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

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Bank holiday burgers: Montenegrin pljeskavica and ajvar

‘Bank holiday’ and ‘beautiful weather’ are two phrases which are rarely found together in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence, but we experienced a happy aberration this weekend, which saw three gloriously sunny days in a row. I think the explanation for this incredible phenomenon is the fact that we weren’t camping: we had initially planned to, but that plan fell through, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if we had been out in the wilderness somewhere, it would have tanked it down the whole time.

What makes all of this even more amazing is the fact that the weather is set to return to its usual gloomy self throughout the rest of this working week (16 degrees and heavy rain, anyone?), making our good fortune on the weekend even more, well, fortunate. So believe us when we say that we did our best to make the most of it! Continue reading

Fish and chips with a twist: Saint Vincentian roasted breadfruit and fried jackfish

Today we return to the Caribbean, to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation home to the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean and, for a time, Mick Jagger. Store that little titbit up for a future episode of University Challenge.

As you can see from its national dish, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is also home to the breadfruit, which is possibly the world’s largest and most expensive vegetable. At £7 each (‘What?! Imagine how many potatoes you could buy for £7!’ exclaimed Ash), it’s a good thing they’re nice! To serve two, this dish doesn’t use anywhere near a whole one (in fact, we only used a quarter, and that was with quite generous portions), but apparently they are best when roasted whole, so roast it whole we did. That means that we now have three-quarters of a breadfruit to use up, so if you have any suggestions, please comment below… Continue reading

Celebrating two years: Pitcairn Island arrowroot pie

Whilst working our way through this challenge, although we’ve encountered many foods and cooking styles that we haven’t tried before, it’s been unusual for us to come across a country that we’ve never heard of. The Pitcairn Islands, though, were an exception! A group of four islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, the Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory, apparently most famous as the hideaway settlement for the notorious HMS Bounty mutineers (but not famous enough for us to know that without consulting Lonely Planet).

The other distinctive thing about the Pitcairn Islands is that their total population is somewhere around the 50 mark, making it the least populous nation in the world. Unsurprisingly, then, recipes are few and far between! There is actually a cookbook out there, called (creatively) Pitcairn Island Cookbook, but not having a copy of that left us at the hands of Google, which yielded a total of two options: some sort of baked pumpkin and coconut milk concoction, and a pineapple and arrowroot pie. We opted for the latter, with a slightly vague recipe from Elite Life that required a few guesses and some instinct! Continue reading

An adventure in ingredients: Grenadian oil down

We would recommend having the following before attempting this recipe:
– A small army to feed (or the common sense to scale down the recipe)
– An enormous cooking pot (or the common sense to scale down the recipe)
– Access to a wide range of ingredients

Now that we have that settled…

Oil down is the national dish of the Caribbean island of Grenada (not to be confused with the Spanish city Granada), so named because of the oils released from the coconut milk as it simmers. It is a big stew, packed full of a long list of ingredients, some we’d eaten before and some we hadn’t. We got our recipe for oil down from Becca at Meat Loves Salt, and would suggest reading her post about it for a lot more insight than we can provide and more Caribbean ingredient recommendations (we had to make a few substitutions). What we can offer, however, is the experiences of total novices. Our recipe below, therefore, is based on Becca’s, but also anecdotal. Continue reading

Mega mac and cheese: Sammarinese nidi di rondine

It’s kind of ironic that we’re posting this recipe today, because it’s the total opposite of the way we’ve been eating lately. Last weekend, we returned from a holiday in Australia which was full of indulging in the nation’s finest seafood, wines and ice cream (to name a few delicacies). Since returning home, we’ve been rather more abstinent – which is definitely not a word you would use to describe San Marino’s national dish, nidi di rondine (swallows’ nests), which we made and ate before we went away. With a list of ingredients that mainly centres around cheese, meat and pasta, this is definitely an indulgence – but such a worthy one! We got our recipe from All That Cooking. Continue reading

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. Continue reading