I am so honored that I am able to write this post! One of the writers whom I admire the most has just come out with the second edition of her lovely book. Ramin Ganeshram’s Sweet Hands (Hippocrene Books) has a terrific foreword by NYT legend Molly O’Neill. The recipes are a journey through Trinidad & Tobago. I really learned a lot about how spices are used in the cuisine there and how much the Indians, who moved there decades ago, have really influenced the cuisine.

I have cooked many dishes from the book and each one turned out perfect- from a simple potato fry to a delightful fried rice, this book has found a permanent home in my kitchen. While the recipes are easy and fun to try, the names of some of them are really sweet and fun: Buss Up Shut, Foo Foo, Mother-in-Law, Chip Chip and Doubles.

I would like to share with you, three recipes in particular that have become a hit with my family. Recipes printed here with permission from author.

Mélange Curried Chicken

Makes 4 servings

Adapted from “Sweet Hands” by Ramin Ganeshram (Hippocrene Books, 2010)

Moses Reuben, executive chef and owner of Mélange Restaurant in Port of Spain, adds elegance to everyday Trinidadian foods with French techniques and delicate seasonings. His version of curry chicken can be paired with roti for a traditional feel or plain rice for a more sophisticated presentation.

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped shado beni or cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons Trinidad curry powder

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup chicken stock

1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt

1/4 cup coconut milk

1. Mix the chicken with the onion, garlic, shado beni, cumin, and 2 teaspoons of the curry powder. Set aside to marinate for at least 20 minutes but preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Mix the remaining curry powder with 1/2 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and add the curry paste; fry for 30 seconds or until the curry releases its aromas. Add the chicken and mix well and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the stock, potatoes, and salt. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 3 minutes more. Taste to adjust the seasonings. Serve with rice or roti.

Trinidad Curry Powder

Makes 2 cups

Adapted from “Sweet Hands” by Ramin Ganeshram (Hippocrene Books, 2010)

It’s said that Trinidadians will curry anything from meat to vegetables to fruit. As in masala, green seasoning, and other spice mixtures, the ratio of spices in a curry is very personal. Experiment to find the proportions you like. You’ll notice that hot pepper is notably absent from this mixture—unlike curry powder from Madras, Trinidadians like to add fresh hot peppers to dishes, according to taste. I find that curry leaves lend a wonderful aroma and texture, but if they are not available, simply omit.

6 cardamom pods

1 cup coriander seeds

¼ cup cumin seeds

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds

¼ cup whole black peppercorns ( I used a mix of colors ?)

6 whole cloves

10 to 15 curry leaves (available in Indian markets)

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ground turmeric


1. Break open the cardamom pods, remove the seeds, and discard the pods.

2. Place the cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds in a heavy frying pan and heat, swirling for about 5 minutes, until the spices begin to release their aromas.

3. Place the toasted seeds in a food processor or spice grinder and add the peppercorns, cloves, and curry leaves. Grind the mixture to a fine powder. Stir in the turmeric.

4. Store in an airtight container. If stored properly, curry powder will keep for at least two months.

Mango Nut Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Adapted from “Sweet Hands” by Ramin Ganeshram (Hippocrene Books, 2010)


This quick bread has a special sweet tang from the mangoes. If you cannot get fresh mangoes for this recipe, frozen are available at many gourmet markets. Trader Joe’s is a good brand. Alternatively, you can buy frozen mango puree made by companies like Goya.

1 large ripe mango, peeled and sliced, or 1 ½ cups frozen mango cubes

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

2 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup (3 ounces) chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

2. Combine the mango, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of water in a blender. Puree until smooth and set aside. (Alternatively, use 1 ½ cups store-bought mango puree.)

3. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda.

4. In a large bowl, beat together the mango puree, egg, and oil. Add the flour mixture,
stirring until just combined. Add the walnuts, if using.

5. Pour the batter into prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Serve sliced with tea.


Now the best part for my readers. The publisher has generously agreed to giveaway three book!!!! Please leave a comment below about why you want to win this book. I will select, at random, three winners who will each receive a copy of the book. Giveaway ends on August 3rd 2010 at 8:00 pm

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  1. Many many years ago, my family lived in Toronto. As Toronto is such a multicultural city, we could enjoy the cuisines of many countries including that of Trinidad.The very mention of Beef Patties, Dalpuri and Jerk Chicken makes my mouth salivate.. Now we live in the Netherlands and we sorely miss the food of Trinidad as there are no restaurants that I know of. The recipes that you have published seem so delicious that I would love to try out some more.I would dearly love to replicate this food at home. My family and I would be eternally grateful if you would send me a copy of the book.

  2. Can’t wait to win this book! The spice mixing is especially intriguing, and with some experimentation, will lead to many new flavor experiences!

  3. This book looks like fun.
    Several years ago I cleaned out my spice pantry of all old spices and started over. When restocking all my spices I chose to replace with more whole spices since they have longer shelf life. I really enjoy indian cooking and playing with all the spices in my pantry. I enjoy visiting my local ethnic markets that carry many unique spices and prodce unique to these cuisines.
    “Variety is the spice of life”…
    [Thank you for a wonderful blog, Monica. I heard about you through my friend Kumar Iyer who owns a wonderful indian restaurant in Chantilly called Rangoli.]

  4. Mmmm. Your description of this book sounds delicious. The Trinidad curry powder must be amazing. There’s nothing like the heady aroma of fresh spices in a warm skillet. Would love to see the rest of the book so I can play with the recipes. Please toss my name into the hat!

  5. I too would love a chance to play around with these recipes! The Mango bread looks sensational…I’ve never seen mango in a quick bread before. So much more interesting than banana!

  6. Mango Nut bread looks and sounds delicious!!
    I’m sure it defnitly tastes heavenly too !!

  7. It all looks and sounds delicious. I would love to win one of her lovely cookbooks. Thanks for sharing these three recipes.

  8. The recipes look so delicious! Love the mixing of fruit and spices. Why should I win this book? Well, I love to cook spiced foods and my mother AND sister are both named Trinidad!!! 🙂

  9. I have never had Trinidadian food and would love to learn more about it. Thanks so much for sharing these enticing recipes and providing THREE readers with the opportunity to win a book. Very generous indeed.

  10. THANK YOU, Monica, for bringing this book to us! I have never tried this kind of food but the recipes you posted sound fantastic. We live in a small town with no real restaurants, so a favorite means of both entertainment and excellent food is trading off cooking exciting new things with our friends — we can’t wait to start this new genre!

  11. I am SO all over this – I love love LOVE food from Trinidad. In fact, I’m sort of obsessed with the culinary culture of that area. I hope I win!

  12. The photos of the spices and the resultant curry powder are beautiful! I am inspired to make this, and would love to win the cookbook for further inspiration. Thank you so much for exposing your readers to the fabulous cuisines of the world.

  13. Wow. Congratulations on the book!

  14. Wow, this looks so interesting! I love to see the Indian influences in foods. Yum-o!

  15. Sweet Hands reminds me of a saying I once read ” Season Everything With Love” I have many personal experiences where I have taken the time and effort to cook with love and the dishes turn out spectacular. The title is so unique, that I will love to own a copy of this book and see what surprises it has in store and try new recipes.

    Also, I heard your interview on the NPR about spices and googled your name.

  16. My friend returned from a study-period in India with a pillowcase-sized bag of spices. She proudly presented this wonderful gift and I can’t think of a sweeter way of using this collection than the recipes of Trinidad and Tobago. I’d dearly love to receive one of those gift books.
    John Terrell

  17. This book sounds amazing, and I cant wait to make that curry powder!

  18. would love to win this book and add more variety to our meals. I have not tried many recipes from trinidad and tobago, but love the food I have eaten at restaurants

  19. This looks like a very interesting book that covers a cuisine many of us are not very familiar with or don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to on a regular basis.

    I’d love to win the cookbook so I can prepare some Trinidadian specialties for my boyfriend. His father, who is of Indian descent, lives there and he frequently reminisces about the great food he’s had while visiting and wishes it was more available here in the DC area.

    Thanks for the recipes shared in your post – they will be a good start!

  20. Hi Monica,

    Love reading your blog!
    I would like to win this book because I enjoy cooking different cuisines. The pictures of the recipes in this post are so tempting. Can’t wait to hear the results of your giveaway 🙂

  21. I’m very interested in the Indian Diaspora around the world how Local customs/food have influenced them and vice versa – Would definitely check out this book.

  22. I want to win this book to feed my curious mind and stomach! Learning new things and eating good food are key to what keeps me content in life. 🙂

  23. Wow! I remember tasting this chicken curry a while ago and I was like what is this ..its so good..I love the curry masala…and the reciepe for mango bread..can’t wait to try all the reciepes from the book…Cooking for me is like molding of clay so to speak I love trying new things, experimenting and creating new dishes..expanding my avenues..I love the resonance of Trinidad with Indian Food by the use of all the curry spices. Thanks for posting the reciepes..and giving us the sneek peek of what gems lie within.I recently read her beautiful article “Trinidad-The America of the Caribbean” which I’m guessing is the inspiration around the book. Must read.
    Monica thank you so much. As always your blog posts feed the soul and the tastebuds.


  24. Joe, Bonnie and Heather… you win! Email me your addresses for your books to be sent to you!

  25. Yeah! Thank you for choosing me for a copy of Ramin’s book…and thanks to Ramin for her efforts. I look forward to receiving the book and trying her recipes…perhaps i can take pix of what i make and share.
    I have been fascinated with herbs and spices since I was little..and now with a horticutural background and lover of cooking, it all comes together both in the kitchen and garden alike. Email sent too. : )
    Thanks once again!

  26. So cool to find out about this cookbook. I had a friend in high school from Trinidad and got to know a little about it, but not much cooking. Can’t wait to check it out!

  27. This bread looks so delicious, and my boyfriend (who loves mangoes) will adore it. Thank you so much for posting this for us! Do you think I can use whole wheat flour instead of AP?

  28. I have never had anything from Trinidad. But from the ingredients in the spice mix,which is so similar yet different from the one I use to make chicken/meat at home, ensures me that I’ll definitely love it 🙂 Also I think I may not have to visit any grocery stores to make any of the dishes .Because of all these reasons I would love to win this book 🙂

  29. Would love to get a copy. The recipes look delightful and close to india. Going to try this mango bread even if I don’t get a copy

  30. used the recipe for mango bread as a template to make muffins with my own twist. added pistachios and crystallized ginger and left out nutmeg and cinnamon. Really liked them!

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