Voodoo and The Fugees, this is probably what comes to mind when people think of Haiti.
I also think of this terrible earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in 2010. Haiti is located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The country shares the island with the Dominican Republic (to the east).
The indigenous people of the island are called the Taíno. The Taíno became extinct as a culture after the Spanish settlement in the fifteenth century. The Spaniards, who did not travel with women in their first expeditions, married Taino women, resulting in mestizo children.
During the sixteenth century, the French and the Spaniards fought for the control of the island of Hispaniola. In 1697, they ratify the Treaty of Ryswick which assigns a third of the island to the west (then called Saint Domingue) to France. The eastern part of the island remained under Spanish rule. This region which was then called Santo Domingo became the Dominican Republic.
“People of color” (gens de couleur) led by illustrious figures like former slave Toussaint Louverture fought for the Independence of Haiti after the French Revolution. Haiti declared its independence in 1804 but it was not until 1825 that it was finally recognized by France.
Haiti’s history has played an important role in the cuisine of this country. The cuisine includes influences from the French, Spanish and Native Americans but also Middle Eastern (influence due to more recent immigration of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians).
Creole cuisine is obviously the cuisine that comes to mind when you think of Haiti. A Haitian meal traditionally includes rice, beans or a combination of both, with dishes similar to pabellón criollo from Venezuela.
Haitian cuisine is usually quite spicy, with the use of peppers such as Scotch bonnet pepper. This pepper is widespread in the Caribbean and has an index up to 350,000 on the Scoville scale (9 on the simplified scale).
Poul ak nwa (chicken with cashew nuts) is actually a regional dish of Haiti from Cap-Haitien, a port city on the northern coast. It is prepared with a typical Haitian condiment called pikliz or picklese. This condiment should be prepared 24 to 48 hours in advance as it consists of pickled vegetables and pepper similar to curtido from El Salvador.
At home, I unfortunately had to adapt the recipe without hot peppers as my three children would probably not have appreciated. Instead of Scotch bonnet peppers, I used pickled banana peppers.
This is the first time I boil cashew nuts before using them in a dish. This allows to soften the dried fruit before a shorter cooking with the chicken.
We all loved this dish. Cooking with pikliz is very original but what I also liked is to serve this condiment with the poul ak nwa. This adds a little acidity and crunch to the recipe. Poul ak nwa can be served with white rice or also with “diri ak djon djon”, a more elaborate side dish with rice and black mushrooms that will surely be the subject of another post. To be continued.
- 1 cup cashew nuts
- 1 hen (or small chicken), cut into pieces
- 1 lime
- 4 tablespoons pikliz (recipe below)
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 shallot , minced
- 1 scallion , chopped
- ½ green bell pepper
- ½ red bell pepper
- 4 sprigs parsley , chopped
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup sos ti-malis (recipe below)
- 3 Scotch bonnet peppers
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ¼ onion , finely chopped
- ¼ cup peas , frozen
- 2 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 black peppercorns
- 3 cups distilled vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ onion , chopped
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- 1 shallot , finely chopped
- ¼ green bell pepper , cut into thin strips
- ¼ red bell pepper , cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons pikliz vinegar (see recipe above)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- In a saucepan, boil the cashews in water over low heat for 20 minutes and set aside.
- Meanwhile, rub the chicken with lime.
- Marinate the chicken with the pikliz, garlic, onion, shallot, scallion, green and red bell pepper.
- Put the marinated chicken in a large pot with parsley, thyme, cloves, salt and pepper.
- Cook over medium heat, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Dissolve the tomato paste in 1 cup (240ml) of water and stir in the chicken, ¼ cup (60ml) at a time, 10 minutes apart by covering the pan again each time. This process takes 40 minutes.
- Add sos ti-malis and cashews and cook covered for an additional 15 minutes.
- Poul ak nwa can be served with white rice and pikliz.
- Cut the stem of the peppers, cut into 4 pieces and keep the seeds.
- Place peppers, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, cloves, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then add the vinegar.
- Close the jar tightly and let stand for at least 24 to 48 hours before using.
- Once opened, the pikliz can keep in the refrigerator for several months.
- In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and shallots and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add peppers, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, pikliz vinegar and lime juice and cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of water and bring to boil. Cook for 15 minutes over low to medium heat. Cool.