Monday, May 13, 2013

Secrets to a Delicious Trinidadian Fish Broth

Today is a feel good day and all you need is fish broth,

or maybe it's not such a great day.

I'm sorry.

Well now you definitely need fish with a squeeze of lime, layered over rough- chopped, root vegetables and green bananas, some salt, green seasoning and a hot pepper. This will cure what ails you.


In Trinidad, fish soup is called 'broff' (broth) but there is little about it that is broth-like. In the Caribbean our soups serve as main meals and are heavy, flavoursome and 'chunked' full of high-fibre, starchy root vegetables. 

Fish broth calls for un-fancy fish. When I was a child we would vacation at beach houses in Mayaro and one of my favourite things to do was to wake just before the sun, run down the beach and help fishermen 'pull seine' ( pull in their nets ). At the end of the haul you were sure to be rewarded with the small fish that weren't suitable for sale but which were perfect for making fry dry or broth. 

Pay attention.

This is important.

These are the secrets.

Rule number one:
You can not make fish broth without fish heads. Well you can but my father will tell you that you are making dishwater, not broth. 

Fish heads with their hugely, surprised eyes staring back at you from your bowl of soup are creepy. Believe me I share your pain but get over it because tucked inside those heads are bits of fat, cartilage and connective tissues. All of this will render out into your soup making it richer and sweeter. 

Rule number two: 
Understand that this is essentially just a frugal meal of water, cheap fish and vegetables so that you have to give this the love it deserves in the form of fresh herbs.

This is not a suggestion.

Here is where you will find use for that green seasoning marinade that I told you about two months ago. 

My grandmother used to serve this to me in a chipped enamel bowl. I have yet to taste anything better coming out of a restaurant on a fancy plate, as this humble broth. It's just that good really if you follow two simple rules. 

Trinidadian Fish Broth

For the Marinade
2lbs Fish cleaned ( at least 2 or 3 heads)
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic  (minced)
3 tablespoons green seasoning
1 tsp salt

6 green figs/bananas (cooked, peeled and sliced)
2 tablespoons Golden Ray margarine ( or vegetable oil, or butter)

 2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 medium onion ( minced)
1 tablespoon green seasoning
8 cups water

Root Vegetables / Ground Provisions
3 small potatoes peeled and diced
3 small eddoes (taro) peeled and diced
1 medium dasheen (taro) peeled and diced
3 small tannia ( yautia)
* Amounts don't have to be exact if you don't have one type just use a little more of the others that you do have on hand

1/2 stalk celery ( chopped)
1 medium tomato sliced
1 tsp salt
pepper sauce to taste (optional)

Mix 2 tsp lime juice in 1/4 cup of water. Put fish in a glass mixing bowl and wash   in this mixture of lime water. Throw away the excess water. Rub the minced garlic, green seasoning, and salt all over the fish. Cover fish and set aside in fridge for 30 mins - 1hr or overnight.

Next prepare the Green figs. Green fig is the Trinidadian name for green cooking bananas. Cut off the top and bottom ends of the green figs/bananas. Place into a large pot of water with about a tablespoon of oil.  The uncooked peel of the green figs/bananas secretes a sticky juice that might stain your pot. The oil prevents the skin of the green figs/bananas from staining the pot and makes for an easier clean up. Pierce the figs/bananas with a fork to see if they have cooked through. When they are done remove and let cool. They will peel easily now that they are cooked. Peel, slice and set aside.

In a large stock pot, saute the onion and garlic in butter or oil or Golden Ray margarine until translucent and fragrant. Add green seasoning. Saute about 30 seconds then add all the water.

Add all the root vegetables, celery, tomato, salt, vegetables and scotch bonnet pepper and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender. Roughly 15 - 20 mins depending on size of your root vegetables.

Keep an eye on the pepper throughout the cooking and make sure it does not burst. The heat from the pepper will be unbearable if it does.

Add the green figs/ bananas and the fish. Reduce heat and simmer fish 5-7 mins.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Adding more salt, lime and or pepper to your taste.