Yuletide favourites: Sorrel drink

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By Debbie Yong

The Business Times

Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013

  • Scents of Christmas

    Hasan Defour
    Head chef at Caribbean restaurant-bar Limehouse, on Jiak Chuan Street

    "For most people in Trinidad and Tobago, Christmas is the season for spring-cleaning. We'll apply fresh coats of paint, buy new curtains and a vast array of new knick-knacks for the house. This is a topsy-turvy process that somehow only miraculously gets sorted out on Christmas Eve itself. This is also why the deepest Christmas memories from my childhood is of waking up to a myriad aromas wafting around the house.

    "Before I get out of bed, I'll be greeted by the smell of fresh paint and newly bought household items. Then, once I step out of my room, the aroma of freshly baked ham, black (rum-soaked fruit) cake, sweet bread and pastelles (a Latin cornmeal pastry) take over.

    "Christmas dinners are always a large affair in my family, with more than 15 people involved. Besides the ham and pastries, the menu will include Christmas festive rice, calalloo stewed pigeon and peas, macaroni pie, roasted Caribbean root vegetables, honey-glazed turkey, Punch de Creme (the Caribbean version of eggnog) and ginger beer. Throughout the whole evening, parang music (traditional Christmas music brought to Trinidad by Venezuelan migrants) would fill the house with a joyous atmosphere. I was always literally dancing around the kitchen.

    "Among all the scents of Christmas in the Caribbean, that of the sorrel - a hibiscus flower known as roselle in Singapore - remains the most distinctive for me. Sorrel is mainly consumed at Christmas time as a drink in the Caribbean. The sorrel is pitted and the petals are boiled with spices to make a wonderful drink, which can be turned into a delightful cocktail with some rum and Angostura bitters."

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  • 500g fresh sorrel petals (ask for Roselle at local wet markets)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 10-12 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of sugar (or more to taste)
  • 2 inches orange peel
  • Grated ginger to taste (optional)
  • 1. Place water, sorrel, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  • 2. Leave it to boil for 10 minutes.
  • 3. Set aside after boiling to cool and allow the aromas to mingle.
  • 4. Add sugar and taste for strength. This is a personal preference as some like the tang and others like it sweet.
  • 5. Add ginger if desired (as they do in Jamaica).
  • 6. Strain the liquid and store in a glass bottle.
  • 7. For the adult version, add your favourite rum to the mix.