Sunday, July 22, 2012

THE BAHAMAS: THE FOOD

I actually started these recipes on Friday night with a popular Bahamian drink called Sky Juice. Sky Juice starts out with gin (I used Bombay Sapphire at the recommendation of my husband), add some sweetened condensed milk and some coconut water. I actually used Sobe Pacific Coconut with coconut water. It's a little stronger than regular coconut water. I loved this drink so much, I drank 2 glasses on Friday and 3 glasses on Saturday night. I was a little curious as to why they used gin instead of rum which is so prevalent in the Caribbean. But if you look at where most gin is manufactured, it's in England, Ireland, Scotland, other northern European countries, the US, etc. So, it makes sense seeing how the British controlled the Bahamas for so long that they would have grown a taste for and had access to gin.


I started today off with the bread, a Bahamian coconut bread. I actually made my own coconut milk by pouring boiling water onto sweetened coconut flakes. It called for yeast, but it never really rose very much at all. I did stray from the recipe in the fact that I threw the coconut flakes into the dough (I certainly didn't want them to go to waste), and I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to it. I put it in the loaf pan and let it sit a little more before putting it into the oven for 45 minutes. It looks beautiful, and the taste is spectacular. The outside is hard and crusty, while the inside is soft and warm with hints of vanilla and coconut. It would pair well with a dark roast cup of coffee, a Coast Rican or Sumatra perhaps, or even a smoother kona blend.


Next came the peas and rice. The peas used aren't the green sweet peas most people think of. These were pigeon peas, sometimes substituted with the more common black-eyed pea. It's then mixed with bacon, onions, celery, tomatoes, and rice, and then it's boiled down until all the liquid is absorbed. It was so good. The little bit of allspice really brought out the subtleties of all the flavors: like the sweet-savory dichotomy we had when we did Algerian food.

Now we come to the main dish: chicken souse. The chicken is first washed in vinegar and boiled. Then it's rinsed in cool water (not the cologne) and lemon juice. It's put back in a pot of water along with onions, celery, limes, lemon juice, a little salt and pepper and it's all boiled together. Carrots and potatoes are added later.

I served the chicken souse on top of a bed of peas and rice. The chicken was so tender, it fell right off the bone; the acidity of the limes mixed in with the hearty comfort food feel of the peas and rice. While there weren't many actual spices used (I had to fight myself not to add cumin, turmeric, or cayenne pepper), the boiling of everything together in one pot creates its own flavor. They use ingredients that have strong flavors in order to extract those upon boiling. This meal used simple ingredients (I went on a scavenger hunt in Meijer to find the pigeon peas, though. It was in the Hispanic section), but it was certainly a meal that would be a welcome sight after a hard day's work.


Up next: Bahrain

2 comments:

  1. What a nice blog! I am so impressed you took the time to make these dishes. One note however, here in the Bahamas we do not put souse over peas and rice. We serve it as a soup and serve it with a bread similar to what you made called Johnny Cake.

    Good job on the Sky Juice as well. You are right about our exposure to Gin, henceforth, I recommend the next time you make it to use Gordon's, Gilbey's or Beefeater Gin! Add a dash of nutmeg too and make it a bit thick to serve over lots of ice.

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