Last week, it was all about “dropping knowledge” when we shared important tips about how to perfect your culinary skills. This week, we focus on a dish that many Barbadians love, yet it is one that people shy away from cooking. Our national dish, Cornmeal Cou-Cou.
Many people say that Cornmeal Cou-Cou is difficult to prepare because they do not understand how the cornmeal reacts to the other ingredients with which it is combined to form the Cou-Cou. If attention is paid to the following points, we are sure that cooking cou-cou will no longer be a mystery and before long, you will perfect the art of preparing Cornmeal Cou-Cou that is mellow and tasty.
Cornmeal, as a starch, cooks by absorption. Soaking it first causes each grain to take in moisture individually. This avoids the stickiness that lets grains attract in a ball, forming lumps. The heating process leads to complete saturation, eventually causing the grains to explode, giving it that mellowness of texture and flavour that makes everyone ask for more.
Flavouring the okra liquid with herbs and spices before adding it to the cornmeal in layers allows more flavour to be absorbed by the cornmeal. Of course, Cou-Cou is best accompanied by a dish that has lots of sauce or gravy, so in addition to our Cou-Cou recipe, we’ll also share one for Frizzled Salt Fish with Zesty Tomato Sauce.
1 lb Corn Meal
16 ozs cold water
8 ozs okras
32 ozs water
1 tsp salt
2 ozs chopped onions
1/2 tsp chopped herbs
2 ozs butter/ margarine
1. Soak cornmeal in 16 ozs of cold water for five minutes
2. Combine okras, salt, onions, garlic, herbs and 32 ozs of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil
3. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes
4. Strain off okras and hold
5. Place the soaked cornmeal and half of the okra liquid in a thick-bottomed saucepan, over a low flame
6. Stir constantly with a whisk
7. Add the remaining okra liquid in stages
8. Continue to stir and allow to steam until cornmeal is totally cooked
9. Add okra and butter/ margarine, mix well and serve with your favourite sauce
Frizzled Salt Fish w/ Zesty Tomato Sauce
8 ozs salted cod
2 ozs olive oil
1 medium green pepper, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
2 medium tomatoes, small dice
1 oz fresh herbs, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tsp sugar
2 ozs water
1 oz butter
Pepper to taste
Salt if required
1. In a skillet, heat 1 oz of olive oil, add salt fish and cook until crisp; season with pepper and set aside.
2. In the same pan, place remaining olive oil and sauté onions, tomatoes, green peppers and fresh herbs.
3. Deglaze with white wine, add tomato ketchup and sugar; season with black pepper.
4. Let simmer for 5 minutes, add 2 ozs water to adjust consistency as needed.
5. Finish with butter/ margarine.
6. Serve Cou-Cou in a bowl with a generous portion of grizzled salt fish and top with sauce.
Extract taken from Caribbean Cuizine Magazine 2006 Volume 1.
(Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)