This month, we got to travel to the cuisine of the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Antigua and Barbuda is a country consisting of multiple islands within the Leeward Islands. The island of Antigua and the island of Barbuda are the two major islands of this country. These islands were ruled predominantly by the British until 1981, when they gained independence. 2017 was a major year for Antigua and Barbuda due to the destructive path of the class 5 Hurricane Irma, which left the beautiful Barbuda evacuated, with 90-95% of its buildings and infrastructure destroyed and uninhabitable. Even now in November, it is deemed uninhabitable.
Amidst this incredible tragedy, we got to prepare a traditional meal from this beautiful and resilient country with our local friend, Matt. This was a good touchstone for us to further research this country’s history, current events and food. But, on to the main purpose of this blog. While the cuisine has British influence, it is highly shaped by the sea and ocean that surround the islands. We chose to make a salted codfish meal (or, “chop-up” according to the island locals) served with cooked spinach and a side of Ducana, which is one of Antigua’s famous local dishes.
The salted cod came in a wooden box, and needed to be boiled in multiple baths to re-hydrate it and rinse some of the salt out that had preserved the meat. So, as we cooked the spinach and worked on the Ducana, we kept emptying the simmering water and placing the cod in a new bath of water. As Matt and Jen worked on this, Aaron chopped peppers, onions, and garlic. Once the cod was a bearable saltiness, we broke it up into small flakes, and fried it. We also fried the chopped vegetables until they were translucent. Then, we added tomato sauce, vinegar, and the fish to the vegetables, and left to simmer on the stove until everything was ready.
Aaron was the master of the Ducana: a sweet-potato side. He blended raw sweet potato and sweetened coconut flakes in a food processor, then added water, sugar, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, vanilla extract, raisins and flour to the mixture. We had a big pot of water boiling on the stove to have it ready when we were finished mixing the ingredients. Ducana is usually boiled in banana leaves, but the recipe we were following said that boiling it in tin foil also works. So, we scooped the Ducana mixture onto tin foil, and folded the edges tight. We put them all in the boiling water and let them boil for 20-30 minutes. We then carefully removed them from the water and opened the ones we were going to eat.
Salted Codfish Meal: 7/10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦◊◊◊
Ducana: 7/10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦◊◊◊
- The flavors of the cod meal blended well, but we should have washed the cod a few more times (still too salty)
- Cooked spinach as a side is a must-have. It adds color and mellows out the salty fish and acidic tomato sauce.
- The Ducana added a wonderful sweet balance to the saltiness of the meal. On its own, it was very sweet and slightly pasty. The raisins added a good chewy texture amidst it.
- All three of us said that we loved the meal.
- simmer, simmer, and re-simmer salted fish! The salt is strong with these ones!
- some of the Ducana stuck to the foil, and some came out in perfectly shaped pockets. Water in the foil might have been the difference.
- Spinach cooks down a lot. Buy and prepare more than we think we will need.
Time spent preparing everything: 1 1/2 hours
Notes on the recipe: Thank you Melinda and Justin for bringing this delicious recipe back with you from Antigua! The couple who made this meal could not find a kosher salted fish, so they made their own. We were not looking for only kosher food, so we simply bought a salted cod from a local grocery store.
Notes on the order of these blogs: This is from November, after Angola. We accidentally uploaded Argentina (our December meal) before Antigua and Barbuda.
Make sure to join us next month for Armenia!