coriander sprigs. Makes about two cups.

Related links

Epicurious: www.epicurious.com

Instapaper: www.,instapaper.com

Allrecipes: http://allrecipes.com

BigOven: www.bigoven.corn

Levi Roots: www.reggae-reggae.co.uk

Ramin Ganeshram on Twitter: http://twitter.com/raminganeshram

For Caribbean food, there aren’t many apps available as yet, but the most popular seems to be the Levi Roots Sunshine Food app from Levi Roots, the Jamaican-born, UK-based Rastafarian chef who became famous with his Raggae Raggae Sauce and popular cookbooks Caribbean Food Made Easy and Food for Friends. At US$6.99 (£3.99) and only 65 recipes so far, Sunshine Food may seem a bit expensive, but as one reviewer noted, “If you’re looking for a professional, curated recipe app and are interested in Caribbean-themed cooking, this is definitely your app.”

On the launch of Sunshine Food, Roots said the app was aimed at a younger market.

“I am very excited about having my own app. A lot of fans are the younger iPhone generation and I want to get them cooking. An app seemed like the obvious way to do that.