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Guest chef - Luis Manuel Batlle

The Poop Deck at Sandyport

Guest chef - Luis Manuel Batlle
The Poop Deck at Sandyport

Bahamian food with an authentic Spanish flair is headlining the menu at The Poop Deck at Sandyport, courtesy of Chef Luis Manuel Batlle.

Chef Luis perfected his craft in his hometown, working first at the famous, Restaurant Hofmann in Barcelona.

In 1992 the young chef found himself cooking for royalty when he worked behind the scenes at the 1992 World Expo held in Seville.

“I cooked for ten kings but I was not nervous,” he says. “The only problem was (getting past) all the security guards.”

From this auspicious start, Chef Luis took his expertise all over the world–cooking in Mexico, the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. Before joining the team at The Poop Deck West, he spent two years working on Roatan island in Honduras.

The chef arrived at the Sandyport restaurant in March 2011, introducing patrons to the bold flavours of Mediterranean cuisine, but with a Bahamian twist.

“We are 50 per cent Bahamian and 50 per cent Mediterranean,” he says. “People love it, they are surprised by the flavours. Our food has a lot of character.”

Key for Chef Luis is the quality of the ingredients, especially when it comes to seafood. “Here I buy from the fishermen and the fish is fresh because five hours ago it was in the sea. I have never had fish as fresh as it is here–when I buy conch it is still moving. The flavour is perfect.”

One of the most popular new dishes that makes good use of Bahamian seafood is the Thunderball paella, which includes local lobster, grouper, conch, stone crab and coconut. Named for the first James Bond film to be shot in The Bahamas, the dish is a tribute to Sean Connery and, according to Batlle, it is one of the actor’s favourite items on the menu.

“When I first came to The Bahamas, I told my mother I would be cooking for James Bond within a year. It took me three months,” he laughs.

And it is not just celebrities that get the VIP treatment, every customer is important to Chef Luis, who says it is their feedback that inspires him. “I make food for other people, the most important thing is that they are happy with it.” Here are some of Chef Luis’s creations you can try at home.

Conch fusion
One fresh conch, cleaned
1/2 white onion,
1/2 bell pepper,
1/2 medium tomato,
Juice of two limes
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 thin strips of fresh mango

2 slices pickled ginger
1 tbsp wasabi

Clean one medium size conch. Cut into long, 1⁄4 in-thick strips. Remove the seeds and pulp from tomato and julienne. Remove seeds from bell pepper and julienne. Julienne onion. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Garnish with ginger and wasabi and serve immediately. Serves one.

Thunderball paella
3 lbs grouper
1 lobster tail
12 stone crab claws
12 oz fresh conch, cubed small
1/2 pound squid, sliced into uniform rings
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 med tomatoes, diced
1 lb pound pearl rice*
4 to 6 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp coconut milk
Virgin olive oil
*Bomba, arborio or carnaroli rice may be substituted.

When cooking paella, it’s important to maintain an even heat. Ideally, paella is cooked on a charcoal barbecue grill in a paella pan. If a household range is used, use a smaller pan and scale down the ingredients for fewer servings.

Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Sauté onions and tomatoes until the onions become translucent. Add more oil if ingredients begin to stick. Add lobster and fish and stir continuously for about 15 mins. Add squid and continue stirring. The squid should still be slightly undercooked as you add rice in the form of a cross on top of the ingredients. Stir rice thoroughly (approx 2-3 mins) so that ingredients are evenly distributed.

In a bowl, mix coconut milk with chicken broth. Pour this slowly into the paella pan until ingredients are evenly distributed with the rice. Place stone crab claws around the outside of the pan. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked. Additional broth may be added if rice becomes dry. Remove paella from heat. Add conch and cover with foil. Wait five to 10 mins before serving with lemon wedges. Serves approx 10.

Shrimp al ajillo
12 oz shrimp, cleaned and deveined
8 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tbsp olive oil
1 chilli pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 lemon wedge
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

In Spanish, “al ajillo” means “seasoned with garlic.” In a heavy frying pan, saute garlic over medium heat in olive oil until lightly browned. Add chilli and salt and simmer for another minute. Add shrimp and stir constantly until the shrimp become pink. Do not overcook. Garnish with parsley and lemon and serve immediately.



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