When faced with yet another country that I have never heard of…

Step 1: Pull up a map on the nearest electronic device and figure out where it is (island in the southern Caribbean).

Step 2: Look up the pronunciation (cure-a-sow).

Step 3: Google/Wikipedia it (turns out it’s also the name of a liquor).

With that out of the way, from what I recall, Curaçao did not have an abundance of recipes to choose from. As with many of the Caribbean nations, there were several other cultural influences in developing the national cuisine.  I selected tutu, which is another variant of the starchy mush that we are getting used to seeing in the Caribbean and Africa, and a marinated fish recipe descriptively titled “Curaçao Style Snapper” (spoiler alert–pretty sure we didn’t actually use snapper.  It was probably tilapia.).

Curaçao Style Snapper (recipe)

This started with a tasty looking marinade of lime juice, garlic, habanero pepper, and ground pepper.  Then the fish were breaded and fried.  The fish frying pan was deglazed with the remaining marinade, in which the tomatoes, onion, and pepper were cooked.  The fish filets were topped with the veggie mixture and baked in the oven for another ten minutes.  I’m not sure why the recipe asked us to line the baking pan with aluminum foil, but we did as we were told.




Tutu (recipe)

We’ve had mixed luck in the past with these starchy mush side dishes, but we seem to be getting better.  This one used cornmeal and was a little unique in that it also included black eyed peas and was cooked in coconut milk.

It started pretty liquidy:


Gradually thickened…tutu_step2

And eventually was firm enough to hold its shape.tutu_step3

From here it was smashed between two plates (which I don’t remember being anywhere near as disastrous as I expected) for the final presentation:


The recipe recommends serving it with cheese (check!) and cod fish (snapper… cod fish… tilapia… same difference, right?)

The finished meal:


This was a winner!  The lime juice really came through in the fish, but not overpoweringly so.  We loved the flavor and the addition of veggies on top.  The tutu, aside from having a fun name, was surprisingly good and was better than most of the dishes we have made like this.  It was sweeter than I expected–probably thanks to the coconut milk–but that was countered nicely by the cheese and the tart fish.

Overall meal rating: 4

Next up, Cyprus and Czech Republic (we were pretty excited at the time about having a couple European countries and finishing the Cs!)



So way back in October, we cooked Cuba!  Today we cooked The Gambia, which is 20 countries later in the list…

I remember reading about a popular Cuban sandwich but wasn’t excited about the prospect of eating pickles on it. So I went with a slow cooked beef recipe called ropa vieja (the fact that it could be made in the crock pot definitely made it a winner!), yet another rice and beans recipe called “Moros y Cristianos” (“Moors and Christians” … the black beans represent the Moors and the white rice represents the Christians… yep.), and a sweet plantain dish called platanos en tenacion.

Ropa Vieja (recipe)

This was a slow cooked beef recipe with tomatoes, peppers, and a tomato based sauce.

What went in the crock pot in the morning:


The finished product:


Moros y Cristianos (recipe)

This another pretty simple rice and beans recipe.  Sauté onions, garlic, and peppers.  Add beans, tomato paste, and some spices.  Add chicken broth and rice.  Cook until done.


Cuban Platanos en Tentacion (recipe)

The recipes I read (including this one) were very insistent that this is a side dish, not a dessert!  It involved plantains (the riper the better), cinnamon, sugar, butter, and white wine.  All good things.  The brown things sticking out of the bananas are pieces of cinnamon (we did not eat them).


The full meal:


The flavors in this meal were great.  The rice and beans (of which there was a LOT) was good.  The meat tasted great, but the cut that the recipe called for was very stringy after cooking.  I had a hard time getting past the texture, but Tyler was okay with it.  The bananas, which were as sweet as you would expect bananas baked in butter, sugar, and cinnamon to be, actually worked reasonably well as a side dish and complemented the other foods.

Overall, not bad!  I gave the meal a 4/5 rating.

Here’s to catching up on these blog posts…


Once again, we hopped across the ocean to the Caribbean… back to the land of peas and rice, fish, and coconut.  I am starting notice some reoccurring foods in the Caribbean islands, and I’m curious if we will eventually run out of Caribbean staples and go for the lesser-known foods.

Anyway… I learned a few things while researching the food of Barbados:

  1. The national dish of Barbados is flying fish with cou cou.  Flying fish have wing-like fins that allow them to glide over the water for short distances, and they seem to be a big deal in terms of both cuisine and culture.
  2. People of Barbados are referred to as Bajans.  Having recently watched Star Trek DS9, we had a really hard time not saying “Bajoran” instead of “Bajan” and started referring to this as our Bajoran meal.
  3. Rihanna is from Barbados.

I was nervous about choosing the national dish of flying fish and cou cou, due to A) a strong suspicion that they don’t sell flying fish in Iowa, B) fear of a repeat of our Angolan funge disaster (cou cou is the cornmeal version of funge, with the addition of okra), and C) Our general bad luck with fish-based cooking.  I was all set to make macaroni pie, which is similar to macaroni and cheese, and coconut bread, but I couldn’t decide on a main course.  So, flying fish and cou cou it was.

The food:

  • Flying fish and cou cou: as described above the cou cou is similar to funge (or polenta), but made with cornmeal and okra.  The flying fish can be steamed or fried.
  • Coconut bread: This recipe seems to be a favorite throughout the Caribbean, as this is not the first reference I have seen to it.  The recipe reminds me of other sweet breads, such as zucchini bread or banana bread, but instead it uses coconut flakes.  Most recipes also include raisins.


Flying Fish and Cou Cou (recipe, also referred to this recipe for the cou cou preparation method)

The first step was actually to make the Bajan seasoning.  We were hoping to find a jar of it at the grocery store but had no luck.   We also didn’t have time to drive across town to the international grocery store and check there.  So we followed this recipe (scaled to 1/4 of the original recipe, since we only needed a few tablespoons).  This was a mix of hot pepper, onion, green onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and a whole bunch of spices and herbs.  Since fresh herbs aren’t exactly in season around here, we used a lot of dried herbs instead.  For the small quantity we needed, we couldn’t talk ourselves into spending the $10-15 on all of the fresh herbs.  Anyway, the ingredients were all measured and roughly chopped, then blended in the food processor.  This smelled pretty good, and it still made a LOT, so we’re going to save the rest for grilling in the summer.  We made this a day in advance.


Next was the the cou cou.  This stuff takes patience.  The cornmeal was soaked in water for a while as I prepared the okra, onions, garlic, etc (I used frozen okra since we already had it in the freezer, and I rarely see fresh okra at the grocery store).  I saw many of the cou cou recipes refer generically to “herbs” as an ingredient, so I decided to just throw in a bit of the Bajan seasoning that we prepared.  If it were summer and we had a garden overflowing with herbs, I might have approached this differently.


I set these aside and dumped in the soaked cornmeal.  As advised, I added in some of the gooey liquid from cooking the okra.  I stirred very diligently for the first 5-10 minutes, adding water/okra goo regularly.  After a while, I let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then came back to give it a good stir, then repeated this process.  It ended up having 1.5-2 hours of cooking time total.  I kept adding water throughout, since it seemed like the cornmeal was pretty gritty.  I’m really not sure that I ever achieved the right consistency–it wasn’t as smooth as the pictures I saw looked–but it eventually got to be pretty thick and relatively smooth.  So I mixed in the okra and called it good.

cou_cou_before_cooking coucou_mid_cooking coucou_final

I attempted to arrange it into the pretty mounds of cou cou that I saw pictures of… it didn’t quite turn out that way, but it was at least a lot closer to the expected finished product than the funge was a couple months ago.


For the flying fish, we substituted mahi mahi.  I have read that this fish is eaten in Barbados, so it seemed like a reasonable substitute.  I thought that most of the flavor would come from the seasonings and vegetables, so it wouldn’t detract too much from the authentic experience.

The recipes I read all suggested rolling the fish filets up like a sausage.  However, the fish we bought was frozen, and it turned out that a day in the fridge was nowhere near long enough to thaw it out.  So we bit the bullet and put in the microwave on the thaw setting.  Naturally, it started to cook during that time, and Tyler declared there was no way it would roll up without falling apart.  So that didn’t happen.  However, we did follow the instructions to marinate it in lime juice, then rub in Bajan seasoning.  In the mean time, the onion, garlic, tomatoes, etc. started simmering in the stove.  Again, we substituted dried herbs for fresh on this step.


Next the fish and green peppers were added, and then it cooked for fifteen minutes or so.

Bajan_dinner_cooking Bajan_main_course





Bajan Coconut Sweet Bread (recipe)

I found a lot of variation in coconut bread recipes, but I eventually settled on this one.  It was pretty straightforward, so I didn’t take a lot of pictures.  The one change I made was to use shortening instead of lard.  Anyway, the combination of melted butter/shortening, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon smelled wonderful.  Once the eggs, water, vanilla, flower, baking powder, grated coconut, and raisins were added, this was incredibly thick batter.  Like, scoop it into the pan with a spoon thick.  It was perfectly done at the end of the 50-60 minutes of baking time.



Meal Review

Better than expected!  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I was really nervous about repeating the funge incident and every other fish-based meal we have cooked for this project.

The cou cou actually was not bad.  I don’t think we got the consistency quite right, but it had some flavor, the okra added some nice variety, and it was a nice starchy side to go with the fish.  And the fish was actually not a failure!  It recovered from the microwave-thawing experience fairly well, and the flavor was really good.  I definitely enjoyed the Bajan seasoning and look forward to repurposing that for future meals.  I’m even growing to appreciate green peppers, something I never thought would happen.

Speaking of thing I never thought would happen, I made a dessert that was based around coconut and raisins!  And I enjoyed it!  What?!?!  Although it was a little more dry and crumbly than I would like for a sweet bread, the flavor was very good.  I saw many references to Bajan people enjoying this with a cup of tea in the morning, so you better believe that’s how I started the day on Saturday.  And it was great.

Overall, I would call the meal a success.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to make cou cou again, but I enjoyed trying it.  I would definitely use the Bajan seasoning on fish again, and I would definitely make coconut bread again.  I am tempted to make one of the other coconut bread recipes–many of the others used milk or sweetened condensed milk–and see how that effects the texture and flavor.


Next we are off to Belarus!

The Bahamas

We made it to the Bs!!  Once again, we had a cold, snowy day to cook a meal from the Caribbean.

This was another meal that tested my food aversion limits.  I have a bit of a mental block about most seafood, so I started getting nervous when I read about the most famous food being conch meat.  I took the word of several other global cooking bloggers and avoided spending too much time looking into what conchs look like out of their shells but before having the skin and eyes removed…

The three most common conch dishes I read about in The Bahamas are 1) conch salad (in which the conch is usually eaten raw… sorry, not that adventurous!), 2) conch chowder (maybe…), or 3) conch fritters.  The fritters looked the best out of these three, and it definitely occured to me that the conch would be most well disguised in this option.  I almost backed out on cooking with conch when we couldn’t find it locally, but Tyler and my brother convinced me to stick with it.  Amazon to the rescue–they sell canned conch! It was more expensive than I would have liked for one can, but as Tyler keeps reminding me, “we aren’t doing this to save money!”

Our second dish for The Bahamas is peas and rice.  Contrary to what you might expect from their name, pigeon peas are a type of bean.  I’ve read that this is common throughout the Caribbean, so I will probably come across it again.  It seemed like a good accompaniment to the fritters–and a good fallback in case I couldn’t stomach the conch. 🙂

I picked a dessert for our third dish, and I felt pretty confident that it would be good.  Gauva duff–sweet bread filled with guava goop and guava sauce!

Conch Fritters (recipe)

This was another “divide and conquer” meal, and I left Tyler in charge of the fritters (surprise, surprise).  I generally avoided the conch preparing scene, but I did snap a photo of the chopped conch.


The conch pieces were mixed with finely diced veggies–onion, red and green bell peppers, hot pepper (we used small Thai peppers that were leftover from a few countries ago), celery, and chopped cilantro–and the dry ingredients–flour, thyme, and seasoned salt.  Water was added to this to reach a thick, somewhat sticky consistency.  Yes, that is a glass of red wine that appeared between these steps. 🙂

conch_fritters_dry_ingredients   conch_fritters_batter

It took much longer than we expected for the oil to get hot.  We used canola oil in the stockpot (to minimize splattering) and were probably a bit shy of the recommended two inches.  Since this used a LOT of oil, our plan was to add more only if needed.  We appreciated the tip from this recipe to drop a small amount of the batter in the oil to test whether or not it was hot enough.  Eventually, it got hot and Tyler started frying!


Sadly this took a long time and caused us to miss the beginning of the Olympics closing ceremony. 😦


We also made a basic dipping sauce for the fritters.  I saw a lot of variation in what the sauce should include, but I followed a common theme in the recipes and mixed together 2 Tbs. mayonnaise, 2 Tbs. ketchup, and 2 Tbs. lime juice.  I intended to add a dash of hot sauce but forgot about it until we were already eating.


Peas and Rice

There were a lot of recipes out there for Bahamian peas and rice, and just as many comments on those recipes from Bahamian natives with comments about what is it and is not authentic.  I merged a recipe from all of this information, although I have started to notice that two natives of a country do not aways have the same opinion of what is “authentic.”

This recipe started with 3 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked.  Yum.  I added the green pepper, celery, and onion to the bacon and bacon fat and cooked until the onion was translucent.  I added the minced garlic and cooked for another minute or two.


Next I added the tomato paste, thyme, coconut milk, and pigeon peas.  I forgot to take a picture at this step, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that it looked pretty tasty at this point.  As a side note, this is the step where I intended to add browning sauce, which some comments said was critical to make authentic Bahamian Peas and Rice.  I totally forgot to put it on the grocery list, and we (Tyler) had already made two trips to the grocery store that day.  I added some extra tomato paste to make up for it.

Once this came to a boil, I added the rice and enough water to cover it.  I used white Basmati rice, since that is the only long grain white rice we had on hand.  In retrospect, I should have soaked it for a while like I did for Azerbaijan, because that stuff was thirsty.  Every time I turned my back, the liquid was gone, so I kept adding water to the pan.  I gave it about 30 minutes, after which I declared it to be done.  It got to hang out on the stove for a while longer, though, since the fritters were taking forever.


Guava duff (recipe)

This was definitely the most labor intensive of the recipes!  We did most of the work before starting the fritters or peas and rice, and we had to run the dishwasher while cooking the rest of the meal since it was full after making the guava duff.

Unfortunately, we had to use canned guavas.  An employee at our grocery store told Tyler they had fresh guavas the day before, but they were getting too old and had to be tossed.  We used three 28 oz. cans of guava to reach the 4 cups of guava flesh for the filling!  We ended up with extra filling, so I think we could have gotten by with just two cans.

I have never cooked with guavas before.  They smelled deliciously sweet and tropical.  *Note below picture is just ONE of the three cans of guavas!


I separated the seeds and pulp from the flesh, which I chopped into small pieces.  These were mixed with brown sugar, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt and cooked over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.  I’m not sure what the final consistency was supposed to be, but I kept mashing them to get rid of the big pieces.  It felt and looked like I was making applesauce!

guava_sauce   IMG_5528

I transferred this to another bowl to chill in our walk-in refrigerator (AKA the screened porch on a cold midwest evening).  Meanwhile, I made the sauce.  This used the pulp from the guavas (I ran them through the food mill to remove the seeds).  The recipe called for 1/2 can of sweetened, condensed milk but didn’t say what size of can, so I used somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup.  I also scaled back the sugar a bit from the recipe.  I added a splash of the optional vanilla extract and rum.  This was a crazy, thick, gooey sauce.


Meanwhile, Tyler prepared the dough and rolled it out.


And this is where disaster struck!  I scooped all of the filling onto the dough and attempted it roll it up.  There was sooo much filling that it was oozing out everywhere.  It was a total mess, and it was HUGE, so there was no way we could really wrap it up in the parchment paper/aluminum foil.  I made a controversial decision to unroll it and start over.  I scooped as much of the filling into a bowl as I could.  The recipe suggests mixing some of the guava filling in with the dough (originally we had skipped this since the filling was still hot), so I didn’t worry about the guava filling that stuck to the dough.  I kneaded it together and had a big sticky mess.  Several additions of flour later, I had a somewhat workable dough.  For the second attempt, we made two smaller rolls instead of one, and we didn’t use all of the filling.  The first roll was somewhat successful, and the second seems pretty close to what it was supposed to look like.

Since my hands were covered with sticky dough/guava goop and I was reasonably frustrated, I didn’t capture any photos of the disaster…

I did document one of the rolls as it was covered in parchment paper and 2-3 layers of aluminum foil.  I definitely felt like a wannabe burrito chef doing this part.

guava_duff_pre_wrapping   guava_duff_parchment_paper   guava_duff_wrapped

Now, the recipe suggests two cooking methods: one on the stove and one in the oven, both involving submerging it in boiling water.  We attempted this in our stockpot, but it just wasn’t big enough.  So we moved them to the crockpot, put on the lid, and set it on high!


We checked one after the suggested 1 hr. 20 minutes, and it was still pretty goopy.  We decided to experiment a bit, and I re-wrapped this one and set it in a shallow roasting pan with hot water in the oven at 300°F.  I left the second roll in the crockpot.  We checked on them after another hour or so, and then they both came out perfectly done!

I cut it into thick slices and served it with the sauce (not pictured below).


I think our frustration over the guava duff, annoyance that we missed the beginning of the Olypmics closing ceremony, and the fact that we ended up eating while watching the rest of it on TV (1-2 hours later than originally planned, as usual…) limited my ability to appreciate this meal.  However, I did enjoy it

The fritters were good.  I won’t say they were phenomenal, but they were good.  I am still working past my mental block of seafood as I eat the leftovers. 🙂  These reminded us a lot of a fried, seafood version of the breakfast muffins we like to make.  I really liked the extra kick of the lime in the dipping sauce.  The conch meat was pretty subdued in this, other than a general seafood flavors.  Several recipes I looked at said that you could substitute other types of seafood for the conch, and I can see why.  I don’t think the difference would be very noticeable.

The peas and rice were good, although they weren’t as flavorful as I hoped.  I think we ended up with too much rice relative to everything else, so the flavors were diluted.  Tyler really enjoyed this though, and I don’t think it will be a problem to go through the leftovers.  I could see jazzing this up with more seasonings (or less rice) as a simple vegetarian meal.

The guava duff was absolutely amazing.  Loved it.  The guavas had a unique and tropical flavor that I’m not used to, and the duff was a great, soft consistency.  I had to go light on the sauce to avoid it getting too sweet, but overall this was wonderful and a great dessert (at least as great as a dessert can be without chocolate 🙂 ).  I have a sneaking suspicion that it would be good with some fresh nutmeg grated on top, but I haven’t tried that yet.  Although I wouldn’t be exited about repeating the amount of work and frustration we had, I would happily eat this again!  I was glad we got to try a new cooking method, and I think we would have less frustration if we made it again.

Bahamas_meal   guava_duff_slice

Overall, I would say this meal was pretty successful!  The biggest downside is all the leftover celery that we have to do something with (sorry, no ants on a log in this house).

Next, we are back across the ocean to Bahrain!

Antigua and Barbuda: Meal Review

I think Antigua and Barbuda was our first all around winner!  Everything we made turned out well and was enjoyed by all.

Curry Chicken Roti

Making our own curry powder was a blast, and it gave the chicken such good flavor.  It was a little too spicy for my taste, but it hasn’t bothered me in leftovers (it either mellowed over time or I adapted).  We also totally forgot the fresh cilantro the first time we made it, and that has been a great addition when we ate this for leftovers.  The roti bread was just different enough from tortillas and other flatbreads to justify making it from scratch.  It didn’t seem to fold into a square pocket as well as the photos and recipes I saw, but that didn’t bother me.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.


Rum Punch

We enjoyed breaking from our routine of the last 5 countries and making a fun drink to go with the meal.  It was a little too strong for me, but not bad after I watered it down a bit.


Flambéed Bananas

This is definitely one of my favorite dishes that we have cooked so far on this adventure!  Obviously lighting the rum on fire was fun, but the finished product was so warm, sweet, and gooey on the ice cream.  This is another keeper recipe that we will definitely be making again!


Antigua and Barbuda: Flambéed Bananas

This recipe was so much fun and so delicious.  We used this recipe from, but I saw a lot of other variations that looked just as good.

I mixed the sauce ingredients (brown sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lime juice) in a skillet until thickened.


Then added the peeled and sliced bananas and cooked for a few minutes.


Then we transferred the bananas and sauce to another pan, drizzled some rum on top, and lit it on fire!


The finished product was served hot over vanilla ice cream.


Antigua and Barbuda: Curry Chicken with Roti

Our main dish for Antigua and Barbuda was curry chicken with roti.  I’m not sure it was the most authentic recipe out there, but we used this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  It lined up with the photos and descriptions I saw for this dish in Antigua and Barbuda.  This recipe involved making our own curry powder, which was fun and smelled great.

My first step was to prepare the dough for the roti, as it was supposed to sit for 2 hours.  This was pretty straightforward… mix the flour and baking soda, then add water and oil, and then knead for five minutes.  My dough was very dry and crumbly, so I added a few extra tablespoons of water to get it to stick together.


This was rolled into six balls of dough then left to sit for two hours.


Meanwhile, I started getting out the spices for the curry powder!


I loved seeing all the different colors and patterns mixed together.


This went in a frying pan for a few minutes, until the spices were fragrant and starting to smoke.


Then the mixture was set out on a plate to cool.  It smelled wonderful.


Finally, we ground it in the mortar and pestle.


Next we started on the chicken.  It was left to marinate for 20 minutes in curry powder, vegetable oil, and salt.


Then this was browned in a large pan (we don’t own a dutch oven, so we used a deep skillet instead).


The next ingredients are the onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, and pepper:


This was all mixed together with the chicken, along with the chicken stock and coconut milk.


Over the next hour and a half, the liquid reduced somewhat.  The recipe called for bone-in chicken pieces, but we just used four chicken breasts instead.  We shredded the chicken in our stand mixer, then mixed it back in with the liquid.


Meanwhile, we rolled out the roti dough and cooked it on the griddle for a little under a minute on each side.


The finished product–curry chicken served in roti:


Antigua and Barbuda

We finally made it across the Atlantic to the Caribbean! As usual, we had a hard time narrowing down the food options to pick a meal. I read about fungee and pepper pot, which was a little too similar to our disaster of a meal in Angola. I also read about ducana (a dumpling made of sweet potato, coconut, and several spices), which is typically served with a salted fish stew. I thought the ducana sounded good, but another fish and vegetable stew wasn’t appealing to us.

So we selected the following:

Curry Chicken Roti
This dish seems to be common throughout the Caribbean, and it looks tasty. The roti is a type of flat bread similar to a tortilla. It will be stuffed with curry flavored chicken and onions.

Rum Punch
Tyler has been itching to try a drink recipe, and what better place than the Caribbean? This is a classic drink of the Caribbean.

Flambéed Baked Bananas
This dessert involves bananas that are cooked in Carmelites brown sugar and spices, then topped with rum, which is then set on fire. Sounds tasty and fun.