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

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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

Another twist on fish and chips: Saint Lucian green figs and salt fish

For a young Miranda, the concept of St Lucia was a bit confusing. More familiar with the geography of Brisbane than that of the Caribbean, she knew St Lucia as an affluent suburb that was the home of the University of Queensland (where she would eventually study), not a mountainous island nation.

969b UQ

969c Graduation

However, a couple of university degrees and a good dose of worldliness will teach a person that there can be more than one place with the same name, and it’s a good thing too, because the traditional food of St Lucia, Brisbane, is probably a few slices from UQ’s Pizza Caffe: delicious, but not the significantly more unusual meal we had for dinner last night. Also, Caribbean St Lucia is really pretty.

969d St Lucia

Upon learning that St Lucia’s national dish is green figs and salt fish, at first we were expecting unripe figs on our plates, but were relieved to discover that this actually refers to green bananas, which we discovered were something of an equivalent to potatoes when we cooked Grenadian oil down. It was at this point that we realised that another spin on fish and chips was on the menu! Continue reading

Sunshine on a rainy day: Barbadian cou-cou and fish

One thing we learnt when reading about Barbados’s national dish, cou-cou, is that when writing about anything Barbadian (or Bajan, more colloquially), one must mention Rihanna, because apparently this makes the piece more contemporary and down-with-the-kids. Of course, now here we are doing the same thing. It’s not an inappropriate reference though, because we’ve needed our umbrella-ella-ellas here in London over the past few days. What a miserable end to the summer it’s been!

The other thing we learnt is that, surprisingly for such a simple dish, there are a lot of versions of cou-cou out there. Essentially, it’s a cornmeal and okra mixture, topped with a fish stew – typically flying fish, although tilapia, sea bass and basa all work as substitutes if (like us) you can’t get hold of flying fish – but everyone seems to have his own way of doing it. In the end, we surprised ourselves by choosing a recipe from Jason Howard on Great British Chefs – not the sort of website we would usually gravitate towards for foreign cuisine, but its main advantage was that it provided a recipe for Bajan chopped seasoning, which other websites didn’t. The other comforting thing about Jason’s recipe was that he actually said that although it’s a Barbadian dish, it’s ‘also perfect for a typical British rainy day’ – and that is what we had! Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – you’ll find that a lot of them double up, and they’re mostly pretty common. Continue reading