Jamaican-Canadian celebrity chef Adrian Forte still remembers what it was like to see his grandmother cook for the first time.
“I was just amazed at how she would take these simple, humble ingredients and transform them,” he said The current. “I thought, ‘This is like magic.'”
Forte’s grandmother was the family matriarch in Jamaica. She had seven children and numerous grandchildren – and Forte said she made sure every one of them could cook, including the men.
“She used to say, ‘You have to be able to cook because then you’re more valuable as a husband,'” the Toronto-based chef said.
I firmly believe that when you can consume someone’s culture, you gain more understanding of your struggle.– Adrian Forte
With a house full of home cooks, he said, cooking can become competitive — but it also brings families closer together.
That stuck with Forte as he rose to the forefront of the culinary scene, with positions as Executive Chef at Gangster Burger and Rock Lobster and an appearance in the semifinals of Top Chef Canada Season 8.
“I like to think of food as a culinary channel that brings us together,” he said. “That’s why I love what I do – bringing people together, learning about my culture and background, and getting to know me.”
Togetherness and education are two of the central themes behind his new cookbook, Yawd: Modern Afro-Caribbean Recipeswhich hits shelves on June 7th.
The book is a collection of Afro-Caribbean recipes, but also conveys to readers the historical relevance of certain dishes and ingredients.
“I always try to use my food in my creations to educate people,” Forte said. “I firmly believe that when you can consume someone’s culture, you gain more understanding of your struggle.”
Porridge as a time machine
One of the recipes highlighted in Forte’s cookbook is porridge, which is one of Forte’s favorite dishes.
“Growing up in Jamaica, one of the first things I learned was how to make oatmeal because it was so easy,” he said.
Forte said porridge is like a time machine for him. As he tastes it, he recalls when he was 11 and playing cricket with all his friends after eating from his uncle’s big stewpot.
He also remembers Jamaican street vendors pulling 64-liter pots of porridge on a trolley – and the show they put on as they distributed porridge to the neighborhood.
“They do a really high pour…like a cocktail,” he said. “It doesn’t miss. Not a drop. And he puts it on his head and he dances and takes your money and gives it to you. And you’re like, ‘Well, how does he do that?'”
“So my first excitement about putting on a show when I was cooking came from seeing these people do things like that.”
Forte said Jamaicans make a variety of porridges, from mashed carrots to mashed peanuts. But his favorite is cornmeal porridge – which he makes with his own pie.
“I add my own little twist with the pineapple juice. It’s not traditional, but it’s my take on it,” he said.
Cooking corn porridge at home
As part of the interview experience, Forte those of the river Matt Galloway on how to make his version of porridge – and the delicious values of Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
CLOCK | Chef Adrian Forte shows host Matt Galloway how to make Jamaican corn porridge:
Readers can also make their own corn porridge at home. Below is Forte’s recipe for corn porridge, the same recipe he used in the video and featured in his debut cookbook.
-1 cup fine cornmeal
-1 cup full-fat coconut milk
-1 cup pineapple juice
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground allspice
-1 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 cup condensed milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-Fresh pineapple chunks for serving
-Ground cinnamon for serving
Preparation: 2 minutes
Cook: 10 mins
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cornmeal, coconut milk, pineapple juice, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon stick.
2. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk to avoid clumping. Cook the cornmeal until it thickens and has a mush consistency, about 10 minutes. Add condensed milk and vanilla, cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat.
3. Portion porridge into bowls and garnish with pineapple and a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Produced by Julie Chrysler. Video recorded and edited by Andrew Nguyen.