Entering a world of culinary delights

With cooking and baking shows galore like #Masterchef and #thegreatbritishbakeoff there are very few people I’ve met in my lifetime that don’t enjoy good food. I maintain that food is there to be appreciated. Right?!

So in a series of 4 blog posts I invite you to join me on a culinary adventure of exciting flavours and combinations of food and drinks you can experience on this paradisical island.

With the Grenada Chocolatefest less than one month away (starting May 11th and definitely worth a visit) I wanted to dedicate this blog to the amazing produce and fish I’ve discovered here so far.

So what would you have to look forward to when you land in Grenada?

There is literally something here for everyone whether you are vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, pollotarian or you just love your meat. No need to feel left out….

The island is a volcanic island which means its soil is rich in minerals. Add some rain and a moist but warm climate and you have the right ingredients for mangos, papaya, soursop, avocados, bananas, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, bay leaf and much more.

I have comes across some ‘interesting’ looking fruit and vegetables. Check out this soursop (a fruit) given to my mum last week…

The island, also called Spice Isle or Island of Spice, is famous for its nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric, pimento, bay leaf, ginger, cashews and cloves. Imagining the aromas already? Well I promise you take a trip to the market in St George’s and you will feel hypnotised by these amazing whiffs of spices. They are used in numerous dishes, teas and cocktails here on the island.

Here was a picture I took at the nutmeg factory in Gouyave for example. I never knew that the smell of nutmeg could be so hypnotising.

Most of us usually just know nutmeg to be the thing you grate over a rum punch, use in your lasagna, in cakes or eggnog for example.

Interestingly the nutmeg doesn’t just consist of the actual nut but is also covered in mace, a reddish seed covering the nutmeg seed. Mace is often used in seasoning meat or fish for example, pickling or preserving food.

For your medicine cabinet – nutmeg oil. Comes generally in a spray or cream and helps with muscular pain, bruises and arthritis. You can buy it at the pharmacy, on the market or in souvenir shops on the island.

Almost every souvenir shop will sell a combination of these spices but my recommendation is to go to the market for the freshest spices or better yet get to know the locals. Many grow these in their gardens.

Every spice seems to have health benefits so make sure you stock up for when it’s time to leave this beautiful island. Avocado leaves help lower blood pressure for example; soursop leaves are anti-cancerous and there is even a grass like plant that helps to get rid of kidney stones. A natural and free pharmacy….

Tip: try adding cinnamon sticks or bay leaves to hot water and leave to brew for around 5 minutes. Simple but taste amazing and help with lowering blood pressure.

A friend introduced us to a variety of amazing spices and produce including cocoa and ginger recently when touring the island. Inspiring, I must admit – where is my chef apron….

So you’re perusing round the market with the sweet sound of reggae and the locals lively conversations in the background – what else would you find?

One of my favourite green leafy vegetables is callaloo. Generally only available in a tin here in London but in the Caribbean one of the most delicious and nutritious five a day. Great for soup, fritters and much more. The taste is similar to spinach – the only way I can describe it. Watch out for some recipes in my next blog post.

Just how good is callaloo for you? It contains 4 times the amount of calcium found in broccoli and twice the amount of iron. It is rich in Vitamin C, A and B vitamins to give you a healthy immune system boost, a good mood and energy.

And here is what callaloo looks like in a garden…

Apart from coconuts you’ll meet plenty of other fruits depending on the season like bananas, papayas and in season currently around April grapefruits, oranges, tamarind, waxed apple, five fingers (also known as star fruit) and soursop.

You can enjoy these fruits in fruit salads, fresh juices and even ice creams. This tamarind sorbet for example was a fab palate cleanser…

All I can say, my island loving ohana, is that these are a refreshing change from the average juices you end up getting in the supermarket or that corner shop down the road. They are fresh and organic…so in addition to a holiday for your mind it’s also a healthy escape for your body. Sweet!!!

You’ll come across the term ‘provisions’ accompanied with fish or meat when eating out in the Caribbean. So what are they? You’ll often be served a selection breadfruit, yams, tania, green banana, plantain and dasheen. Most likely not all together. You’d be full after a few mouthfuls as they are starchy.

I must say though that these provisions are a welcome change to having potatoes and carrots with your beef or chicken for example.

One of my favourite provisions is the breadfruit. You can roast it, fry it, boil it, eat it as breadfruit chips (or fries for my American friends), have it with salt fish, in salads or as a soup.

The nicest breadfruit soup I had on the island was in Savvy’s at Mount Cinnamon. A place you simply must pop into.

The other provision is the christophine. Remember I said some vegetables look ”interesting’? Well get ready for this vegetable, from the gourd family along with melons, cucumbers and squash it is high in vitamin C. Not usually displayed with eyes and a nose I must say but hey…

The taste reminds me of courgettes and squash. So the way I love to eat this vegetable is either steamed or as a gratîn. Add some hot pepper sauce and ooohhhh baby – delicious!

I could go on for ages just on produce but don’t want to leave out all you seafood lovers.

Surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean the array of seafood to sample is exciting – Mahi Mahi (my favourite), barracuda, tuna, red snapper, lobster, crab, conch, crayfish, kingfish just to mention a few.

Cruising along the east coast of the island I was fascinated by the whole concept of fishing. Spot some fisherman trying to drag the fish in their nets to shore, lend them a helping hand and you’re guaranteed free fish most times. Nice!! You’ll often spot them preparing their catch of the day for fish markets, selling to restaurants and hotels.

Whether you like your fish steamed, fried, grilled, curried, in a roti or bbq’d – as a fish lover you’ll be hypnotised by the amazing variety here.

In the spirit of exploring new things the conch should be on your list. You’ll come across the large sea shells all over the island whether snorkelling, diving or even just as decoration on the roadside. Conchs host a type of large snail.

To entice the snail to come out the fisherman bore a small hole in the shell and then knock it against a hard surface – aka knock knock out you come kind of thing. Conch can then be curried or fried, served as fritters or a fish stew and much more. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea … but don’t knock it before you’ve tried it is my recommendation.

Whether you like your fish steamed, fried, grilled, bbq’d or in a stew – you’ll find every possible combination here. Tinned fish is just not an option I would encourage here. Fresh is best!

The best seafood dishes I’ve had on the island so far have still been at the Sel and Poivre restaurant at Secret Harbour and Beach Club at Calabash. But I’m getting ahead of myself. These are for the next posts to come.

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