Just as most of us are about to freeze our tootsies off during the holidays, I thought I’d rub it in by bringing you back to a recent trip I took, in the toasty climes of Grenada, where I was researching a story. Part of my, um, responsibilities included a visit to the popular wharf-side restaurant, BB’s Crabback Caribbean Restaurant.
The chef, Brian Benjamin (BB), leads hands-on cooking classes (above). For $100, you get schooled in all of the island’s tropical indigenous ingredients while cooking in the restaurant’s wee kitchen. “It’s an opportunity for people to cook with foods they’ve never seen,” explains the cheerful chef, who launched the classes when “the yacht people” wanted to get to know the local food a little better.
We cooked up callaloo (a dark leafy green, like spinach), breadfruit (the texture is akin to a chestnut), shadow benny (a wild herb that tastes like cilantro) and dasheen (a starchy tuber). We made salt fish souse and fry bread, fresh fried red snapper and BB’s most popular appetizer, crabback (local land crabs stuffed and fried to creamy deliciousness). BB honed our techniques, too. “You’ve got to be more ruthless with it,” he said to one of our student kitchen troops who kneaded the fry-bread dough too gingerly.
After a couple of shvitzy hours of cooking and laughing, we sat down to eat all of our Grenadian dishes and drink the afternoon away as a tropical rain shower swept through the open-air dining room. “Try it with some of my homemade hot sauce,” BB said with a smile as wide as the islands’ sandy white beaches. “It makes it more lively.”
4 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
450 g callaloo (or substitute two 325 g bags of spinach), chopped and washed but don’t shake off the water
5-6 okra, finely chopped, with coarse tops removed
2 oz. coconut cream
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste
Step 1: Heat the butter in a large pot and add the onion. Sauté until soft, then add the garlic and cook until softened but not browned.
Step 2: Add the callaloo (or spinach) and okra, coconut cream, thyme and sugar. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and allow to cook for about 30 minutes or until soft.
Step 3: Remove the thyme and blend in processor, blender or immersion blender.
Step 4: Return soup to pan, add 1 cup water and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.
If you like hot Caribbean dishes, try one of our spicy recipes.