Callaloo is part of what is known as “creole food” in Trinidad, among other foods served by the descendants of those African slaves, including macaroni pie and pelau (rice with pigeon peas). It’s eaten alongside these other foods, served with rice.
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Callaloo, despite its humble origins, is as smooth as a French bisque. True callaloo uses taro leaves, which are carried by some Asian markets. If unavailable, whole leaf spinach makes a good substitute. The salt pork and crab add depth of flavor but can be omitted to make a vegan version of this stew.
1 pound taro leaves (about 12 leaves, stripped from tough stem), roughly chopped
8 okra, diced
4 chives or two green onions, minced
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stem removed
2 tbsp butter
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (2 cans)
salt to taste
Optional: 1/4-pound salt pork, and/or 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
Accompaniment: steamed rice (in the Caribbean, parboiled rice such as Uncle Ben’s is typical) or roti
1. Melt butter in a stock pot and then add all vegetables. Saute until onions are fragrant and translucent.
2. Add broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil.
3. If using salt pork, add now.
4. Simmer for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are very soft.
5. Puree with an immersion blender or in a standard blender. (Remove salt pork first, if used.)
6. Return puree to pot. Add salt to taste.
7. If using crab, add to soup and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes until crabmeat is cooked.
8. Serve over hot rice.
Film trivia: Bhaji, the Trinidadian name for spinach, is also part of the title of “Bhaji on the Beach” (1993), the first film by Gurinder Chadha, who later brought us “Bend It Like Beckham.”
A version of this post was published February 28, 2011 on Salon.
This is basically Trinidadian mac and cheese, baked into a casserole and sliced so that you could eat it by hand, if you wanted. In Trindad, one way to enoy callaloo is to use it as a gravy on top of a slice of macaroni pie. For fanciness for the Spicebox Supperclub, we’ve inverted the ratio so and used a small slice of macaroni pie as a garnish in a bowl of callaloo.
1 tsp salt
1 pound macaroni—in Trinidad this long type of macaroni is used, but you can substitue elbow macaroni if you can’t find it. We’ve found it imported from Mexico and Italian bucatini is similar.
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 egg, beaten (2?)
4 oz grated cheddar, plus another 4 oz for topping. Cheddar is the most widely available cheese in Trinidad, and when Peter was growing up , the only one. For the right taste, use Irish cheddar, preferably Kerrygold, which is now widely available here, including at Trader Joe’s and Costco.
- preheat oven to 375. Butter an 8 inch square dish and set aside
- Brig a lg pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and rnse with cool wter.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat, then add the flour and cook , to form a roux until very light brown, about 1 minut.e Tne whisk in the milk, add salt and peper to taste. Simmer until thickened. Let cook slightly, then slowly whisk in the beaten egg.
- Put the cooked macaroni into the prepared pan and pour the sauce over it. Mix well. Then put additional cheese on top and bake for 40 minutes, until top is light brown and bubbly.
Thanks for coming by! This is the 5th post in our series on our Trinidadian-themed meal. Come back next week for the next course! It involves the spirit of Anya Ayoung-Chee, from Project Runway. Intrigued?