In The Galley – Callaloo Soup

Since our visitors left and I am free to experiment on my family, I have made a concerted effort to use local ingredients and cook Caribbean style.

With the encouragement of this book and the help of the internet, (especially this site) I dove in. I learned about browning sauce, green seasoning and made my own jerk marinade.  I discovered that you need scotch bonnets, fresh thyme, and chive (green onions) to cook anything.

I went on a bit of a pulse bender, I made Caribbean kidney beans, Caribbean lentils and a dish called rice and peas, which has no peas but is made with black eyed beans (called pigeon peas in a lot of the islands). This is a super traditional island dish and you can find lots of different versions of it. Strangely enough, I ended up using Stephanie Alexander’s (famous Australian chef) recipe.  Hey her books basically taught me how to cook and The Cook’s Companion is one of the three cookbooks we have on board. Ronan loved the peas and rice so much that he said he wanted to marry them. Although this is from a boy who’s great culinary discovery of the trip has been saltfish and bake sandwiches, made on a BBQ, at the divest bar you can find in Roseau, Dominica.

When I decided to give everyone a brake from beans, Ronan complained, “ Where’s the beans and rice?” He told me he could eat them everyday. I say be careful what you wish for.

I realized I had taken the cooking local thing to heart when we first got to Martinique, everyone ran to buy cheese and bread, I  ran to buy  local Colombo powder. (The Creole version of curry) A lot of local restaurants claim to have the best Callaloo soup in the Caribbean (It’s like having the best bouillabaisse in the Rivera or The best chesse cake in New York) Before I came to Caribbean I had never herd of this green leafy vegetable (and I am bit of green leafy vegetable freak). When I saw the distinctive green leaves on sale at the saturday market in Saint Pierre, I knew I had to try.  I asked my interpreter (James) to confirm that’s what they were. The market lady said it was Callaloo and was very good for making soup. If I had recipe then I could buy it. I said I did know what it was and I knew how to cook it. Something must have got lost in translation, because she showed me in great detail how to peel the stalks (actually very helpful) and got her friends to run around the market making sure I had the right ingredients for the soup (the only thing I was missing was okra, phew) She finally let me buy the leaves. When I got back to Ondine I thought right well now I have to prove the market lady, who I will never see again, wrong and make the best Callaloo soup ever.  All I could find on line were recipes that used a lot of salted meat and I wanted to make a veggie version. So I had to improvise. I don’t know about the best soup ever, but it turned out pretty well. Paloma ate four bowls. I can’t get a much better review than that.  Here is the recipe, in case you want a taste of cruising the Caribbean.

Ingredients:

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch of Callaloo

1 small slice of pumpkin

6 cups vegetable stock ( good stock or broth makes all the difference)

1 onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 scotch bonnet. (I made this with my kids in mind, so I added the pepper whole then remove it, if you a want a spicy soup, chop and seed the pepper and leave it in)

2 chive (green onions) finely chopped.

2 fresh thyme stalks

1 teaspoon black pepper

Salt and pepper to tatse.

1 1/2 cups okra cut into ½ inch rounds.

1 cup coconut milk.

Juice of ½ a lime

Directions

  1. Remove the bottom of the stems of the callaloo leaves, then peel of the first layer of the stem, then chop roughly. In a large saucepan fry the onion until clear, then add garlic, chive, thyme, pepper, and scotch bonnet. Fry for a few moments more. Add the Callaloo and pumpkin, and then add the stock. Cover, and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.
  2. Add okra, coconut milk, and lime. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove scotch bonnet and thyme stalk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Let know what you think.

In the Islands a good cook is said to have sweet hands. I am far from having my own sweet hands but it’s something to inspire to. My next challenge, saltfish!   If you have any Caribbean recipes you love, please send them my way.

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