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Tools & Equipment

Essential tools: the following tools and equipments are essential in Caribbean and Latin Cuisine. They are also essential in other types of cuisine as Caribbean Cuisine is a mixture of many other cuisines.

Baking Trays: Those without edges all round are often referred to as sheet. Baking trays have many varied uses. Dishes such as lasagne can be places on baking trays so that they are easy to place in the oven as well as remove. They are also good for baking such items to reheat dishes. Other baking equipment can be bought as it is required. I would recommend starting with a set of 3, small, medium and large.

Chinois or China Cap: A china cap with very fine mesh. Used when great clarity or smoothness is required in a liquid

Chopping Boards/Cutting Boards: Essential for any job that involves cutting. Look for the colour co-ordinated boards, so that you can use for different types of food (that is, to keep meat, especially chicken, separate from vegetables, for example). That way, there will be no cross-contamination of food. Make sure that you wash them thoroughly after use, washing in the dishwasher if you have one.

Colander and Sieve: Used or sifting flours and straining ingredients to remove any lumps, a sieve is usually made with fine mesh wire, while a colander tends to be rather bigger, with bigger holes or slots, and is used for draining cooked pasta and vegetables. Usually made in plastic and metal versions.

Food Mill: A tool with a hand-turned blade that forces foods through a perforated disk. Interchangeable disks produce different coarseness or fineness. Used for pureeing foods.

Grater: Mostly use for grating root vegetables, cheese, ginger, citrus zest, chocolate and nutmeg. There are different sizes and purchasing should be done per need and usage.

Knife: see post for more info.

Ladles: are used for measuring and portioning liquids. The size, in ounces, is stamped on the handle.

Large Spoons: These can be plain spoon ideal for stirring or dishing out casseroles, stew and vegetables, or a slotted draining spoon – this refers to the gaps in the bow of the spoon which allow any liquid to drain out, back into the pan, for example when removing meat after sealing it for a stew or casserole.

Mandoline: A manual slicing implement consisting of blades fitted in a flat metal or wood framework.

Measuring Jugs or Cups: Essential for measuring liquids, and solids. There are different sizes available. They are usually made in glass or plastic.

Measuring Spoons: These types of spoons ensure that the correct amount of an ingredients is used (such as ½ teaspoon or 1 tablespoon). (need more to add)

Mixing Bowls: Ideally you will have at least 2 – 3 sets. They are usually found made in glass or aluminum and plastic. They are essential in food preparation in the kitchen. One set for cooking and another set for baking is sometime required for sanitation and hygiene purposes

Mortar and Pestle: In Caribbean and Latin Cuisine are constantly being being used in cooking up to the present day;

Pans: One of the best investment you can make. I would recommend that you buy a set of saucepans, as normally there are three to five different sizes and these should be adequate to begin with. It is also recommended to have a good frying pan, one with a lid.

Scales: These are essential in cooking when necessary. Mostly used in countries where ingredients are normally measured in grams or ounces. Most scales, whether digital or conventional, measure in both measurements, and all have a bowl or a flat surface which to place the ingredients to be measured.

Sieve: a screen-type mesh supported in a round metal frame. Use for sifting flour and other dry ingredients.

Scoops: come in standard sizes and have a lever for mechanical release. They are used for portioning soft solid foods.

Tongs: Good for lifting raw and cooked foods when turning over during cooking or placing on plates or dishes.

Thermometers: measure temperatures. THere are many kinds for many purposes.

  • A meat thermometer indicates internal temperature of meats. It is inserted before cooking and left in the product during cooking
  • An instant-read thermometer gives readings within a few seconds of being inserted in a food product. It reads from 0° F to 220° F, Many chefs carry these in their jacket pocket like a pen, ready whenever needed. Instant-read thermometers must not be left in meats during roasting, or they will be damaged.
  • Far thermometers and candy thermometers test temperatures of frying fats and sugar syrups. They read up to 400° F.
  • Special thermometers are used to test the accuracy of oven, refrigerator, and freezer thermostats.

Whisks: Used for whisking or whipping cream, eggs and sauces in order to create a smooth consistency and incorporate air. They are usually formed from interlocking wires and are available in various types, most commonly the balloon whisk of varying sizes, the mechanically hand operated rotary whisk and a flat whisk.

Wooden Spoons: You can never have too many wooden spoons! Although they will not last for ever, and look the same after each wash, proper maintenance will keep them lasting a bit longer. When properly washed they should last one to two year, depending on what you use them for. I would recommend buying one of the sets that are so readily available. These normally come in different lengths – the shorter one is super for sauces and the other two for stirring foods, such as meat that is being selase in a pan, as well as for missing cakes and batters. Although they wash perfectly well it is a good idea to keep some spoons for sweet dishes and other for savoury dishes. Then there are the wooden spatula which are perfect for omelettes or frying meats such as chops as the flat, wider area makes turning food over so much easier.

Zester: This is for removing long thin strands of the outer rind (“zest) of lemons, oranges or limes to use for decoration purposes.

Reference: Le Cordon Bleu – Kitchen Essentials

Cooking Terms

Bake: to cook foods by surrounding them with hot, dry air. Similar to roast, but the term bake usually applies to breads, pastries, vegetables, and fish

Barbecue: (1) to cook with dry heat created by the burning of hardwood or by the hot coals of this wood. (2) loosely, to cook over hot coals, such as on a grill or spit, often with a seasoned marinade or basting sauce.

Blanch: to cook an item partially and very briefly in boiling water or in hot fat. Usually a pre-preparation technique, as to loosen peels of vegetables, fruits, and nuts  to partially cook French fries or other foods before service, to prepare for freezing, or to remove undesirable flavors.

Boil: to cook in water or other liquid that is bubbling rapidly, about 212°F (100°C) at sea level and at normal pressure.

Braise: (1) to cook covered in a small amount of liquid, usually after preliminary bowning. (2) to cook certain vegetables slowly in a small amount of liquid without preliminary browning.

Broil: to cook with radiant heat from above.

Deep-fry: to cook submerged in hot fat.

Deglaze: to swirl liquid in a sauté pan, roast pan, or other pan to dissolve cooked particles of food remaining on the bottom.

Dry-heat cooking methods: methods in which heat is conducted to foods without the use of moisture.

Fry: to cook in hot fat.

Glaze: to give chine to the surface of a food by applying a sauce, aspic, sugar, or icing, and/or by browning or melting under a broiler or salamander or in an oven.

Griddle: to cook on a flat, solid cooking surface called a griddle.

Grill: to cook on an open grid over a heat source.

Moist-heat cooking methods: methods in which heat is conducted to foods by water or other liquid (except fat) or by steam.

Pan-broil: to cook uncovered in a skillet or sauté pan without fat.

Pan-fry: to cook in a moderate amount of fat in an uncovered pan.

(en) Papillote: wrapped in paper (or sometimes foil) for cooking so the enclosed food is steamed in its own moisture.

Parboil: to cook partially in boiling or simmering liquid.

Parcook: to cook partially by any method.

Poach: to cook gently in water or other liquid that is hot by not actually bubbling, about 160° F to 180° F (71° C to 82° C).

Reduce: to cook by simmering or boiling until the quantity of liquid is decreased, often to concentrate flavors.

Roast: to cook foods by surrounding them with hot, dry air in an oven or on a spit in front of an open fire.

Sauté: to cook quickly in a small amount of fat, usually while mixing or tossing the foods by occasionally flipping the pan.

Sear: to brown the surface of a food quickly at a high temperature.

Simmer: to cook in water or other liquid that is bubbling gently, about 185° F to 205° F (85° C to 96° C).

Smoke-roasting: to cook with dry heat in the presence of smoke, as on a rack over wood chips in a covered pan.

Steam: to cook by direct contact with steam

Stew: to simmer or braise a food or foods in a small amount of liquid, which is usually served with the food as a sauce.

Stir-fry:  to cook quickly in a small amount of fat by tossing cut-up foods in a wok or pan with spatulas or similar implements. Similar to sauté, except that the pan is stationary.

Sweat: to cook slowly in fat without browning, sometimes under a cover.

Reference: Le Cordon Bleu Professional Cooking

Types of Cooking Oils

Being a better cook does not necessarily mean that you need to know all the herbs and spices that are on the market. You also need to know the types of oils that are not only better for your health but also great to cook with. This guide teaches you the types of oils that are great for cooking.

All oils are made up of fats, the least desirable being the saturated fatty acids found in animal fats like butter and cheese. There are thought to increase blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acid are believed to reduce cholesterol, and are preferable for those following a low-cholesterol diet.

It can be overwhelming to walk down the oil aisle at the grocery store while looking at shelves stocked with different types of oils that you may not even ever heard of. But one particular oil is considered the king of all oils and you have seen it. Olive oil! It is versatile, has an excellent flavor and good for frying, cooking and for dressing. While olive oil has held its place as the most favorite oil for cooking, there are other options depending on what your cooking needs are, and they are:

Olive oil: is considered the king of all oils. It is versatile, good for frying, cooking, and dressings. It has an excellent flavor and is the most healthy of all oils, being rich in monounsaturated fat (thought to reduce blood cholesterol).

Virgin and extra virgin olive oils come from the first cold pressing of the olives. The best virgin olive oils come from single estates, where different types of olives are blended with care. Use for salad dressings, stir into pasta, drizzle over cooked vegetables or add to sauces. If frying, dilute the flavor a little with sunflower oil. Cold pressed or pure olive oil is a more refined olive oil. The olives that have been reduced to a paste after the first pressing are washed with hot water to extract more oil. Use for sautéing, frying, roasting, and for dressings, preferably blended with virgin or extra virgin olive oil.

The flavor and color of an olive oil is also dependent on other factors, including the country of origin, the climate, the soil, and the blend of olives.

Corn oil: this comes from the germ of maize. A widely used cooking oil, it has a noticeable strong flavor and can be used for cooking. Economical but not particularly pleasant.

Sunflower oil: an excellent all-purpose oil. It is light with almost no taste at all, making it popular for frying and simple dishes where you do not wish to mask the flavor of other ingredients. It can be blended with other oils – olive or nut oils – for dressings and is good for making mayonnaise, if you want something more unassuming than olive oil. Cold-pressed oils are increasingly available and have more character. Sunflower oil contains a high percentage of polyunsaturated fats and along with safflower oil, is the best oils for use in cholesterol-reducing diets.

Safflower oil: this is a light, general-purpose oil extracted from the seeds of the safflower. It has a more oily texture and nuttier flavor than sunflower but generally can be substituted for thus or groundnut oil. LIke sunflower oil it is low in saturated fats.

Peanut or groundnut oil: a useful mildly flavored oil, good for all sorts of cooking and for salad dressings. It is the most popular oil in Indian, Chinese, and southeast Asian cooking.

Soybean oil: a useful frying oil because of its high smoking point, soybean oil is not normally recommended for dressings as some people find it has a slightly fishy flavor. Commercially, however, this is the most important of all the oils, used widely for margarines. It is also among the more healthy oils, being low in saturated fats

Rapeseed oil: also known as canola, rapeseed oil is popular in Indian cooking, where it is known as colza

Coconut oil: the most unhealthy oil, it contains up to 90 percent saturated fat. It is nevertheless popular in recipes from southeast Asia, the West Indies, and the Pacific. Coconut cream and milk contain some coconut oil, and the pure has a coconut flavored flavor.

Grapeseed oil: this is made from the leftover grape pips from wine-making. It has a delicate, mild flavor and is suitable for dressings, especially if combined with more strongly flavored oils.

Vegetable oil: a blend of various oils, most commonly rapeseed, soya, coconut, and/or palm. It is highly refined, cheap and generally labeled as an all-purpose oil, but while useful for frying owing to its high smoke point, it has a rather greasy feel , both in taste and texture, and is therefore unpleasant in dressings.

Specialty oils:

Almond oil: a sweetly flavored oil used for cakes, cookies, desserts, and confectionery.

Walnut oil: a rich flavored oil with a distinct nutty flavor. Use sparingly; do not overheat. Use for salad dressings and to drizzle over pasta or cooked vegetables.

Sesame oil: popular in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking. There are two varieties, a plage light oil made from untoasted seeds and the toasted version, which is darker has a strong nutty aroma and rich flavor. Use sparingly. It will burn if heated too fiercely.

Hazelnut oil: a delicious oil with a fine, hazelnut flavor. A little goes a long way; blend with other oils rather than use solo. Add to salad dressings, sprinkle over vegetables or use in cakes, cookies, and pastries.

Mustard seed oil: a very popular Indian cooking oil, but not widely available elsewhere. It has a mustard-style flavor but this is driven off when heated. It is often used instead of ghee.

Herbs & Spices

Herbs and Spices are added to a dish to enhance flavor. I have gathered several of the common spices and herbs used in most kitchens every day. Their flavor and fragrance help us experience a pleasant surprise every time. A good way for fresh herbs to last longer is to keep them wrapped in moist paper towel in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator.

Anise – is a spice that is used in both cooking and baking. Anise leaves are a great addition to fresh fruit salads. The seeds – aniseed – go well in cakes, cookies and pastries.

Basil – is one of the best herbs you can add to mushrooms, tomatoes and pasta dishes. Whether dried or fresh, when basil is added to a dish and cooked, the flavor intensifies and creates an aroma that lingers on the palette. Fresh leaves are great in green salads and vinegar dressings.

Bay (Bay Leaves) – is part of the perfect “bouquet garni.” It gives stews, meat, soup and vegetables a wonderful flavor when added. When making stock, always add a few leaves for added flavor. Don’t forget to remove the leaf/leaves prior to serving your dish.

Chervil – is great in salads, soups, meat and steamed vegetables. It goes well with other herbs mixture and makes a beautiful garnish.

Chives – has a mild onion flavor and is great in eggs. This herb goes well with everything and you can even add it to your butter or cream cheese mixture. Add it to marinate, meat, vegetable and soups. It is also used as a garnish for many dishes.

Cilantro – is very strong in flavor. It is mostly use as a garnish. If parsley is not available, add cilantro only at the end of the dish or use less in marinates. The taste can be somewhat overwhelming.

Cinnamon – is used in baked goods, sweet foods and beverages. In powder form or stick, it provides a great flavor. Add to broiling water during the winter for a perfect home fragrance.

Cloves – is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Like any woody spice, it has an immense and bold flavor. Use with moderation.

Coriander – is added to several spice mixtures. This spice is great in vegetable and when the seeds are grinded they add a great nutty flavor. This spice also adds a wonderful surprising flavor to cakes and cookies.

Cumin – is a very common spice that adds a great flavor to meat, root and green vegetables. It is best to grind the seeds for a more enhanced flavor.

Dill – goes well with fish. Chopped dill goes great with raw vegetable salads and certain dips. It is also use as garnish.

Fennel – is the well-known fish herb. It is widely used in sauces, salads and mayonnaise.

Garlic – is a pungent spice that many love and hate. When roasted, the flavor is so great that the smoothness makes you forget the pungent taste. It is great in meat, vegetables, soups and grain dishes. It is best to chopped or crushed the gloves to form a paste. Fresh garlic is excellent in dishes.

Ginger – is popular is baking. Sliced or chopped it provides spiciness to any dish.

Marjoram – is sweeter than oregano. It can be substituted for oregano as they both have similar flavor.

Mint – is used in both sweet and savory dishes. Its menthol flavor adds sparkles and definition to lamb and sauces. And also use as garnish.

Nutmeg – is used to flavor beverages, sweet and savory dishes.

Oregano – is the spice for all pizzas. Dried or fresh, there is always the need for a distinctive flavor on a great pizza.

Parsley – is a wonderful herb for cooking and garnish. Curly and flat leaf, both have a mild flavor. Great in marinades when mixed with garlic and chives.

Rosemary – is very aromatic and has an intense flavor as well. Great with chicken and lamb, it adds an earthiness flavor that is tolerable. When used with other herbs make sure you use less as it is very overpowering.

Sage – has a very strong flavor. This herb is great in poultry and pork.

Tarragon – is very versatile. It is great with poultry and fish. It adds flavor to egg and cheese dishes.

Thyme – is very versatile and is great in savory dishes.

Herbes de Provence – is a mixture of fresh or dried herbs. Equal parts of thyme, bay, basil, rosemary and a blend of savory (sage, fennel seeds and aniseed)

Bouquet Garni – is made with parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves secured with the green part of a leak and tied with string.

All the above spices or herbs have their own specific flavor as well as certain health benefits. Make sure you do your research and consult your physician before using any of the above as medicine.

Equivalents & Conversions
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