Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Week 3: Barbados

During my bachelors degree , I took a class that included a 12 day trip to Barbados. When I told people about this field trip, they often sarcastically remarked, what did you learn? Rum making 101? Although that was one of the side benefits of being in Barbados (we definitely studied bottles and bottles of Mount Gay Rum), it was actually a really intense course.

We toured landfills, dairy farms, quarries, poultry processing plants, and dairy plants. Not exactly found on typical tourist itineraries, but what better way to really learn about a country.

The preconception that islanders are laid back, easy going and friendly definitely rings true in Barbados. My class partner and I interviewed the Environment minister and a doctor for our report on the Health and Environment of Barbados. They were incredibly friendly, and willing to allow two 20 year old's to interrupt their busy schedule for an interview.

Our small group of students stayed at McGill University's Bellairs Research Institute, in Holetown. Every night we had delicious Bajan food prepared for us by our chef. I don't eat fish (with the exception of tuna), but to my suprise, I really loved the flying fish. I also went crazy for the yellow and red speckled Bajan hot sauce. I don't remember not liking any of the food that I tried. It was a mixture of hot and sweet, and always served with piles of rice.

The three recipes below come from a cookbook I bought in Barbados. The cookies are almost like macaroons but a denser and not quite as sweet. The soup Callalo, which I made with swiss chard and king crab (with battle scars to prove it. I never realized how sharp the thorn like projections are on the legs) the contrasting textures of crab, okra and chard was really nice, and the seafood flavor wasn't overpowering. My husband and my favorite though was the chicken and banana with lime flavored rice. The mild heat from the brown crispy chicken combined with the sweet slightly caramelized bananas, was very reminiscent of being in the tropics.

Coconut cookies
Source: Jim Walkers Cooking in Barbados
¼ cup butter
½ cup castor sugar (or regular can be substituted)
2 eggs beaten
½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 ½ cup of flour
pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups of grated coconut

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and the vanilla and beat well. Fold in the sifted flour and salt and then the coconut. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a lightly greased baking tray, and flattening them slightly. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes until slightly golden on top.

Callaloo Soup
Source: Jim Walkers Cooking in Barbados
1 lb callaloo leaves, or spinach or swiss chard.
¾ cup or 4 slices of thin bacon chopped
5 cups of chicken stock
1 onion chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
3 spring onion chopped
¼ tsp of thyme
1 ¼ cups of crab meat or white fish fillets
8 young okra sliced
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1 green pepper sliced

Chop the greens roughly and cut the bacon into ½ inch pieces. Simmer these in the stock with the onion, garlic, spring onions, and thyme until the bacon is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the flaked crab or white fish and the okras and cook until okras are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the green pepper slices.

Banana Chicken

Source: Jim Walkers Cooking in Barbados
2 Chicken Breasts, cubed
2 Tbsp four
1 Tsp salt
4 Tsp curry powder
Vegetable oil for frying
2 bananas, cut in half and split length wise
1-2 cups of cooked rice
2-3 limes

Mix the flour, salt, and curry powder and coat the chicken pieces. Fry the chicken in the oil in a large skillet over high heat until golden brown. Lower heat and cover and cook until tender about 5-10 minutes. Add banana slices and cook further for 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 lime to rice. Serve chicken and bananas with rice and garnish with slices of lime. Serves 4 people (or two hungry people)

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