Our Curated Cuisine at Home series aims to highlight local restaurants, cafes and chefs. Every week, we share a unique recipe using ingredients easily found in grocery stores while supporting and uplifting local businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. Join us as we get to know and connect with our community!
Tamika Francis started Food & Folklore as a way to pay homage to global food traditions through pop-up dinner events, culinary classes and storytelling. She shares with us her hearty Rastafarian Ital Stew made with veggies, spices, and creamy coconut milk. If you’re wondering where Ital stew comes from, she’s shared that with us as well:
“Caribbean cuisine reflects the mixed origins of its recipes, from African influences of Portuguese, French, Spanish, Latin American, and in some cases, even Chinese, Indian, and Jewish roots. In addition, the population has created styles that are unique to the region.
One such is creation is “Ital” food.
While most Jamaican dishes have meat or fish, Ital cuisine is vegetarian or vegan. Developed by Rastafarians (a modern religion that started in Jamaica in the 1930’s in response to poverty and oppression), Ital food is a natural way of cooking that avoids processed food, additives, trans fat, salt and sugar. The word “ital” is derived from the word vital and is similar to the concept of kosher.
The idea is that food is medicine and should be consumed with intentionality.”
Rastafarian Ital Stew
Preparation: 15 min
Cooking: 25-30 min
Ready in: 45 min
1 medium white onion, medium diced
2 sprigs green onions thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 inch of ginger finely diced or 2 tsp grounded ginger
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp ground turmeric
6-8 dried pimento (allspice berries), grounded
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium butternut squash or Calabaza/West Indian pumpkin peeled and cut into cubes
2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
3 medium carrots cut into ¼ inch coins
1/2 medium green cabbage chopped into bite sized pieces
2 Tsp coconut oil or a neutral oil
1, 16 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup homemade/or store-bought vegetable stock (low sodium)
1 medium ripe (but firm) plantain peeled and cut into ¼ inch thick circles
salt, to taste or lime wedges
Pinch of cayenne pepper or a few slices of scotch bonnet pepper
Garnish with sliced green onions
- Heat the oil in a medium Dutch pot on medium heat.
- Over medium-low heat add onions and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric to the pot and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. If you’re using salt, add it here.
- Add some of the green onions, grounded allspice berries and cook stirring frequently for another minute or until fragrant.
- Add the calabaza or squash. Cook for 2 minutes, to fully coat with seasonings & soften each piece.
- Add potatoes, carrots to fully coat with seasonings – add ¼ cup stock to loosen the spices from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about a 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the coconut milk & thyme. Only add the rest of the stock if the vegetables are not fully covered by the liquid in the pan at this point. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables with about a half of inch of liquid above the vegetables. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer.
- Cook for 15-18 minutes or until stew is thick and all veggies are cooked tender but hold their shape, and the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened.
- Then add the cabbage & plantains.
- Season with salt or lemon wedges and pepper - optional.
- Discard the thyme and heap the stew into bowls the garnish with the remaining green onions to serve.
Get to know Tamika, Chef and Creator of Food & Folklore
Can you give us a little insight as to why you chose this recipe?
I wear locks, a symbol of the Rastafarian faith and a controversial hairstyle in many places. Although I’m not Rastafarian, some of their ideals are close to my heart. Back in 2010, I lived through a major hurricane while living in St. Lucia. At the time, I worked in tourism and led product development and marketing for a Rastafarian cooperative permaculture and agri-tourism site. This was one of the dishes often made by the elders in that community, and a dish I have enjoyed from many Rastafarian elders elsewhere. During this COVID-19 pandemic I have been thinking a lot about that experience and about resilience; about resistance and about survival and a lot about indigenous food practices. One pot recipes can be found through generations of oppressed peoples. The humble ital stew is symbolic of these ideas and so it came to mind for this feature.
Where did the idea for Food & Folklore come about?
When I moved to Boston 15 years ago I thought the Boston food scene was lacking. I’d often venture to New York to indulge in diverse food offerings. While it’s improved, I think there is still space for more. I also learned that my ambitions to participate in the food and restaurant sector is limited by all the isms and schisms. The restaurant industry, as it currently operates, tends to be extractive and lacking in social justice ideals like fair labor practices. With several other colleagues in the food space, we’ve discussed the hierarchy of value for dining experience. Alongside other talented chefs, and with my experience in public health and sustainable development, I’d like to part of the solution and join my other colleagues like the Haley House, Tanám, Fresh Food Generation and Comfort Kitchen to offer Boston more diverse food experiences while knowing that we are as intentional as we can about the ingredients, labor and other inputs.
So far, what has this pandemic taught you most about yourself and/or your business?
The format of Food & Folklore was based on shared family style meals, strangers gathering over food, stories and conversation in a restaurant setting. Most importantly, the mission is to create a space to elevate chefs of color and chefs from underrepresented diasporas and their global food traditions. The format will need to undergo a shift, so we’re thinking through ways to pivot to ensure the mission continues.
What can we expect next from Food & Folklore?
Our big vision of a collective, multi concept, culinary space for chefs of color is on hold as we learn how the food and dining industry will evolve post COVID. You can continue to expect us elevating the food-ways and food stories of chefs of color and underrepresented traditions here in Boston and beyond.
How can our listeners and readers continue to support you?
Like many others, the last two months were unprecedented and we simply didn't have capacity to respond immediately to market changes in light of the evolving pandemic. We are now in the process of pivoting from our in person work such as our monthly popup dinner series, and testing some concepts including Food &Folklore @ Home - virtual culinary experiences from various chefs of color.
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