Photo by Farideh Sadeghin
Limen – or to “kiss a lime” – is a national pastime in Trinidad. However, ‘pastime’ does not quite reflect the importance of lime. As an activity, it doesn’t seem like much: just hanging out, exchanging stories with friends, dancing, playing music, often in parks, wharves, malls, and on the streets of Port of Spain, or wherever the Trini diaspora lands. But it is also an embodiment of cultural identity, an exercise in storytelling, a historical resistance to colonialism and an excuse to eat. When I recently visited Trinidad with my grandfather, Papa Winston, we went liming. To see him return to the streets of his youth, to the activities of his youth, with me beside him is a memory I will always carry with me. And it is a memory that this dish evokes. Not every lime with dinner is equally tasty, but no good lime does not at least have something to snack on. Eating, criticizing, arguing and sharing food is part of any good lime.
Geerah, or geerah – the word means ‘cumin’ in Urdu, Bengali and a whole host of other languages spoken in India – is, in addition to roti, a contribution of the East Indians who arrived on the island in the mid-1800s. The dish is often made with turkey neck or pork shoulder, and the meat is marinated and slow-cooked with a bouquet of aromatics, until it’s super tender and super tasty. Accompanied by a few wedges of lime, it is a Trini staple. In this recipe I use pork belly, which is a slightly fattier cut of meat, which only adds to the geerah’s richness and juiciness.
Makes: 6 servings
Preparation time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 day
for the herbal pickling liquid:
1 ¾ cup | 415 ml white wine vinegar
¼ cup | 55 grams of white granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
½ habanero pepper, stemless, seeded and roughly chopped
2 thin slices of ginger, about 2-3 centimeters long
2 cups|500ml water
for the pepper sauce:
50 red Scotch bonnet peppers, stemless and roughly chopped
2 cups|500ml herbal pickling liquid
¾ cup | 140 grams garlic cloves (2 to 3 heads)
for the GGP (ginger-garlic puree):
2 large ginger stalks, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ cup | 280 grams of garlic cloves
¾ cup|175ml grapeseed oil
for the green herbs:
1 stalk celery
⅓ small yellow onion
2 green onions
¾ cup|25 grams culantro (or cilantro, if needed)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme leaves
2 ½ tablespoons GGP (ginger-garlic puree)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pepper sauce
½ cup | 125 ml grapeseed oil
for the gerah:
3 pounds | 1,360 grams pork belly, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Roma tomato, roughly chopped
¼ cup|60ml green herbs
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
1 tablespoon pepper sauce
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup | 250 ml chicken stock
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
- Make the spice pickling liquid: Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, remove it from the heat. Let cool completely, strain through a fine sieve and transfer to a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Make the Peppa Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth, then transfer to a jar. Place a sheet of wax paper on top and screw the lid on. (The paper will prevent the vinegar from reacting with the lid.) Leave in a cool, dark place for a day, then refrigerate.
- Make the GGP: Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth.
- Make the green seasoning: Coarsely chop the celery, onion, green onions, culantro and thyme. Add all ingredients to a blender and puree on high speed until smooth.
- Combine the pork, tomatoes, green herbs, curry powder, 2 tablespoons oil, and Peppa sauce in a large ziplock bag and seal tightly, squeezing out as much air as possible. Squeeze the bag to coat the pork evenly with the marinade and place the bag in a large bowl. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, cumin and sugar. Saute, stirring often, until onions begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, then add pork and marinade along with chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover with a sheet of parchment followed by the pan lid. Cook for 2 hours, stirring halfway through, then remove the lid. Bring the geera to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, until the pork is fully cooked.
- Stir in lime juice and season with salt, place on a serving platter and sprinkle with coriander.
From “My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chefby Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein. Copyright © 2022 by Kwame Onwuachi. Extracted with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without the written permission of the publisher.
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