Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunny With a Chance of Delicious

Close your eyes and think of the Caribbean. What do you see? I’m betting you conjured up clichéd images of perpetual summer, white-sand, beaches and cocktails with little pink umbrellas. It’s a pleasant thought, but I’m here to tell you the islands offer so much more.

Take for example our food. West Indian food is really, REALLY great. I mean, I know it hasn’t achieved the celebratory status of some other world cuisines and even has a bum rap of being very heavy on the carbs but I’ll talk about that in another post.

This past week I found myself sitting in one of the many American franchise restaurants that have sprouted up all over this island, The menu was uninspiring and consisted of little more than glorified over priced burgers and a few pasta offerings. Cheese was the star flavouring agent. It was over everything – even the shredded lettuce that masqueraded as a salad. I shudder to think that many people who visit our islands might go away with the impression that this type of food is the daily fare of the local population.

Once upon a time it may have been true that people travelling to a foreign destination were reluctant to try unfamiliar food. In an effort to make guests feel at home, restaurants offered a typically European or American menu. Luckily that is changing and more places are giving local cuisine the prominence it deserves.

I dare say based on the number of food blogs out there, these establishments are headed in the right direction. Travellers today are now looking for culinary adventure along with their vacation package and are a lot more daring. Okay so maybe not everyone is up for a fishy-smelling but chicken-tasting plate of curried iguana à la Andrew Zimmerman of Bizarre foods but I’m guessing that most would love the adventure of sampling local flavous.

So here is my challenge to you. On your next vacation to the Caribbean or elsewhere, take a holiday from the food that is familiar. Explore where and what the locals eat. Then along with pictures of your pretty sunburn you’ll take home the aromas of sunny days, tastes of briny seafood, the almost electric heat of local peppers and the delicate intrigue of fresh herbs.

Not travelling to the Caribbean this summer; that's no problem man. So long as you marinate your fish the night before I can get you there in 10 minutes with this adaptation of a Jamaican steamed fish recipe.

Jamidadian Stew Fish
Traditionally red fish (red snapper). This can also be made using King fish (King Mackerel) , Carite or Cavali. This dish is a fusion of Jamaican and Trinidadian elements and the name is a tribute to my second mom who is Jamaican but has made Trinidad her home. Jamidadian is how she describes herself.

Serves 6
2 1/2  lbs King Fish (King Mackerel or red snapper)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp Green seasoning  (I don’t mince on my seasoning I like anything from 3 to 5 tablespoons of the stuff.)
1 tsp Angostura Orange bitters
3 tbsp. Golden Ray margarine (or butter)
1 large onion, peeled and sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large christophenes (chayote), peeled, seeded, and diced
1cup diced West Indian Pumpkin (calabaza squash) peeled and diced
1 cup carrots (diced)
10–12 allspice berries
1⁄4 tsp. minced scotch bonnet peppers (optional)
* absolutely no swapping with jalapenos please. The flavour is vastly different. You can substitute with a ½ to a full teaspoon of any Caribbean pepper sauce. We’re cooking Caribbean today not Mexican:-)
1⁄2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and crushed (this is called fever grass in Trinidad)

Season fish with salt, 2 tbs green seasoning and 1 tsp orange Angostura bitters. Leave in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The next day chop all vegetables. Melt 3 tbsp. Golden Ray margarine (or butter) in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat and lightly sauté, garlic, onions and 1 tbsp green seasoning. Add the chopped veggies and all spice berries. I used christophene (chayote), pumpkin, carrots, ginger, pepper and lemon grass. You have free reign on the vegetables for this as any combo of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, beans what ever is in season,) can be added. Add just enough water to barely cover the vegetables. Cook for 5 mins.

Place fish on top of veggies. Cover pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, until fish is cooked through, about 5 – 7 minutes depending on thickness of fish slices. Adjust seasoning. Discard lemon grass before serving. Serve over rice.

Close your eyes and inhale. The warm scent of allspice and the subtle zing of citrus should transport you.  Now taste. What do you think? Are you on the beach yet?



  1. And I would eat with a sure delicious!

  2. so full of lovely flavors! you are taking me on a falvor ride to exotic places!

  3. I seriously LOVE this dish! yum! So many exotic flavours here, and it's new to me.

  4. it's been so long since i've been on the beach, i can't even transport myself there in my mind. sad, right?
    love the ingredient list here--great flavors!

  5. Absolutely, eating what the locals eat is the best way to get to know a country! And you asked about the price of berries in my story? It would be $25AUD :)

  6. Lovely. And I'm with you, don't skimp on the green seasoning!

  7. ahhhh - homesick on so many levels after reading this post -as I saw the picture my mouth started to water. Mmmm-Mmmm-Mmmmm....dat looking sooo good! I wonder what I can use for king fish -like you I don't care for the whole snapper.

  8. Stewed fish served with breadfruit or green plantain...mmm...

    We cut the green plantain into fingers, boil then drain, then stir-fry with onions, shallots and pepper.

    Which reminds me, Caribbean doctors are complaining that, since we've begun eating more burgers, etc, diabetes is on the is obesity.

    My Trinidadian friend's mother once made stewed fish with cukoo for me, to this day I remember that dish.

    We're having family over for dinner this evening and my mother is cooking stewed fish. And fried breadfruit.

  9. Yep- another way to do this is to cook partially cook the veggies with the spices and to steam the breadfruit and green figs or ground provisions right on top. All good high fibre carbs - yum now that's what I am talking about. Can I come to dinner too please?:-)

  10. i miss the caribbean!! your fish stew is gorgeous and i think i could eat it every night!

  11. Wow. I'm not crazy about fish, but this photo is amazing!! Wow. Great post and great advice. I agree with you 100%.

  12. I think it's so much to explore foods from other countries. American food can be so ho-hum! This is such a beautiful dish. I love all of the big bold flavors!

  13. I'd take your cooking over those American restaurants any day. The look of that stew just is awesome. I feel sunny just thinking about having a steaming bowful in front of me.

  14. Love the title of this post!! the dish is lovely.

  15. Mackerel has a strong fishy flavor; I love the way you incorporated fiery chiles, lemongrass and orange bitters. The bonus side is this fish is good for you as it's high in omega 3 oils :^)

  16. What an absolutely beautiful dish and a gorgeous photo!

  17. Enjoying your blog, but I see that you link to a bogus recipe for "green seasoning". Try this one, it's far better:

    1/2 of a small onion
    2-3 lg garlic cloves
    2 scallions aka chives, white and light green part only
    2 tbs minced parsley
    2-3 tbs minced culantro aka shado beni aka recao
    1-2 leaves "big leaf thyme" aka spanish oregano aka plectranthus amboinicus
    1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
    up to one whole scotch bonnet pepper
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp salt
    liquid to blend (water, lime juice, white wine vinegar)

    Puree all together in blender adding just enough liquid to make a puree.