We had just moved to Canada and I was living with my aunt. Back then there were a handful of Caribbean people in Hamilton and the few of us that went to the same high school did just about everything together. My group included a fella from Dominica, Barbados and one from Jamaica. To this day we’re still very close and still pretty much a tight unit. Richard, my friend from Jamaica called me to ask if my aunt wanted some Callaloo… kinda strange that he would ask me if my aunt wanted some and not me. I answered yes, since I knew whatever comes home is open game. It had been months since I had last eaten callaloo (back then finding Caribbean food stuff in the supermarkets was very tough) so I was licking my chops at the thought of eating some callaloo (I wonder if he would bring some rice and stew chicken with it?). Another strange thing he said was .. he was up on the farm.
Mr man showed up about 2 hrs later with a huge bag of callaloo… not the rich and creamy, soup like dish we make in Trinidad and Tobago with crabs and coconut milk (see Callaloo), but the bhaji we call chorai. I learned that day that our Jamaican brothers and sisters refer to what we call Chorai.. as being callaloo. BTW, that was the most healthy leaves of callaloo chorai I had ever seen. Seems the migrant workers who come up to work on the farms here in Canada plant this “callaloo” to sell on the side to make extra money and to give to friends as well. The leaves were so huge, at first I thought it was tobacco. At least my aunt was happy, as she had something to cook that night that reminded us of home.
As I’ve mentioned in the past I LOVE any and all bhaji (pak choi, baby spinach, swiss chard and dasheen bush) so this recipe is very special to me. If you really want to add extra flavours to this dish you can add either coconut cream and/or pieces of salted cod to it. Leave me a comment below if you’d like info on adding those two things. My dad also like his bhaji with salted pig tails or salted beef pieces served with flour dumplings.
1 bunch of Chorai bhaji (about 2 lbs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion sliced
1/4 hot pepper (whatever you like using.. I used habanero) * remember to avoid using the seeds if you want to avoid most of the heat.
1/4 teaspoon salt
Weather you buy it at the grocery or grow it in your garden , you MUST wash the chorai a few times, as sand and dirt gets all over it during the growing process. I usually fill the sink with cool water and soak it for a few minutes. Then I gently shake the leaves and remove them from the water. This allows most of the dirt to remain in the sink. I then rinse the leaves again under running water just to be sure that I get rid of any dirt. If the stems are hardy, you’ll have to remove those , as it will be bitter and will not be tender when cooked. The stems in the batch I had were very tender, so used everything.
I cut each stem/leaves into 2 inch pieces (roll the leaves and cut – see pic below), then I rinse under cool water one more time and allow to drain in a strainer.
After you’ve cut, washed and allow to dry off, it’s time to cook. In a deep pot heat the oil on medium heat. Now add 1/4 of the onion to the heated oil and cook until soft and starts going brown on the edges. The next step is to add the cut chorai to the pot and gently stir around. It will seem as if the pot is not large enough, but as it cooks it will wilt. After you’ve added all the chorai, add the rest of the sliced onion, salt, pepper and garlic (add whole as it will melt down while cooking).
Allow this to cook (covered) on medium/low heat (it will spring up a lot of it’s own juices) for about 20-25 minutes. If you find that there’s still liquid after this time, turn up the heat and burn it off. It will become a bit mushy and will go a darker green, but that’s normal.
This is excellent when paired with roti, fry bake or rice and dhal… makes a deadly sandwich as well and if all fails, get a pita bread. Don’t forget to leave me your comments below and PLEASE don’t forget to be part of the LARGEST Face Book fan page dedicated to foods of the Caribbean. BTW, my North American friends.. this dish is similar to spinach and can be used just the same (except you’ll find that the texture is a bit different)