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A Bahamian dinner party


A Bahamian dinner party

Tropical treats back home

Unless you live in the tropics, you?re not likely to find conch in your local supermarket.

This is a bit of a drawback if you want to prepare an authentic Bahamian dinner for your friends back home. Conch, the monopod mollusc in a spiral shell, is the nation?s favourite food.

Enjoy it while you?re here, in any of the myriad ways it is prepared in Bahamian restaurants: scored with a sharp knife and consumed raw with lime (that?s scorch?); beaten, battered and deep fried (crack?); in a savoury roux (stew?); as fritters; in soups and souses and ? most famously ? cut up into a lime-and-sour-orange-flavoured salad with diced tomatoes, onion and sweet peppers.

You can take home up to 10 lbs of conch to whip up a simple conch salad for your next dinner party, but there are plenty of other Bahamian dishes, with easy-to-find ingredients. After all, Bahamians eat the same foods as other folks: beef, pork, chicken, fish (lots of chicken and fish), rice, vegetables and pasta. The difference is all in the preparation.

An old favourite

Macaroni and cheese is a case in point. Bahamians eat lots of it but they like it solid rather than soupy and they consume cut squares of it as a side dish. There are many variations, some highly spiced. Some of the best macaroni and cheese on the island can be found at Café Johnny Canoe, and Travellers? Rest. For a standard Bahamian recipe.

Macaroni and cheese
(serves 12)
16 oz macaroni
1 lb of yellow cheese, grated
1?2 lb of butter
141?2 oz can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 small onion, chopped
1?2 sweet pepper, chopped
Salt and hot pepper to taste

Boil macaroni in salted water and drain. Add butter and most of cheese.

Beat eggs and fold into macaroni with milk, onion and sweet pepper. Add salt and hot pepper to taste. Transfer into a buttered 9x13-in baking pan, sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350ºF until golden brown. Cut into squares and serve, hot or cold.

Bahamian staple

Another much loved side dish is peas and rice ? said as one word: ?peas ?n rice? ? but it?s much different than the white rice and green peas North Americans are used to.

Bahamian peas ?n rice
(serves 4-6)
1 can pigeon peas
11?2 cups rice
1?2 small ripe tomato, chopped
1?2 green or red sweet pepper, chopped
1 med onion, diced
1?2 cup tomato paste
2 slices bacon or salt pork, diced
2 tsp fresh thyme

Fry bacon or salt pork in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid.

Add onion, pepper, tomato, tomato paste and thyme. Add peas with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover and cook on low until rice is tender, about 30 mins.

Tropical drinks

What?s a dinner party without cocktails? A daiquiri is thought to be the most popular rum drink in the Caribbean but the piña colada is surely a close contender; certainly, it captures the essence of the tropics. This recipe is courtesy of Bacardi.

Pina colada
3 parts Bacardi Carta Blanca rum
1 part pineapple juice
1 part coconut pulp
Mix in a blender with ice, pour into a chilled cocktail glass and decorate with pineapple cubes and a cherry.

Another festive drink is the yellow bird, which has the look, as well as the taste, of the tropics. This one is served at East Villa, a popular Chinese restaurant frequented by both visitors and Bahamians.

Yellow bird
11?2 oz Bacardi light rum
1?2 oz banana liqueur
1?2 oz Galliano
1?2 oz sour mix
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz orange juice
Shake with ice

If you want something really fancy, nothing is showier than a Miami Vice; part piña colada, part daiquiri and all Bahamian. Twin Brothers, a popular restaurant at the Fish Fry (Arawak Cay) on West Bay St usually serves this drink as a ?virgin? but it can easily be spiked with rum. The two parts can be prepared beforehand and combined when served.

Miami Vice
(for the piña colada)
1 part sweetened condensed milk
1 part coconut milk
3 parts white rum (optional)
(for the strawberry daiquiri)
1 part strawberry syrup
3 parts light rum (optional)

Blend both parts separately with ice until smooth. Fill a stemmed cocktail glass with the white piña colada mixture and then add the strawberry daiquiri mixture on top. Decorate with a maraschino cherry.

A shrimp dinner

Bahamians love seafood, especially shrimp, and they?ve found ways to Bahamianize the crustaceans by adding the taste of coconut. This easy recipe is courtesy of Ivadell Ferguson, chef at Crocodile?s Waterfront Bar & Grill on East Bay St.

Coconut fried shrimp
(serves 2)
20 large shrimp, tail on
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup coconut milk
1?2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup coconut flakes
1?2 cup flour

Combine coconut milk and eggs.

Combine coconut flakes and bread crumbs.

Clean and wash shrimp, dredge in flour. Immerse shrimp in egg wash and coat with bread crumbs and coconut flakes.

Deep fry until golden brown.

Serve with a dip made of orange marmalade thinned with fresh orange juice. Serve with peas ?n rice.

Bahamian lobsters (crawfish) have a wonderful firm texture and a delicious flavour, quite different from Maine or Atlantic lobster. However, you could easily substitute an Atlantic lobster tail in this easy-to-do recipe, courtesy of the upscale Blue Lagoon Seafood Restaurant & Grill Terrace at Club Land?Or on Paradise Island.

Broiled lobster tail
(serves 1)
10-12 oz lobster tail, butterflied
Salt and white pepper
1 oz melted butter
1?2 oz lemon juice
Season lobster with salt, white pepper and paprika. Broil 8-10 mins. Serve with butter and lemon juice.

A favourite dessert

Bahamians? favourite dessert is unquestionably guava duff, closely followed by coconut ice cream, says Eloy Roldan, co-owner of The Poop Deck Restaurants, one on East Bay St and one on West Bay St.

Guava duff is made with fresh or frozen guava, a pale green fruit with pink juicy flesh that grows throughout the topics. This duff recipe is made at The Shoal, a popular Bahamian restaurant on Nassau St, courtesy of owner Ruth Glinton.

Guava duff
1?2 cup butter
1?2 cup sugar
3?4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 doz guavas, fresh or frozen

1 lb butter
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1?2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp rum
1?4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Blend all ingredients until smooth

Peel, seed and boil guavas. Cool and dice.

Mix butter and sugar, add eggs and beat thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder, add milk and knead dough. Roll dough until it is flat, place diced guava on the dough, roll up in a linen cloth and tie both ends. Boil for two hours.

Cut in slices, add sauce and serve.

Guava duff is a bit difficult to bring off perfectly the first time. Another desert, equally delicious and Bahamian but easier to make, is a Bacardi Rum Cake, courtesy of Nassau?s Purity Bakery Ltd.

Bacardi Rum Cake
1 Bacardi Rum Cake in a tin

Buy tin in Nassau, open at home and serve. Your guests will love it and nobody will ever know.


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