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Ann’s Callaloo Soup

 Local food in the tropics
Pictures in the boat’s galley of: one  of Callaloo soup ingredients and one of me holding up a callaloo leaf, the large top of a taro root.

Back from our trip the Caribbean, where my husband and I lived on a sailboat for 12 days. Fun sailing the waves, hanging with new friends, hiking the mountains, swimming with tropical squid and eating new ingredients, like callaloo, which has a hearty green flavor.

Our hostess, Devi, and I prepared this tasty soup after a hike on Carriacou, a small island off the coast of Grenada, where we anchored in Devi and Hunter’s boat, the Artic Tern. (Carriacou, population 6,000, is said to have 100 rum bars and one gas station.)

This vegan recipe was adapted from Devi’s friend Ann Vanderhoof’s book. Ann is a fellow “Yachtie,” who is was also our sailboat neighbor. The book is fun: The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life, a foodies taste a local Caribbean delights.

Serves 4

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 “seasoning peppers,*”each about thumb size, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 scallions, whites and greens, sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
18 callalou leaves, with their stems removed (or one bunch), chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons lovage or celery leaves, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
About ½ cup coconut milk or more, to taste
Salt to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste

1-Over medium heat, cook the garlic, peppers, onions and scallion in the coconut oil. Stir occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

2-Add the callaloo and cook, turning with tongs until wilted. Add the stock and water until it reaches almost the top of the greens.

3-Simmer for 30 minutes and blend.

4-Add the coconut milk and, if needed, additional water to reach the consistency of a thick soup. Add salt to taste.

5-Serve hot or cold with a light grating of fresh nutmeg and a drizzle of coconut milk, cream or a dollop of plain yogurt.

*Seasoning peppers
I adore these peppers, which are everywhere in the islands, but don’t seem to be available in the northeast. (Let me know if you find them.) They’re very colorful, flavorful and have a bit of a kick, but not much. There’s the closest I found on-line: Grenada Seasoning Pepper (but that’s just yellow). Sounds like the right flavor though. I may just grow them next year.

Island meal by a “Sweet hand”
Callaloo soup is all we could handle after dinner at the Cow’s Foot Restaurant, in Carriacou, where the owner, Theresa, was instructed by Hunter, Devi’s husband, to cook us her best lunch.That she did, for us alone, with what the islander’s call a “sweet hand.” (A good cook)

Lunch, savored on a deck overlooking the green landscape, was accompanied by an ocean breeze and the rhythmic chorus of a bleating  sheep. Our little table was jammed with platters of hearty home-cooked food — an eclectic array that included sticky Chinese style spareribs, curried chicken, channa (curried chick peas) and stewed mutton.

The weight of the meal necessitated a steep hike up and over the hill that lay before us, where our boat was docked.  All the while, the world rocked like an ocean for me, and it continued to rock for 5 days after I returned home!

Thanks Devi & Hunter for inviting us into the world where you live — a boat in the Caribbean.
A local food world of callaloo, mangos and more…

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