The national dish of Barbados is Cou-Cou and Flying Fish. To make an authentic Bajan version of cou-cou, one must have corn flour, okra and an implement called a cou-cou stick (the wood stick also doubled as a corrective instrument when we were naughty kids 😂). Besides flying fish, cou-cou can be paired with other fish or meats that meets the eater’s palate. Some folk would swear that the choice of meat and gravy is what makes the dish so appetizing, but that is subjective and left up to the diner’s preference. Even though the staple ingredient is course or finely ground corn flour, other ingredients such as cheese, butter, milk, etc. may be added to enhance the flavor and consistency.
The corn flour meal is known by different names in other places around the world. In some of the Caribbean islands it is fungi, in others it’s called tun cornmeal, in USA and Canada it’s grits, and as far away as Italy it is called polenta. In all these countries the variations exhibit a consistency quite different to each other when cooked that may be either firm, soft or runny .
Today we cooked cou-cou with salted codfish gravy. View the ingredients below.
Want to try your hand at making the dish? Follow the simple recipe below:
- 1 pound of finely ground corn flour
- 12 or more medium sized okras
- Large onion
Cut off the tops and tips of the okras and slice okra into rings. Place okras, salt and onion in a large saucepan of boiling water. Cook okras until soft and tender, and until water has a slime.
Strain the okra from the slimy liquid and put in a separate bowl.
Pour half of the remaining liquid into another bowl and leave the balance in the saucepan.
On a medium to low fire, add in the dry corn flour into the liquid that was left in the saucepan. Use the cou-cou stick to stir the corn flour in a circular motion to avoid lumps. At intervals, gradually add in small amounts of the slimy liquid from the bowl, stirring continuously to allow the corn flour to steam and cook.
Once corn flour is cooked it will become thicker and stiffer. Gradually add in the okra to give the cooked corn flour a mellow smooth texture.
Mom’s test for well-cooked cou-cou: Place the stick in the center of the cou-cou. Stick should stand upright to show stiffness. Pull stick from cou-cou. The stick should come away clean, not with clinging clumps. If the stick falls when you put it to stand upright and does not come out clean, then it means the mixture still has too much water and needs more steaming.
Cou-cou is most enjoyable with lots of gravy. The gravy may be seasoned to suit your specific taste. Try this tasty dish, you won’t be disappointed.
Community Peeps, now that I am enjoying life in the land of the sand, sea and sun, I also want to share with you snippets of the Bajan culture from time to time that will help you become familiar with my island home. 2020 is around the corner and now would be a good time to plan a bespoke vacation to the shores of Bimshire, if you haven’t already. Any questions? Let me know in the comment box below and I’ll gladly assist with your itinerary.
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