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The Food of Barbados - Part I

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There is old song in Barbados that goes "when it's time to celebrate, everyone wants Fish Cakes & Bakes". There really isn't much to making Fish Cakes or Bakes and that is good when you want to put something on the table fast for the kids to eat.

Disclaimer: There are no accurate measurements in Bajan Cooking, i.e. teaspoon, tablespoon etc.

Bakes - The quick and dirty way

Using a table spoon (the large on that comes with your cultery set) scoop 2 spoonfuls of cornmeal, 4 spoonfuls of flour, 3 spoonfuls of sugar, 2 shakes of ground cinnamon and a 2 pinches of salt in a bowl. Fill a cup with tap water* and add to the dry ingredients a little at a time till the batter is slightly thick.

The batter is then fried by the spoonful. *You can use filtered/spring water if you don't trust your tap water :smile: .

Fish Cakes aka Cod Fish Cakes or Fritters

Cod Fish

Onion, chopped

Hot Pepper, Chopped



Black Pepper to taste

(Salt to taste if you have boiled the fish a little too long)

Oil to fry

In a pot boil a piece of Salt Cod or Baccara, changing the water until most of the salt is gone. Taste a small piece of cod to estimate if you have to add salt or not. In a bowl add the slightly cooled cod and break apart with your hands to find and remove the bones. Add pepper, chopped onion, scotch bonnet pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce, thyme and flour. Add water a little at a time until you have a slightly thick batter. These are also fried by the spoonful.

Note: Some people add egg or baking powder to their bakes but Ive never tried it. Bakes are similar to Ho Cakes (?) and Fish Cakes are really just Fritters. :wink: We can make a meal out of these two if warranted and you will find these at almost every stall during Crop Over. :biggrin:

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Bajan cooking is a simple fare. Not the intricate dishes and involved flavors that you will find at many of the island restaurants that claim to offer "local" food. Our food revolves around simplicity, what ingredients are at hand in that point in time and what substitues you can use if you do not. Every household stocks up on the basic staples: flour, sugar, rice, peas and salt. There is also a cache of ingredients and products that are also stored in the kitchen after buying the staples: ketchup, tomato paste, gravy master, accent, Indian Head Curry Powder, Mello Cream (its like a baking/cooking margarine), shortening, Ecaf Mixed Essence, elbow macaroni, chow mein and canned mixed vegetables. There are farms all over Barbados and some still maintain a backyard vegetable garden. Most people will go to the supermarket once a month to buy about $100 or more worth of meat. Once upon a time, you would get chicken from someone who had them.

Sunday dinner was the most elaborate meal of the week. My grandmother would make soup; Lentil with Ham (a substitute would be pigtail or trotters), Fish soup, Green/Yellow Splitpea Soup or Vegetable soup with chunks of pumpkin and that was just the starter. The main dish could be anything from Fried Chicken, Baked Chicken, Stewed Chicken, Fried Flying Fish (which I spent most of my time cleaning :sad: ), stewed beef and the list goes on. This would go with Rice & Peas which had still more variations. Pigeon Peas, Black-Eyed Peas, Cow Peas....the list goes on. We had three staple side dishes that are made at dinner throughout the week; coleslaw, a plain salad and pickled cucumber. :wub: Other people make potato salad along with these but my grandmother usually just did those three. For drinks we would grab the Coconut Man right before dinner was to be served and mix the water with a full 2 liter soda, to "stretch it a little" as my grandmother always said. Other drinks would be Carrot Juice, Beet Juice (always made me sick...hated that stuff) Plain Coconut Water or Passion Fruit Drink. I was in charge of picking the passion fruit that grew on the vines in our backyard. Dessert would be when the ice cream man or the Snow Cone came around. Or our parents would take us for a walk into town for fresh grapes and pineapple. Cake was reserved for special occasions although my grandmother did make Pone on some Sundays. :hmmm:

There are also dishes that we love that are not made very frequently. These are more reserved for Christmastime. For example, Pudding and Souse. Pudding is made by making a puree of cooked sweet potato (our sweet potato is the purple skinned one in the Spanish Store) and spices then stuffing this into a pig intestine. The Souse is pickled Pigs Ears and Tails with minced onion, salt, pepper, chopped cucumber and a few splashes of hot sauce.

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shawtycat- do you have any intersting shellfish recipes?

Amazing as it may sound, Barbados being surrounded by water and all, we do not cook much shellfish. :blink: In fact, I do not know of anyone who does. Ive seen Rastas eating fresh raw squid that they have caught but don't remember any shellfish. :unsure: We don't really eat that stuff. I had my first shrimp in NYC! :blink:

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Ok....here it is levyme

Bajan Black Pudding

Grated Sweet Potato

A little bit of brown sugar (preferably the kind from the Asian Markets or West Indian Markets..see Flatbush)


Burnt Sugar Coloring

Finely Chopped Onion

Finely Chopped Hot Pepper

Finely Chopped Chives*

Little bit of butter for moisture

Mix together well and stuff intestines to make sausage. Don't stuff the skins too full, about half way or 3/4 is good, since they will expand when cooked. Tie off the ends with kitchen cord and coil sausage at the bottom of pot. Cook in plain water till done.

Note: You can use Shallots or Scallions in place of Chives.

Lil bit of History: This is a variation on Haggis. We have scots on the island and you can hear a little scottish when Bajan's speak. Especially when said Bajan is cussing you into next Sunday. :wink::biggrin::cool: We like to say "shite" alot.

Here is where you will find the substitutions:

Burnt Sugar Flavoring is the substitution for the Pig's Blood and Sweet Potato is the substitution for the Millet or grain called for in the original recipe.


Pig Ears or Pig Feet or Pig Tail or Pig Snout or a variety of any

Piece of Pork chopped fine

Grated Cucumber

Lime Juice

Salt to taste

Finely Chopped Hot Pepper

Finely Chopped Onion

Shredded Parsley Leaf (not alot mainly for garnish)

Boil Pig Ears and pork in plain water until done, (you do not have to season the water since you will be pickling the pig), making sure to skim away the scum while cooking. Drain water and rinse well. Cool and refrigerate. Must be cold when you put then in the pickle.

Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Slice Pig Ears into ribbons. All pieces should be around bite size. Add Pig Ears and Pork to the bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. This must be refrigerated for a few hours before you can eat it. 6 - 8 should do it. It's best to cook this the night before and refrigerate.

These two recipes are served together as Puddin' n Souse....


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Here is the recipe for our pickled cucumber:

Pickled Cucumber

1 or 2 cucumbers peeled, scored lengthwise with a fork and sliced thin

Salt & Pepper

Half a small onion chopped fine

Juice of 1 lime

A few drops of Hot Sauce or Finely Chopped Hot Pepper

Few thyme leaves

In a small bowl combine all ingredients, adjust seasonings and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Hey ShawtyCat - great thread!

Waaay back in my uni days, there was a Bajan guy in my hall of residence who made the most AMAZING fish fritters with a super-hot dipping sauce. Do you cook anything like this? And if so, how can I do them too?

I dream of those fritters, sometimes... :smile:

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Thank you Miss J. :biggrin: I posted this thread to let everyone know the true local dishes on my island. Everyone seems to keep lumping all West Indians into only the Jamaicans, Cubans and Bahamians. You don't know how many times Ive been asked if Im Jamaican. Or asked to translate when, frankly, I have no clue what they're saying either. :wink: There is more out there than just those islands. I do cook Fish Cakes....you'll find the process for those within my first post. As for his dipping sauce.....can you describe what it looked like?? I could have some of our personal Bajan hot sauce or something he made himself.

This thread will focus more on dinner and appetizers. I will be posting another one (Part II) which will be Desserts and Snacks. Like Sugar Cakes, Sweet Bread, Lead Pipes, Ham Cutters and Black Cake. For someone who's never been to Barbados..it should make an interersting read. :biggrin::cool:


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Thank you Miss J. :biggrin:  I posted this thread to let everyone know the true local dishes on my island.  Everyone seems to keep lumping all West Indians into only the Jamaicans, Cubans and Bahamians.  You don't know how many times Ive been asked if Im Jamaican.  Or asked to translate when, frankly, I have no clue what they're saying either. :wink: There is more out  there than just those islands.  .......

We don't lump all west Indians into Jamaicans. Only in the matters of cricket mon :wink: Actually, anyone who has read and admired Austin Clarke,,will probably also know that he wrote a food book, memoir rolled into one called "Pigtails 'n Breadfruit"

More on Austin http://www.nwpassages.com/bios/clarke.asp


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