In memory of Crabby: Trinbagonian callaloo

Sometimes in life, the effort you put into something is disproportionate to the reward you get from it. It’s just one of those things.

Another one of those things is that sometimes in life, you can’t help but sit back and think, ‘Well, I’m glad that’s over.’

Our callaloo experience was, if nothing else, memorable.

Callaloo is indisputably the national dish of Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean’s pair of sister islands that together form one nation. Therefore, equally indisputable was the fact that we were going to have to make it, even though neither of us was particularly excited about it: for Ash, it was yet another unwelcome dose of coconut, and for Miranda, the combination of coconut milk and spinach was a little too reminiscent of creamed spinach, a dish she’s never liked. But we do both like okra and crab, so we bravely forged ahead with some optimism.

Some of that bravery wavered a little when Miranda (on shopping duty) realised that she was going to have to buy and transport a live crab, but after confirming with Ash that dealing with said crab was going to be a boy job once it was in our kitchen, Crabby was bought, christened and given the bottom shelf of our fridge in which to spend its last few hours of gurgling and fidgeting.

The pre-crab part of preparing the callaloo was very quick and easy and, actually, after a bit of consultation with Google, slaughtering and preparing the crab wasn’t too difficult either. We followed advice from Fish for Thought because we liked their philosophy of killing seafood as humanely as possible.

It was around the point of eating it that it occurred to us that because we never cook crab, we own no crab-eating implements, and it’s not exactly the sort of thing you can cut delicately into with a knife and fork. Some ingenuity was required, and that is how we came to eat our dinner with a spoon, a nutcracker and a couple of those little pick things you stick in the end of a cob of corn.

As for the eating: well. It was predictably very coconutty. It was baby spinach that had been boiled for about 80 minutes. It was okra that had disintegrated, leaving behind only a delightful sliminess to remind us of its existence. And it was crab that is best summed up by referring you back to the first sentence of this blog. Let’s just say we were glad of a piece of entirely unrelated cake afterwards.

Callaloo
Recipe from Caribbean Pot.

Ingredients
1 can coconut milk
3 cloves garlic (we chopped these a bit; you probably don’t need to, but the recipe didn’t say)
450g baby spinach leaves (unless you can get dasheen leaves, in which case use that)
225g okra, cut into one-inch chunks
1/2 small onion, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 small sprigs of thyme
1 scotch bonnet chilli
1 crab, split in two (ours was approx. 1kg to serve two)

Method
1. Put the coconut milk in a deep pot, then fill the can with water and add that water to the pot. Bring to the boil over a medium heat.
2. As it comes to a boil, add the spinach leaves, okra, onion, garlic, chilli, salt, pepper and thyme.
3. Cover the pot, bring the heat down to a low, gentle simmer, and cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
4. When the hour is up, add the crab to the pot and cook for another 15 minutes.
5. Remove the pepper and muddle everything together with a whisk or swizzle stick.
6. The original recipe adds 1/2 tsp butter here, which apparently makes all the difference. We forgot to do this but are skeptical. But if you’ve read this far and are actually making this, by all means add some butter.
7. Serve.
Serves 2

880a Crabby compressed
Meet Crabby.

881a Callaloo ingredients compressed

882a Coconut milk compressed

883a Added spinach compressed

884a Added crab compressed

887a Callaloo compressed

In summary: NEVER AGAIN. And Trinidad is off our Christmas card list.

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