Looking back I think I originally documented this recipe late summer, early fall last year.. when my garden was loaded with the 'spinach' I'm about to use in this recipe. I'm using the word 'spinach' a bit loosely, as I'm really referring to several types of greens when I do. I'm a HUGE fan of greens so I usually plant several varieties in my garden every year. I'm told that as a kid on the islands my favorites (bhagi aka greens) were Dasheen Bush (tender leaves of the dasheen plant), Pak Choi and Chorai (Jamaican Callalloo)... mom never had a problem with me eating when she would cook those dishes.
As a kid I never had much love for this dish, but as I grew older (and moved away from home / the Caribbean), Corn Cou Cou became a fave of mine. Since mom could never convince us to eat corn Cou Cou it was rarely ever made in our home, except for the odd time she would make it for dad.. usually served with stew fish. While the corn meal and okra are the 'constant' ingredients in Cou Cou, you'll find that the technique and supporting cast of ingredients will differ as you visit kitchens across the Caribbean.
One of the things my parents instilled in us from an early age, was to NEVER waste food, so growing up you'd always find containers (usually old margarine containers) with leftover food in the fridge. I love rice (brown parboiled) in just about any way it can be cooked, so having leftover rice in the fridge is like seeing the pieces of puzzle waiting to be put together. Said puzzle does not have an after picture to follow, so it's rare that my final fried rice is ever the same. This time I'm using some fresh Jamaican callaloo (called chorai bhagi or spinach in the rest of the Caribbean) from my garden.
As a young fella on the islands my brother and I would always volunteer to go help dad in the garden whenever we knew cucumbers were in season. We had a stash of salt and a few cloves of garlic in the make-shift shed, where dad would take his breaks from the midday sun. With scotch bonnet pepper (congo as we'd say) and shado beni fresh from the garden.. we'd always make a huge bowl of this 'chow' with the 'baby' cucumbers (always the sweetest). Immediately after we'd hit the river to go fishing, followed by hours of swimming in the cool refreshing waters of the Guaracara river. Funny thing is dad never got our assistance, but he never peeped a word to mom!
Callaloo, the delicious soup-like dish of the Southern Caribbean is traditionally made with the inclusion of fresh ocean crabs for it's unique and rich flavor. If one cannot source that wonderful 'blue' crab, we then look for that layer of flavor from salted meats like pigtails and beef, and I've seen some people use smoked meats on some occasions. I must point out that the traditional recipe for making callalloo (not to be confused with Jamaican Callaloo) are the tender leaves of the dasheen or taro plant. However, sourcing those in Canada is almost impossible, so we'll be using baby spinach with brilliant results in this vegetarian version of Callaloo.
Dasheen Bush is basically the leaves (usually the tender ones) of the Dasheen plant (Taro) which is used mainly in the Southern Caribbean for making Callaloo or as in this case, stewed down on it's own like you would spinach or any other 'greens'. With the aid of coconut milk and a few simple ingredients and what you'd think is a simple vegetarian dish, is something very tasty and in my case, quite addictive. It's was one of the few vegetarian type dishes mom never had a hard time serving us as kids. With Sada roti, flour dumplings or with split peas dhal and rice... iman was in heaven.
This is NOT a recipe on so many levels, but an ideal dish for when you want something light and for when it's just you you're 'cooking' for. Just about every day I get emails asking for healthy recipes and with the new 'living better' regime I follow, I thought I'd share this one with you. Our family home in the Caribbean is surrounded with many fruit and citrus trees, so I have a natural affection for both avocado and grapefruit. Maybe in the coming weeks I'll share mom's recipe for one of the most refreshing grapefruit juices you've ever had (I assure you). You can easily multiply the ingredients if you plan on making this for a group. Not only is this a super quick salad recipe, it's vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.
Our mom is an expert at making Caribbean style stewed red beans and I'm still to find someone who can match the way she balances flavor, tenderness and the perfect consistency to the gravy. A recipe which calls for soaking dried beans and slowly cooking then for a relatively long time. Time is something we never seem to have much of lately, so I've come up with a recipe which will cut the cooking time tremendously and give you the same sort of feel-good vibe as if you were eating traditional Caribbean stewed beans - stuff your mom or grandma would make for you.
With the increase in demand for both vegetarian and gluten free recipes, I thought I'd take one of the most traditional dishes of the Southern Caribbean and remove a key ingredient - meat! Meat lovers can tune in here for the Chicken pelau video. This one pot dish was a must whenever we'd spend a day at the beach, go to the Oval to watch touring cricket teams and whenever pigeon peas was in season. Back then freshly shelled peas were used, but today living in North America I have no choice but to reach for the canned stuff. I assure you, you won't know there isn't meat in this dish when it's done 'bubblin' and you serve yourself a plate.
I was recently challenged to put together a coconut rice recipe, however the recipe must be foolproof. According to the person who emailed me, they have a difficult time cooking rice as it usually ends up a messy mush in the pot or under-cooked. They were looking for perfectly cooked coconut rice, grainy in texture and rich in Caribbean coconut flavors. Being a rice dish I thought it would be a good time to also have it appeal to vegetarians and friends on a gluten free diet at the same time.