Pros: Lots and lots of amazing recipes!
Cons: You’ll occasionally need odd ingredients (substitutions are usually provided, though)
Rating: 5 out of 5
First posted 7/21/2000
We picked up a copy of “The Sugar Mill Caribbean Cookbook” because we love exploring various styles of cooking. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Egyptian, Dutch, Greek, Jamaican, African – they all have a place on our shelves. Part of it is that we love food with lots of flavor, and ethnic foods often have the flavor we crave. Part of it is just that we have so many cookbooks that it’s one of the few ways to find something new.
We’ve developed a pretty good feel over the last couple of years for which recipes we’ll enjoy and which we won’t. In a way it means we’re a little biased – we don’t usually make the not-so-good recipes from a cookbook. On the other hand, we notice if we don’t feel tempted to make more than three recipes out of a 300-page cookbook.
“The Sugar Mill” is one of the most widely-used cookbooks in our kitchen. There are very few recipes that make us say, “eh, let’s not bother.” As for the recipes we make, most of them are absolutely outstanding. They’re so good that we want to make a visit to the island inn that the cookbook is named after. I’ll make a guilty admission that we’ve been known to read this cookbook for fun.
Because this cookbook is compiled from the food created for an inn, it starts right off with breakfasts. I’m not big on alcohol, but the Pineapple in Rum Cream is amazing. It’s rich and sweet, with a dark flavor from the rum.
I’m also not a big fan of chicken – it just isn’t a very flavorful food. I’m one of those people who will eat the skin and flavorings off of chicken with a little of the meat beneath, and then not eat most of the meat. It just doesn’t taste good to me. But the Caribbean Coconut Chicken Bites, found under the “Snacks, Nibbles, and Appetizers” section, was simple, sweet (cream of coconut!), and wonderful.
A few recipes use ingredients that aren’t necessarily easy to find elsewhere, but not many of them. When they do, you can usually find what you need online, or just substitute something else.
Prosciutto and melon is a long-standing combination that can be found in many of our cookbooks. Here, it becomes Prosciutto and Mango with Pepper-Mango Coulis. Divine! I’m not amazingly fond of zucchini, but the Curried Zucchini Soup was one of the best recipes we found in this book. The Crab or Lobster Chowder was every bit as good. (Seafood is a large theme in this cookbook as you might have guessed, but there’s plenty of other good food to be found here.) The Curried Banana Soup is fantastic; we added extra bananas for a little extra sweetness.
Now, I’m really not a salad-eating person, which is a shame since I should drop a few pounds. But the Curried Tomato Salad really rolled my socks down. Mind you, this isn’t a nice losing-weight type of salad; I’m sure the volume of mayo would make your arteries clog on the spot. But that doesn’t change the fact that it tasted fantastic. There were a couple of recipes that were just good: not fantastic, not bad; the Avocado Pasta Sauce and Lime Cream Pasta come to mind. These are few and far between, however, and I suspect that a little adjusting of ingredients could make them much better.
Ultimately, if you want a taste of the exotic, this is one of the best buys you could make for your money. It packs an incredible number of very good recipes into the space it has. And I guarantee that you, too, will find yourself pulling it off of the shelves at odd hours, going “oh, hey, we should make that next week. And that. And that…”