WEEK 21- The Bahamas
Quick – what do you think of when you think of The Bahamas? Sunbathing on superb white sandy beaches, gently lapped by an impossibly blue, blue sea, lined with palm trees? then you’d be right, The Bahamas is the original tropical island paradise, in fact one of the 700 islands is called Paradise.
Where is it and a bit of history
Located in the Atlantic, north of Cuba and east of Florida Cays, The Bahamas is a sprawling group of islands and cays located on a massive coral reef system. The Bahamas was where Christopher Columbus made landfall in the new world in 1492, probably on San Salvador. It became a British colony in 1718, who worked hard to eliminate its unsavoury reputation from piracy on the high seas and such infamous buccaneers as Blackbeard. Later it became a dumping ground for slaves and those descendants make up 90% of the population today.
The Bahamas became an independent country in 1973 while still retaining its Commonwealth membership. Tourism and finance are it’s two main sources of income. Nassau the capital is a buzzing bustling place of cruise-ship stopovers, dubious off-shore banking, big-time duty-free shopping and crazy cabs called jitney’s.
What to see and do
The Bahamas is all about that fabulous water, with sun-bathing, swimming and all water sports at the top of the list along with cruising, shopping and partying on with sunset drinks at beach side shacks. There are some gracious pastel Georgian style old government buildings in Nassau and , a couple of really fascinating museums like the pirate museum and is right next door to the incredible Atlantis Paradise resort and water park.
This a huge themed water park spread over 41 acres and features a transparent water slide down through a shark infested tank! Awesome! All the resorts towering high-rise stuck on tiny sandy atolls are a bizarre sight themselves. Top of the list of must see is the truly spectacular Thunderball Grotto (from the James Bond Film of the same name) the eerie Andros Blue Holes and the Blue Lagoon.
The food of The Bahamas reflects it’s location with an emphasis on its beautiful fresh seafood and coral reef fish, the conch in many different forms such as ceviche (raw seafood or fish ‘cooked in citrus juice) , escabeche (fish cooked lightly first then pickled), fritters, chowder or salads – is the national dish. Typical tropical crops such as coconut, taro, yams and sweet potato are traditionally grown, along with tomatoes and celery. Pidgeon peas, rice and peas are staples.
Popular flavourings obviously include the native chilli, allspice, cinnamon along with fresh coriander, rum, native limes and garlic. Many varieties of exotic tropical fruits are used in both sweet and savoury dishes as well as many drinks. Mangoes, pineapple, guava, pawpaw, bananas, soursop and sapodilla and native limes.
Chicken, pork and goat are the favoured meats and sometimes iguana!
Rum is king here, including an unusual coconut infused variety, cocktails with tropical fruits are big, a native limeade and locally brewed beer plus a liqueur – Nassau Royale made by Bicardi , a sweet rum base spiced with coconut and vanilla.
JERK CHICKEN Serves – 4-6
- I lime, juice & finely grated rind
- 8 chicken legs or thigh fillets
- 2 tsp McCormicks Cajun spice mix ( see below)
- 1 hot red chilli, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp g allspice
- 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tb dark brown sugar
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 spring onions /scallions, chopped
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tb fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 tb soy sauce
- 2 tsp chicken stock/bouillon powder
- Pat chicken dry. Rub with lime juice and 2 teaspoons creole spice
- Heat oil in a frypan/sauté pan over medium heat, add onion, chilli, & garlic, sauté about 2-3 minutes.
- Add nutmeg, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon and continue stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture starts to clump together.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool
- Place in a food processor or blender, then add rest of ingredients. Pulse for about 30 seconds until well blended
- Cover the chicken with jerk marinate, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Use gloves to rub mix into chicken.
- Preheat oven to 220°C/ 425°F. Drain chicken, reserve the marinade, place on a wire rack if possible, over a lined baking tray, or on lined tray in a single layer.
- Bake chicken until cooked through and skin is crispy, about 30-50 minutes, turn chicken half way through.
- Simmer the remaining marinade for about 7 minutes till thickened. Serve with chicken.
Cajun or creole spice mix, if you can’t find this blend, you can make a simple version of your own –
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp fresh gr, black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tb + 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp salt
Mix all together. Will keep well.
Rice n Beans
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 garlic clove crushed
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons creole spice
- 2 cups uncooked long grain/jasmine rice
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
- 400 ml can (1¾ cups) coconut milk
- 400 gm can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon chicken stock powder/bouillon (optional)
- 1 whole red chilli (optional)
- 1 teaspoons paprika
- Rinse rice three times & drain.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan, add onions, garlic, thyme, and hot chilli, sauté for a minute.
- Stir in rice for 1 minute, add beans, then add rest of ingredients with 1 cup of water.
- Bring to a boil reduce heat, and cover. Simmer on low 12 minutes until tender.
- Don’t take lid off to check until 12 minutes. surface should be pocked if cooked. If too wet, leave with lid on 10 minutes to dry out. If too dry and rice still hard, add little bit of extra water, cover and cook 5 more minutes on low.
- Stir gently to serve. Can be cooked half an hour ahead and will stay hot covered on stove top.
This tasty rice was yummy enough to enjoy on its own, but with the delicious jerk chicken was really terrific. We all enjoyed this meal, the chicken was particularly good and we would happily have this dish again. In future I’d make sure to marinate extra chicken , be great in a salad, on a sandwich, or tossed with fried rice. Score 8.5/10