Barbados: So this is a true story about how this meal couldn't have been made without the help of numerous old and virtual friends - proof positive that despite their sketchy reputations, social networking sites can truly bring people together in some pretty amazing ways - here goes, follow along if you can...
It all started with our family friend, Jack, whose son Sean plays hockey with my son Tim. He knew about this project and suggested I "friend" his colleague and friend, Gary, a Massachusetts transplant from Trinidad. Next, my old (not literally, hon) elementary school friend, Mary from Cambridge suggested I "friend" her friend, Laura, whose husband is from Barbados. Amazingly, both Gary and Laura accepted my "friend request" and we've been talking food (and Celtics) ever since. And here's the weird thing, Mary's friend Laura is from Cambridge AND it turns out, Gary's wife is also a Cambridge girl ....The People's Republic ....what a big, small world.
Oh, and did I mention that Paul "The Truth" Pierce ran over for dinner tonight? Here he is leaving the Garden in a hurry after winning Game 6 so as not to be late for the meal.
Anyway..........Laura was kind enough to send me recipes from her husband's cookbook, complete with editorial comments. Some of the recipes included Oxtail Stew, Mango Chutney and Coconut Bread. Gary gave me good counsel about authentic Caribbean cooking, Flying Fish, in his opinion being the pinnacle of Caribbean seafood. This sounded like a fun challenge to take on!
With recipes and advice in hand, I set out to find Flying Fish. Whole Foods didn't carry it, and neither did Captain Marden's Seafoods in Wellesley, MA: www.captainmardens.com. But a very knowledgeable person at Captain Marden's suggested I might try Grouper, a close second to Flying Fish and less "fishy" than Red Snapper which he assured me could be ordered that day, so I went for it, and what a meal we had!
Next I set out to plan the menu, but before doing so, I had to do some research:
Barbados is the only Caribbean island that was governed by only one colonial power. The British first landed on Barbados in 1625 and soon began growing sugar cane and brought in African slaves to work on plantations. Even after slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, things changed very little. The black workers stayed on the plantations while a small group of white landowners held on to economic and political power. This seems to have been a disproportionately historical trend, to this day, shamefully downplayed in our Euro-centric history books.
In 1966, Barbados became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. Barbados belongs to the group of islands known as the Lesser Antilles and is the easternmost Caribbean island. English is the official language of Barbados, although the Barbadian dialect has strong West African influences.
AND, the national dish of Barbados is....wait for it....Cou Cou paired with Flying Fish.
Following is the meal I prepared:
- Cou Cou (kind of a cross between Polenta and Grits, cooked with Okra)
- Fried Grouper Fish (absolutely delicious, but not cheap)
- Plantains (yellow, not green) with a Mango Sauce
- Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
- Coconut Bread
Flour, Egg, Bread Crumb Coating for the Grouper
Fryin' up the Grouper in a heavy copper pan & Cou Cou
Beautiful Golden Plantains
- 6-8 okras sliced
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups corn meal
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp butter
- Boil 4 cups water in a medium-size pot then add the thinly slice okra.. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until soft and lower the heat.
- While the okra is cooking, mix the corn meal with 2 cups of cold water in a bowl.
- Add the corn meal mixture to the pot with okra. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook on low, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- The cou-cou is done when it's stiff and separates away from the sides of the pot.
- Serve on a dish with butter on top with flying fish (or Grouper)
Fried Grouper (Flying Fish)
- 1 lb fillet flying fish
- 2 eggs beaten
- Lime or lemon juice
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- bread crumbs
- Salt, black pepper, and hot pepper to taste
- Clean fish with lemon or lime juice then rinse with water.
- Season the fish with thyme, onion and garlic powder, salt, black and hot pepper. Set aside for at least an hour in the fridge.
- Coat the fish in flour then dip in beaten egg and coat with bread crumbs.
- Fry in hot oil for about 3-5 minutes on each side then drain on a paper towel.
- Serve with cou cou.
- 2 yellow plantains
- oil for frying
- Slice plantain in 1/2 thick slices
- Fry in oil till golden brown
- Drain on paper towels
- Serve with Mango sauce
- 6 ounces brown suga
- 6 ounces shortening
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 cups grated coconut
- 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- ¼ pound raisins or mixed fruit
- 1 cup milk
- 1¼ pounds flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350° F .
- Combine shortening and sugar.
- Add the beaten egg, and mix thoroughly.
- Mix in the spices, almond extract, fruit or raisins, grated coconut, and milk.
- Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix thoroughly.
- Pour the batter into two greased loaf pans—a one-pound pan and a two-pound pan.
- Bake loaves for one hour, or until browned. Cool on racks before serving.
Final Assessment: We loved the entire meal - especially the Grouper and Cou Cou combination!