A poultry dose of irony: Bahamian fish chowder

Another day, another Caribbean archipelago, another nation declaring conch as its national dish. Still unable to source this seafood anywhere other than in a William Golding novel, we once again looked further afield, coming up with two alternative options: fish chowder or steamed chicken. Both looked nice, but Ash pointed out that we tend to eat a lot of chicken anyway, so maybe we should give the fish chowder a try. The recipe we used is by Norman Van Aken, a chef we’d probably have heard of if we lived in the US, given that he’s been described as the ‘Walt Whitman of American cuisine’ (and that makes two literary references in one paragraph).

Poet or otherwise, he seems to know his stuff, so on Saturday, while Ash was continuing his work as a DIY wizard, Miranda retrieved some previously made fish stock from the freezer and set about rustling up a hearty soup (despite the unseasonably warm weather!). Continue reading

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It’s called saltfish for a reason: Jamaican ackee and saltfish

After a long stretch of cooking dishes from countries we’ve never been to, we’re finally back to one that we have . Well, one of us (Ash) has, and certainly got the benefit of the full hospitality offered by the locals to their guests when attending a wedding back in 2004. As one of very few Brits in attendance at the wedding of a Jamaican bride and English groom, he was treated like a VIP and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

When it comes to refreshments, his overriding memories are primarily of Appleton’s rum, rum punch (one sour, two sweet, three strong, four weak – or forget the weak if you’re that way inclined) and fantastic jerk BBQ. The tales of Uncle John spit roasting a cow on a telegraph pole for one of his birthday parties were all too believable from a man who was larger than life and not without wealth!

On one visit to the less salubrious parts of downtown Kingston, Ash and his companions received a real eye opener at the famous market. Locals with a sense of humour offered the group bags of fish heads (for stewing?) whilst they kept a close eye on their wallets. The sights and sounds of the market – including loudly played dominoes – were not to be forgotten.

1142a Ash and dolphin

Today’s recipe comes from a book called The Real Taste of Jamaica, which Ash bought on his travels. A combination of his food memories and the knowledge of Jamaican cuisine that Miranda could bring to the table led us to expect to be making jerk chicken; however, with the national dish of Jamaica officially being ackee and saltfish, we had to move in that direction instead. Continue reading

A game of two halves: British Virgin Island fish and fungi

Three momentous things happened yesterday. The first two, if we’re honest, didn’t grab us all that much. The first, of course, was the wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Ms (why Ms?) Rachel Meghan Markle. We did watch the ceremony, but failed to get any more excited about it than we were before we started viewing. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good wedding – we just prefer it when they involve people we know. We can assume, however, that for Harry and Meghan, it was a day of two halves: the ceremony was very traditional and demure, and presumably the lunchtime reception hosted by HRH had a similar vibe, but word has it that the evening reception was perhaps more fitting for a couple that has never really fit the royal mould.

The second thing that everyone was going on about yesterday was the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United. As two people who have literally no interest in football, we’ve only just now found out the result (SPOILER ALERT). Given that the final score was 1-0 to Chelsea, it’s probably inaccurate to say that it was a game of two halves (because clearly hardly anything happened for 90 minutes, true of most football matches), but that idiom did originate in the sporting world, so it’s tenuously appropriate.

Most importantly though, was our foray into the cuisine of the British Virgin Islands, an archipelago in the Caribbean. The national dish of the islands is fungi, which is nothing to do with mushrooms and instead a combination of cornmeal and okra that is pronounced foon-jee and served with fish. We chose a recipe from the British Virgin Islands government website to allow us to experience it for ourselves. Continue reading

A winning combination: Faroese salmon with rhubarb

The Faroe Islands are located halfway between Norway and Iceland. As such, their traditional foods are along the same lines as those of their neighbouring countries: whale blubber and the like. However, the location of the Faroe Islands also seems to have made them a part of the Scandinavian nouveau cuisine revolution, which worked out well for us.

At first, a search for Faroe Islands recipes yields little more than fermented lamb, wind-dried fish, sheep’s head and stuffed puffins. After further digging, however, we also managed to unearth a cookery programme called Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery. Tareq Taylor is a Swedish chef and restrauteur who made this series to showcase dishes inspired by travels to a range of Nordic regions. Although one of the dishes in the Faroe Islands episode was puffin and lamb tartar (eek), another one was salmon with rhubarb. Admittedly, this was still a combination we weren’t sure about, but it sure beat puffin, so our menu was born. Continue reading

A four-part feast: Kittian stewed saltfish, spicy plantains, seasoned breadfruit and coconut dumplings

Once again, readers, we greet you after something of a hiatus, partly because of an extremely busy couple of weeks and partly because after making the national dishes of Saint Kitts and Nevis three weeks ago, we then misplaced our camera so couldn’t upload the photos. Now, finding ourselves with both a retrieved camera and a spare few minutes, here we are!

Still on our quest around the Caribbean islands, we learnt that the national dish of Saint Kitts and Nevis is stewed saltfish, spicy plantains, seasoned breadfruit and coconut dumplings. We found ourselves simultaneously grateful that we live somewhere that has all of these ingredients within easy reach and (not for the first time) resentful that, as we’ve learnt before, breadfruit costs more than any other fruit or vegetable in the world ever. As it happens, so does jackfruit, which is what Ash (who did the shopping) came home with instead of breadfruit, making Miranda also resentful that the market stall owner had led him astray, jackfruit being significantly less enjoyable than breadfruit (in our opinion, at least). Never mind! Continue reading

A series of discoveries: Maldivian mas riha

If you type ‘Maldives national dish’ into Google (other search engines are available), you are presented with a one word response: Fish. Not terribly helpful. Reading a little more reveals that the favourite fish of the Maldivians is tuna, which was good news for us because we consider a beautiful, just-seared fillet of tuna to be a real treat. It’s something we don’t eat a lot, though, because it’s so expensive, so when we found out that a typically Maldivian way of preparing it is mas riha (curry), we were faced with a dilemma. Did we really want to spend premium prices on a premium product to then hide it in a spicy coconut sauce?

Luckily for us, the solution was literally placed right in front of us. When we were waiting in line at the fishmonger for the snapper for our Martiniquais dish, we noticed that they had one kilo bags of frozen tuna fillets for £8. They weren’t going to be any good for sashimi, but for a curry, we figured it was a pretty safe bet. And the gamble paid off! Continue reading

Caribbean riffing: Martiniquais grilled snapper with sauce au chien

We each learnt a valuable lesson in the making of this recipe:
Ash: If you use up all the garlic and don’t tell Wifey, she won’t put it on the shopping list and therefore won’t buy any more.
Miranda: A whole fried fish is hard to take a decent photo of (especially when using an iPhone instead of a camera).

Nonetheless, here we are, with a slightly improvised version of one of Martinique’s national dishes and our best attempts at photographing it! We say ‘one of’because research would suggest that there are actually three: a lamb curry, a fish stew, and this one, grilled snapper with sauce au chien. Yes, that does mean ‘dog sauce’ in English. No, we’re not sure why. The recipe we used describes it as ‘an exotic vinaigrette made with herbs, chillies, aromatic vegetables and lime juice’, which sounds much more appealing. Continue reading