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Guest Chef - Montagu Gardens


Guest chef
Virginia Forbes at Montagu Gardens

For Chef Virginia Forbes, cooking is a family affair. The head chef at Montagu Gardens on East Bay St learned her skills the old-fashioned way—by watching her mother in the kitchen

This source of inspiration, together with Forbes’ own initial experiments in the kitchen preparing meals for her seven siblings, gave her a thorough grounding in preparing native Bahamian food.

“My mother was always cooking,” she says, “and so was I. I had to cook all the time, because I had a lot of brothers and sisters.”

Even though cooking was just another household chore when she was younger, Forbes loved being creative in the kitchen and found that the skills came naturally after years of providing meals for her family. When she left home at age 16, Forbes was determined to make a living using these skills.

Working her way up
Forbes started at the bottom and worked her way up the ranks from kitchen helper at the Parliament Terrace restaurant in 1978. Within a year, she was promoted to chef. She spent three years at Parliament Terrace before moving on to the Holiday Inn in Nassau, where she spent another two years honing her craft in a large, busy restaurant.

Then, after five years of training in high-functioning kitchens, Forbes took a break to team up with her brothers and sisters in the family catering business.

That allowed Forbes to use her expertise in a relaxed setting and work again in a family environment. Eventually though, she was lured back to being senior chef at Montagu Gardens, where she describes the culinary style as “native and
American cooking.”

Montagu has a varied menu, with Bahamian favourites such as conch chowder and cracked crawfish alongside pasta dishes and traditional American fare such as New York strip steaks and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. When it comes to her personal preferences, however, Forbes prefers to be creative with seafood and turn out dishes such as her unique Three Stuffed Grouper—that is, with a mixture that includes crab, lobster and shrimp.

“My favourite meals to cook are fish dishes,” she says. “You can do almost anything with fish, and they are the fastest to prepare.” Other fish dishes at Montagu include blackened grouper, a seafood medley and grilled snapper.

To help you recreate the Montagu Gardens dining experience at home, Forbes shares the following recipes:

Three stuffed grouper in white sauce
White sauce
3 tsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup white wine
1 clove garlic
Pinch of salt and pepper
Cornstarch to thicken

Melt the butter in a pan and slowly fry the chopped garlic. Once the garlic is cooked, add the cream, wine, salt and pepper. Stir the mixture gently, then warm it gradually over low heat. To thicken, add cornstarch in small amounts until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Set aside.

1 medium-sized grouper fillet (9 oz)
1 cup shrimp
1 cup crab meat
1 cup lobster meat
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups bread crumbs
1 egg
Pinch salt and pepper
1⁄2 cup white sauce

Gently fry the diced onion, green pepper, celery stalks, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper together. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and mix with the bread crumbs. Add the egg and bread crumb mixture to the fried vegetables along with the shrimp, crab meat and lobster. Continue to fry slowly until the stuffing is golden brown, then remove from heat.

Lightly tenderize the grouper before layering it with the browned stuffing mix. Roll the fish securely around the stuffing and grill over medium heat until cooked through. Cover with the white sauce and serve. Serves two.

Calypso grouper with salsa

1 small tomato
1 small onion
1 green pepper
Dash white wine
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt and pepper

Dice the tomato, onion and green pepper into bite-size chunks, drizzle with the white wine and add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

1 medium-sized grouper fillet (9 oz)
1 egg
1 lime
Pinch salt and pepper

Prepare the grouper by basting it in lime juice and a beaten egg. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and fry until golden brown. Garnish with the pre-made salsa and serve.

Guava duff
2 cups all-purpose four
2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 cup white sugar
1⁄2 cup evaporated milk
1 can chopped guava
1⁄2 cup water

Blend the flour with the sugar, gradually adding the water and cream to produce a smooth dough. Add the baking powder before kneading the mixture and rolling it flat. Sprinkle the guava chunks onto the dough and then roll it into a loaf. Wrap the loaf in foil and place in a pan with a small amount of water (about a quarter of the pan). Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Cut in slices and cover with sauce.

2 cans guava, finely chopped
4 cups milk
2 cups butter
6 eggs
11⁄2 cups white sugar
1 tsp salt

Beat the eggs into the sugar until they make a paste. Then add the salt, milk and butter. Mix well. Lastly, add the chopped guava pieces and heat slowly until the mixture forms a thick sauce.


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