Last I left you with the setup to what would be a dynamite vacation on the beautiful island of Barbados: a pot of pilau (a rice dish), a fully stocked kitchen and some due diligence in the grocery store. What would emerge is an equally liberating vacation for our palates.
As all days must begin with breakfast, ours was always the good ol’ American one, bacon and eggs (and an occasional pancakes-from-scratch day in there too). However, the eggs were mostly scrambled with Bajan seasoning, a little grated local English cheddar and, for me, topped with Delish pepper sauce (I couldn’t get enough of it). To accompany, there was always toast made with the island’s sweet whole wheat bread, with raisins and cinnamon, slathered with Kerrygold butter and guava jelly. And when we ran out of eggs, this mother of invention made open-faced guava bacon grilled cheeses. Needless to say, this one is a keeper!
Now, the daunting part of cooking on vacation is not to just do what you do when you are home and kicking out dinner on the regular basis. I wanted to push myself with more flavor, more spice, more heat. That I did.
We picked up whole chickens (most affordable since it has not been broken down by the butcher) and lamb shoulder chops at the supermarket, but we would save buying fresh fish from the local fishermen. It’s little hard to do when the local government fish shack is closed, but a ride up island to Weston proved fruitful for artfully cut marlin (in the billfish family, like swordfish).
Yes, I made curry chicken and got smoked out making jerk chicken on the grill one night, but it was my first meal that proved to be one of our favorites of the vacation. It started with my first attempt making rice and peas. Like the inspirational pilau, I added pumpkin with scotch bonnet pepper (heretofore known as “peppa”), broadleaf thyme, fresh bay leaf, coconut milk and more. It came out delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to tender, fragrant Bajan-spiced marlin, sweet plantains and earthy sauteed spinach.
Our hunt for fresh fish also took us down island to the Bridgetown fish market. There, we negotiated big-eyed snapper and young tuna with the lively vendors. A quick stop to the nearby shack for a frizzled saltfish lunch proved to be a great dinner inspiration for what would be our second favorite meal.
After soaking saltfish for two days to rehydrate and leach out the salt, changing the water a couple of times a day, it was ready to be quickly sauteed with onion, scallion, garlic, thyme, peppa and tomato paste. Normally, it would be fresh tomato, but I was going for a more concentrated tomato flavor. Served with the second batch of rice and peas and plantains, we were scraping the pan for more, more, more. I’m definitely making this at home!
Our last favorite meal came by way of our only night of entertaining guests to thank them for a great day of rum drinking and sightseeing. It would finally be those lamb shoulder chops marinated in Bajan spice, peppa, lime, herbs, garlic and olive oil. They were then broiled and topped with peppa and brown butter melted leeks and served with the now ubiquitous rice and peas and a hearty salad with broadleaf thyme vinaigrette. Our Bajan/St. Lucian guests and we were gnawing at the bones.
If you think I enjoyed cooking in Barbados, just you wait to hear about all of the great dining out experiences plus the copious amounts of rum drinking that occurred. All of that business next time …
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.