International Cooking: Food from Grenada

Grenada is an island country in the Caribbean, at the southern end of the Grenadines island chain. Due to its production of nutmeg and mace, it is known as the Island of Spice.

Grenada was inhabited by indigenous South Americans, and Christopher Columbus found the country in 1498. Several unsuccessful colonization attempts followed, due to a strong resistance by the island’s inhabitants. However, France finally succeeded in 1649. The French ceded Grenada to the British in 1763, and Britain continued to rule the country until it gained independence in 1974.

What Do People Eat in Grenada?

Like in other Caribbean countries, dishes in Grenada make use of readily available fruits and vegetables such as breadfruit, coconut, and plantains.

A wide range of spices is used in many dishes, such as bay leaves, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

Meat is often salted or smoked, with salted pork and saltfish being popular ingredients.

Cocoa grown in Grenada is some of the richest and strongest in the world, partially due to the volcanic soil and hot sun. It’s used to make chocolate and cocoa tea, and it’s also one of the country’s top exports.

What I Made

Fry Bakes (Fried Bread)

Fry Bakes (Fried Bread)

This is a kind of fried bread roll popular in the Caribbean, and I’ve made similar things for previous countries. In Grenada, fry bakes are made from flour, baking powder, water, and fat which can be oil or butter, or a mixture. They can be made to be lighter in the middle with an air pocket for stuffing, but I chose to make a denser version to accompany my saltfish souse (next).

These were easy to make; all you need to do is combine the ingredients and let the dough rest for a short time before shaping and frying. I shallow-fried these and that worked really well. These were delicious!

The recipe I used is from Simple Grenadian Cooking.

Saltfish Souse (Salted Fish with Vegetables)

Saltfish Souse (Salted Fish with Vegetables)

Saltfish souse is a dish often served for breakfast with fry bakes, though it can be eaten at any time of the day. The fish is broken up, then mixed with vegetables. The recipe I used included green onion, pimento peppers, tomato, onion, and bell pepper.

I didn’t use salted fish; I just used fresh cod which I salted and let sit for a while before cooking. It’s not the same of course and one day I hope to use actual saltfish for the recipes that call for it. For now, I worked with what I had.

This was really good; it made a light and refreshing meal. The recipe I used is from Simple Grenadian Cooking.

Oil Down (Breadfruit Stew)

Oil Down (Breadfruit Stew)

Oil down is a stew made with breadfruit, callaloo, and coconut milk. These are the main ingredients, but there are also dumplings, some kind of salted or smoked meat, and turmeric. The term ‘oil down’ refers to the fact that the oil from the coconut milk is either absorbed by the other ingredients or settles to the bottom of the pot.

Oil down is Grenada’s national dish, so I wanted to make it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find breadfruit (except for a super expensive canned version online) so I used potato instead, so this wasn’t a super authentic take on this dish. I also can’t get callaloo (also known as dasheen) here, so I substituted with spinach.

To make this, you place the ingredients in a large pot in layers. The recipe I used added breadfruit first (in my case, potatoes), followed by plantain, which I didn’t use since the plantains at the grocery store were all looking too ripe for my liking. The meat goes in the middle of the pot; I used smoked turkey wings while the recipe called for both ‘smoked bones’ and saltfish. The callaloo leaves (or spinach in my case) went in next, followed by carrot and okra, then chives, garlic, and green seasoning.

The green seasoning is made by blending garlic, ginger, pimentos, chives, thyme, and chado beni. The latter is also known as culantro, and from what I can tell it’s like a much stronger version of cilantro. I just used cilantro instead.

I poured a mixture of coconut milk, water, and turmeric over the ingredients, and let everything come to a boil. I covered and reduced to a simmer, and didn’t touch it for another hour or so. One thing that is important when making the Grenadian version of oil down (there’s also a version made in Trinidad) is that you don’t stir. So I didn’t, and although I was concerned about the bottom of the pot burning, it didn’t.

I made the dumplings out of flour and water. The video for the recipe I used showed really big, sausage-like dumplings. But in my experience, dumplings made only with flour and water need to be small since they are quite dense. So I made smaller dumplings. I added them to the pot and after about 20 minutes or so, decided the dish was done (the recipe didn’t give any timings or what to look for). I took the meat off the turkey bones and added it to the stew to make an easier eating experience.

Traditionally, this would be served in Grenada with sliced avocado and a glass of chilled lime juice. I don’t really like avocado though and I skipped the lime juice.

I was apprehensive about this dish—honestly, all the pictures I could find online didn’t even look too appetizing—but it came out tasting pretty good. In retrospect, I think I had a bit more liquid than I was meant to. Maybe I’ll do better if I find some breadfruit and make a more authentic version one day.

This recipe is from Spice Island Cooking and you can find the video on YouTube.

Cocoa Tea

Cocoa Tea

In Grenada, cocoa tea—basically just hot chocolate—is made by combining cocoa balls with hot water and spices and simmering a few minutes. Milk is added towards the end, before the mixture is strained and poured into mugs.

I used a recipe that suggested cacao nibs as the best alternative for cocoa balls, since cacao nibs were much easier to obtain. First, I baked the cacao nibs for about 12 minutes. Then I ground them up in my spice grinder.

I brought some water to a boil with a bay leaf and cinnamon stick and simmered for about 15 minutes. Then I stirred in my ground cacao and cooked for a further 10 minutes.

I stirred in milk and honey, plus a cornstarch slurry to thicken the mixture slightly. After a few minutes of simmering, I removed the saucepan from the heat and added some vanilla and nutmeg.

Before serving, I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, which was suggested if using cacao nibs. At least, I tried. But the cacao must not have been fine enough. The mixture really just didn’t want to strain at all so I removed the cheesecloth and just let it run through my regular strainer. The end result wasn’t obviously gritty, so I think this was fine.

This had a really strong chocolate flavor but I had to add some sugar to get the sweetness level I wanted, and I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I’d probably use less cacao next time. This was an interesting alternative to a regular hot chocolate but I’m not sure it was worth the extra work! One day I’d like to get some cocoa balls though and try the authentic way.

If you’d like to make this, the recipe I used is from Coriander and Lace.

Final Thoughts

I wish I could have found breadfruit this week! But otherwise, everything went pretty well. The fry bakes were my favorite dish.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Guatemala.

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