Do try I-tal whilst you’re on vacation in Jamaica, no it’s not Jamaican Italian but the name of the Rastafarian diet that everyone should sample when out trying local dishes.
I-tal derives from the word ‘vital’ that follows the Rastafarian practice of replacing syllables with the character ‘I’, that it is believed expresses the speaker being in unity with nature.
Rastafarians believe that their diets should be harmonious with the planet, energy infusing and essential to human existence but without any ingredients that have been processed, contain preservatives, colourings and flavourings or salt. In many ways Rastafarians were the Caribbean’s first vegans, so don’t expect dishes that contain meat, dairy products, shellfish nor fish which are longer than 12 inches.
Wonderful herbs and spices are used to aid digestion and detox the body whilst providing the aromatic flavours that infuse I-tal cooking, and a far cry from those who think the only herb a Rastafarian uses is Marijuana. We think Rastas are the masters at showing how you don’t need to give up on taste when cutting out salt from your diet. If you get a chance we recommend a very functional Jamaican vacation momento, a Rasta-ground curry spice mix, it will ‘liven up’ your cookery back home and provides a great way of banishing winter blues.
Rastas were one of the first proponents of using ‘Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil’ which is one of nature’s good guys, a health boosting thermogenic. An ‘odori’ like base of onions, spring onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and thyme is sautéed along with a little Scotch Bonnet chili pepper and often AllSpice (Pimento) and which acts as the base of the classic Rundown Sauce. Creamy grated coconut flesh and coconut milk is added followed by green leafy vegetables like callaloo, spinach. Peppers and ackee are added to for sweetness. Pulses are often added too, and it always makes a great pasta sauce.
A favourite Rastafarian recipe we love and which is easy to make at home is this Veggie Lasagne by Virginia Burke from her superb book “Eat Caribbean”, it doesn’t contain pasta so it’s perfect for those on a low GI diet or watching their carbs. If you can’t do without your carbs try adding in a layer of potatoes or yams.
- 450 gm. Aubergine/ Eggplant sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 Bundle of Callaloo or Spinach
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 2 tsp. Fresh Rosemary Chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Onion chopped
- 6 Tomatoes, chopped
- 300 ml Coconut Milk
- For the topping 2 sliced tomatoes and chopped rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- Slice and salt Aubergine and leave to sit for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Chop callaloo or spinach and steam till just wilted.
- Rinse off excess the salt from Aubergine and drain. Coat with oil, rosemary and garlic.
- Heat oil in a skillet and sauté the aubergine over low heat for 10 min. until just soft. Remove from pan. Set aside
- Add a little more oil to the skillet and sauté onions. Add tomatoes and callaloo or spinach. Season with salt & pepper. Add coconut milk and stir together.
- Make a layer of half the aubergines at the base of a casserole dish. Pour in the callaloo mixture and then layer again with the rest of the aubergine. Top with overlapping slices of tomato. Brush with oil and season with rosemary , salt and pepper.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 180C