“Ras” “Mas” Non-Alcoholic Sorrel Drink

Ahhh Christmas…  One of the most beloved holidays in the world, but ever so special to Jamaicans.  Christmas for Jamaicans means good conversations, gifts, time spent with family, and, most importantly, a full spread of food – curry goat, curry chicken, rice and peas.  No Christmas, however, would be complete without sorrel.

I call this my “Ras” “Mas” sorrel because it’s a play on words as opposed to saying “Christmas.”  “Ras” is short for “rasta” or someone with dreadlocks (“dreads”).  “Rass” can also be the short form of a Jamaican expletive (which I will not type here but you can Google, lol).  “Mas” is the equivalent of “Mr.” and is used as a courtesy.  So, instead of Mr. Jones, it’s Mas Jones.

A more accurate name for sorrel would be “roselle drink” because sorrel is made, in effect, from the sepals of the roselle flower, which is a type of hibiscus plant.  The drink, especially if made with rum, is quite strong.  But it is festive.  This recipe features stevia, which is a 0 calorie sweetener and can be helpful for those watching their sugar intake.  The red petals of the sorrel are indicative of the high vitamin A content, which makes this drink nutritious.  Ginger in a recipe typically acts as a digestive aid.  The spices used add a wonderful accent and make the drink smell (and taste) heavenly.

This recipe can easily be adapted for those who would prefer a virgin drink.

1 ½ cups filtered water

1 cup dried sorrel petals

1 cup of peeled, sliced, ginger

1/4 cup orange peel (optional)

¼ cup whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon

¼ cup pimento berries or ground allspice

½ tbsp maple syrup or strawberry syrup or ½ tsp stevia

Rum extract (to taste)

How Fi Mek Eeit:

  1. Bring sorrel, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and pimento berries to a rolling boil for 5 mins. In this recipe in particular, I would recommend you use the whole spice as opposed to the ground version because it makes straining the sorrel easier.  You can add more ground spices to the finished product (the strained juice) as you see fit.  Cover and let steep for at least 4 hours.  Overnight is better and 24 hours is best.
  2. Once steeped, strain the sorrel liquid through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Sweeten with maple syrup, the strawberry syrup or stevia.  Add 1 tsp lime juice and/or a sprinkling of rum if you see fit.  Serve with ice.

Let me know how this recipe works for you. 🙂

Kick Off Your Christmas Cooking with Some Reggae and Black Cake (vegan and gluten-free)

Hello lovelies!! Today was a super long (but fun!!) day of baking Christmas cookies with a friend from law school and chatting for hours with another good friend.  This time of the year always reminds of how much has God has blessed me through the love of others close to me and through the gift of His Son.

That said, alas, Christmas is upon us, and, like every year, I end up scrambling to cook something.

I’m letting my sorrel soak so I can make the drink tomorrow and you may want to do the same if you haven’t already.  In the meanwhile, I’ll re-post an oldie but a goodie — my vegan Christmas black “rum” cake.  It can easy be made gluten-free by substituting the flour with an equal amount of gluten free flour (Bob’s Red Mill baking blend or Angelique flour are my go-to favs).  Making black cake is a Jamaican Christmas tradition.  I’m soaking my fruits right now so I can make this later on today.

If only I had some “vegan” oxtail…

I’ll be back soon to post my “Ras Mas” Sorrel Recipe so stay tooned.

My earliest memories of Christmas in my household involve my father playing, from cassette or LP (remember those?), reggae covers of Christmas carols like “We Wish You an Irie Christmas” (Jacob Miller) or “Santa Clause, Do You Ever Come to the Ghetto?” (Carlene Davis).  When “Flash my Dreads” (Barrington Levy) came on, my sister and I would shake our heads from side to side, kind of like what Bob Marley used to do when he performed, with our braids swinging and splayed about.

While you wait for the sorrel to steep, I encourage you to play some reggae Christmas carols.  Trust me – they really set the atmosphere and get you into the Jamaican Christmas spirit vibes.

That said, I’ve decided to share my “Christmas reggae” YouTube playlist with all of you. There’s even some Toni Braxton on this, as well as the legendary John Holt and Yellowman. I LOVE the reggae cover of “Last Christmas.” Beres Hammond does what he does best and finishes the mix off with some smooth Christmas “chunes” (translation: tunes). This playlist is gold. Enjoy. 🙂

What are your Christmas traditions?  What do you eat around this time of the year?  Let me know in the comments!

Vegan Jamaican Black “Rum” Cake

All Jamaicans will tell you that Christmas means sorrel and black cake. 🙂

As one of my many exam procrastination projects, I made a Jamaican black “rum” cake with royal icing — all vegan. I then brought it to Tracy’s house for her first annual Christmas baking competition. I’m now suffering from a mild diabetic coma.


Typical black cake uses rum/port wine to soak the fruits and glaze/soak the cake once baked.  This recipe uses no alcohol or rum since I don’t drink alcohol.  It also means that this cake cannot be kept out for very long.  I did, however, use “rum flavour” which I found at a West Indian store in Montreal.  Also, black cake is supposed to be black.  Feel free to add a little more browning if needed, but not too much, since browning is quite salty and bitter.  Here’s the recipe:

Jamaican Black Cake

1 kg of mixed glazed fruits (rutabaga, orange peel, lemon peel, cherries, glucose-fructose, citric acid, corn syrup)

1 bottle of sparkling grape juice (I didn’t have grape juice, so I used apple and pomegranate)

1 bottle of rum flavour

1/2 cup currants

1 cup raisins

4 cups flour

7 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer with 10 tbsp of water

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

salt (optional — omit if using Earth Balance)

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance vegan spread

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1/2 shredded coconut

1 tsp browning

Soak the mixed glazed fruits, currants and raisins in half of the sparkling apple juice and rum flavour overnight.

Blend the fruit mixture in your blender or food processor until almost smooth (this depends on preference.  If you want a chunkier cake in which you can taste pieces of the peels, don’t blend until smooth).

In a small bowl, prepare your egg replacement and mix with a hand mixer.

In a medium bowl, cream the sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy.

Add all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, spices) to a large bowl and mix well.

Mix in blended fruit mixture with dry ingredients.

Add wet ingredients (egg replacement, vanilla extract, almond extract, browning, creamed sugar) and mix well with a hand mixer.  The batter should be thick but pour-able.

Grease and line two round pans with wax paper, and fill the pans with the batters (3/4 full).

Put the pans in the centre of the oven.  Put a pan of water on the bottom rack in the oven, under the cakes.  This “steams” the cakes so that they come out moist.

Bake for 1 hour until cake tests done.

Once cooled, remove cake from pans and pour the rest of the sparkling apple juice over the cakes to enhance moisture.

Royal Icing (taken from The Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook):

1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp Ener-G replacer

2 tbsp water

1/4 tsp almond extract.

Mix the Ener-G replacer with the water, then add the almond extract and the sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Spread the icing on the cake but do so quickly — once the icing dries, it will start to crack and will be hard to work with.

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