Week 15: Barbados

Barbados is forever connected to rum — they've been making it there for over three hundred years, probably for nearly as long as it was a British sugar plantation colony. So because given this was our third Caribbean meal, and perhaps because the previous two countries were Muslim, I focused a bit more on the drinking side of things, making two drinks from scratch that are classically Bajan (BAH-zhun, the colloquial term for Barbadian).

Our guests tonight were Elly, her visiting friend Tasha, Alexis, Dan, and Raven. To shop for this meal I took advantage of the unseasonably mild weather to bike out to the southern end of Crown Heights, to a fish store and a produce shop.

Falernum | Recipe

This mildly alcoholic sweet liqueur, pronounced fah-LEARN-um, is a rum infusion of cloves, lime peels, garlic, almond extract, lime juice, and lots of sugar. It's got a really nice and complex aroma, and help prove that rum doesn't have to be mixed exclusively with fruit juices — for example, try the basic rum swizzle.

Ginger beer | Recipe

Really simple and with a big payoff. It's just about as simple as mixing grated ginger with yeast and a few other things, and letting it sit for a few days. The result is precisely that crisp and lightly spicy and sweet taste you expect from those fancy ginger beers. I made this one in the fridge with a loose lid, so it wasn't bubbly; next time I'll try a recipe that's made sealed in a bottle to preserve the combination. And there will be a next time.

Fried flying fish | Recipe

So, I had to cheat. I biked all the way out to Crown Heights to a fish market down the street from a Bajan restaurant, and they didn't have flying fish. Turns out that this national fish of Barbados just doesn't travel well. So I used cod instead. It was nice enough (when isn't fried fish a good thing?) although somehow my breading didn't stay on, and it's also hard to really get the feel of a simply prepared fish if it's not the right fish. Note for the future to perhaps err on the side of a meat if I can't get the right fish. Have to say, though, that with the homemade hot sauce, it certainly had plenty of flavor.

Cou-cou | Recipe

Remember the funje from Angola? Well, this is pretty much the same mush dish, but with corn instead of cassava flour, plus a bit of okra. Thick enough to stand a spoon in.

Macaroni pie | Recipe

Some forums I came across discussed how cheddar cheese just didn't quite replicate the right taste from the Caribbean, so I was thrilled to find cheese from nearby Trinidad at the market. This isn't a standard macaroni and cheese; yes, it's got elbow pasta and grated cheese, but also onions and bell peppers and mustard and a blend of seasonings from cloves to paprika. I made a big batch and it was all gone!

Conkies | Recipe

This dish is so similar to the ducana from Antigua and Barbuda that I meant to skip it in favor of some other dessert, but two things swayed me. One, there were like no veggies in the main dish so the sweet potato and pumpkin in this dish helps a bit. And two, conkies are the traditional dish for Barbadian Independence Day on November 30, and since we're so close to that day, I just had to. Now, I'm not very dextrous with precision work, so I'm glad that Elly, Dan and Raven pitched in to take the sweetened and spiced batter of shredded veggies and coconut and carefully wrap it into banana-leaf bundles. I'm glad we made these: they were more tender and subtle than the last ones!

The drinks were flowing, the Rihanna was blasting (did you know she's from Barbados?), and the apartment was warm enough to evoke a Caribbean evening.

Our next stop around the world is Belarus, and we're taking it on the road to San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend.