Soup is a common Saturday meal throughout the islands that make up the Caribbean and it’s one of those one pot meals that truly brings family and friends together. When we first immigrated to Canada there were but a sprinkle of people with Caribbean heritage in Hamilton. My little group of friends included a fella from Jamaica, one from Dominica and how could I forget my good friend Carlos who was from Barbados. We did just about everything together, especially since when you’re new to a country you tend to latch on to anything which gives you the slightest security and comradeship of “home”. I love my Trinbagonian food and it’s something I could never repeat to my mom or grandmother, but this soup was the best I’ve ever had. Between Carlos, his sister and I, I think we ate the entire pot – no joke! The last time I was in Barbados I searched in vain for a restaurant in Bridgetown hoping to find a spot where I could sample some home style soup… no luck.
This soup cannot compare to that soup which is forever stuck in my mind from all those years ago, but when my grandmother would make this we’d eat bowlfuls.
1/2 lb salted cod (any dry salted fish)
1 carrot diced
8 ochro (okra) diced
3 medium potatoes cubed
1 lb yam cubed
1 lb eddoes
3 sprigs thyme
4 green cooking bananas
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 hot pepper (scotch bonnet or habanero)
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 can coconut milk (about 1.25 cups)
salt to taste (see note below)
1 cup split peas (dry)
8 cups of water
1 tablespoon veg oil
* In the recipe I have 1 cup split peas and this is what’s traditionally used, but I opted for a dry peas mix. Which to be honest didn’t work as well as I planned.
* In the recipe you’ll notice that I also mentioned green bananas. However my pot wasn’t big enough and I didn’t have room to add it at the end. I’ll be using those for another recipe.
* To help quicken the cooking time of the split peas, feel free to soak them in cool water overnight, then drain when you’re ready to put into the soup.
Since I had to deal with the small pot issue, I couldn’t put the star of this soup – dumplings. If you need the recipe for making the flour dumplings, do let me know in the comment section below. They’re added the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Start off by soaking the dry salted fish in water for a few minutes (normally when using salted fish like this we either soak overnight then boil or soak in boiling hot water for an hr or so, but there’s no need with this recipe) then rinse off and strip into smaller pieces.
In a large pot (be smarter than me) heat the oil on med to high heat and add the pieces of salted fish to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes (until it starts to brown and stick to the bottom of the pot) then add the garlic and onion. Cook that for a few minutes on medium heat as we don’t want to burn the garlic.
After the onion starts to go soft and translucent, add the peas (remember to wash it before adding) and sliced carrots and give it good stir. (in the pic below you’ll see the dry peas mix I used and regret. Should have stuck to the split peas instead – lesson learned.
Add the coconut milk, thyme, black pepper, hot pepper, ochro and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook covered until the split peas is fully cooked. Takes about 45-50 minutes. As it cooks it will start to thicken.
While this does it’s thing, peel and cube the ground provisions (yam, eddoes, green bananas and potato), please try to cut them all the same size so they cook uniformly when we add them to the pot. In a previous soup recipe I posted, several people said that they parboil the provision separately. Wash the pieces off under cool water, then place in a large bowl and cover with water to prevent them from going discolored while we wait for the peas to fully cook.
The peas mix I used, took about 1 hour to get soft, this is when I added the provisions to the pot. Bring to a boil again, then turn down the heat to a simmer (with pot covered) and cook for about 15 minutes (until the provisions is fully cooked). If you’re adding dumplings to the soup do so the last 10 minutes or so, of cooking. IMPORTANT! You’ll notice that I didn’t add salt. This is because the salted cod that I used is packed with tons of salt and after tasting at the end I noticed that I didn’t have to add any. I recommend that you taste the soup to see if there’s enough salt for your taste.
* If you’re worried about the hot pepper in the ingredients list, add it whole and fish it out when the soup is done cooking. For that extra kick, burst open the pepper near the end and it will blaze-up this dish.
Be prepared to fall asleep after eating a good bowl of this. I had a good nap then when back for 2nd’s! Maybe I can get someone from Barbados to share their classic soup recipe with me, as through the years Carlos and I have drifted apart and I don’t have that connection any longer. Wait! Securing that soup could be a good reason to visit Barbados again, especially when it gets nasty-cold during the winter months
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