in the Islands
Calaloo, Strange Calaloo
Mysterious curious roux
Try as you might to avoid the hoodoo
Sooner of later we're all in the stew
We got Crab and pigtail
Squid ink and fish scale
Okra and daheen leaves
Chitchat and chatter
Fill up the platter
With a garnish of pure make believe
--Jimmy Buffet, "Callaloo" from
Don't Stop the Carnival
(see this YouTube
Start by getting a bunch
of stuff all spread out and get everyone involved cutting
and chopping and making suggestions-- a recipe of
recipes. Condense these into the pot. It's ok to add
things later. But never boil twice. Just simmer and
Teaching to cook callaloo
is teaching to cook. Vary "measures" to gain a
sense of proportion. Plan to learn from mistakes. Take
notes of successes. If it's not as good, tell an
This is how to make
Callaloo, the Caribbean
version of gumbo, comes out of Africa with a history as
rich as the dish itself. See Callaloo.
Its foundation in green leaves and vegetables, the ways
of cooking callaloo apply to many other vegetables and
Pick healthy green
dasheen leaves with a large purple dot, or substitute
other related varieties, another callaloo-named green
called Chinese spinach or Indian kale, ordinary spinach,
Swiss chard, or even wild greens like tender lamb's
quarters or delicate French sorrel.
Okra is often added for taste and as a
thickener (see recipe).
The tender Caribbean eggplant is
a welcome, and thickening, addition.
Sautéed and Long-Simmered
For the traditional long-simmered
"stew" that serves as a main dish, start by
sautéing the Callaloo
seasonings in the bottom of a large pot to flavor the
cooking oil as well as the greens, wilting them down to
preserve color in the process.
lobster and ham are
the major ingredients added to make the callaloo a main
dish. Potato or breadfruit
may be added, along with the usual onions, sometimes
celery stalks with leaves as well as other vegetables
characteristic of creole cooking, such as bell peppers
and even tomatoes and broth or stock.
Lush Green Velvet Soup
For a lush green velvet dish that serves
only as soup, start by adding water, the greens (remove
central stems), Callaloo
seasonings and perhaps a small onion. Bring to a boil
and simmer until greens are tender. Puree in a blender.
Return to the pot and add diced cooked ham and lime
juice. Finish by simmering again, but do not allow to
boil a second time.
This is Calalou Chez Clara from
a small seaside restaurant in Guadeloupe (found in Sky Juice
and Flying Fish), served as an appetiser that
traditionally follows a ti-punch.
Callaloo is spelled calaloo in the French Antilles.
Crab is often added to callaloo. Sauté
the crab in a separate process with its own flavorings.
Picked crabmeat can be used. Or even canned non-cream
crab soup. Add the crab subdish to the pot in just time
enough to avoid being overcooked, unless a long-simmer
process is desired.
For an exotic presentation, use whole
crabs. Remove the shells and place them in the pot to
cook. Clean the crab by removing its innards and the
gills. Cut the crab in sections, leaving on the
appendages. Finish cooking. Remove a small appendage to
taste for doneness.
Lobster can be used as well. Cut the tail
in medallions and cook like the crab. Clean the head by
removing the stomach sac. Place the head and carapace
back in the pot, leaving the appendages attached. Finish
Allow the shells and appendages of the
crab or lobster to protrude from the callaloo. The
lobster's head and carapace can be arranged like a sea
serpent. Warn diners about its protective spines that
give the Caribbean Spiny Lobster its name.
Draw a sailing ship, the HMS Rhone or
some scene with annatto oil
squirted out of a squeeze bottle, its bright
yellow-orange color contrasting nicely with the green
callaloo (your callaloo is green, isn't it?). Drag a
toothpick to show motion like the sails or smokestack in
Play a Quito Rymer tape,
Going Away or some reggae or calypso, like this tune:
My friend Joe, from
Port of Spain
Met a girl time and again.
Joe went home with her one day,
So I hear the people say.
There she give him kallabo,
Married Joe before he knew
I don't want no
--1970s calypso song from
Gorda: On Foot or By Car
Every form of ham is often added to
callaloo, including diced cooked ham, bacon slabs, ham
hocks and pigtail. Bacon can be browned to produce fat in
the place of the cooking oil.
Ham hocks and pigtail should simmer for a
couple of hours until the meat is ready to fall off the
bone; then cut into bite or serving size pieces.
Garlic, scallions, thyme and a Scotch
bonnet pepper are a basic combination of seasonings
for Callaloo. It is essential to get a sense of amount
and proportion of these basic seasonings. Pick basic
combinations to flavor various foods of particular
The cooking oil is a handy medium for the
transport of flavor to food items, often in combination.
However, if this is overdone, everything ends up being
"herbed." Couple a particular flavoring that
you favor with a food item for strong results.
Elegance in cooking is a simple approach
that works wonders on the taste buds.
Seasonings for their particular use as well as Barbados
Often called a creole sauce, a basic West
Indian sauce combines bell peppers with onions and
tomatoes, although in the Caribbean tomatoes are
Sauté onions and garlic until
translucent. Add tomatoes and bell peppers of mixed
colors and sauté with the rest of the Callaloo
seasonings and cook a few minutes to taste. Remember
all these ingredients can be eaten raw so the cooking
process is intended to infuse things one with another.
in the Spanish Caribbean is very much the same,
characteristically adding the yellow, flavorful annatto.
The real secret that island cooks have
used to make a great sauce is adding some homemade
broth created in cooking the main dish.
To go upscale, use shallots for onions, roast
your garlic, garnish with chive sticks and finish
with a folk art