My granny came to St. Lucia from St. Vincent around the turn of the last century to be governess to the governor’s children. I’ve told you this before, but what I neglected to mention was that the Nairn (paternal grandmother’s Scottish family) family home was located very near to the botanical gardens in St. Vincent which are still lovely and worth a visit. The significance of this little snippet is that the first breadfruit tree to make it to the Caribbean from Polynesia (remember Captain Cook and The Mutiny On The Bounty?) was planted there and they claim it is still alive…Not sure it can be the same tree, but I won’t argue as its a lovely romantic idea. Breadfruit was brought to the Caribbean as a cheap food source for the slaves who worked the sugar plantations. Sad provenance but a culinary treasure now.
The other really cool thing about breadfruit is that it is a composite fruit. Do you see all the little octagonal looking sections on the surface of the skin in the photo below? Each one of those represents a flower which must be fertilised in order for this amazing fruit to form. This breadfruit in particular is cool because Rosie picked it for me from her own tree as I now have left the house where the large breadfruit tree grew in the back yard.
When I was about 12 or 13, I was friends with the 2 daughters of the then Barclays bank manger, who lived in a grand house on a hill overlooking Castries. They would arrive in a flurry every school holiday from their (what I assumed to be glam) boarding school in the UK. Their mum is Trinidadian and understood the need for teenagers to have a fete, so for at least 3 years on the trot she hosted Old Year’s Night for the teenagers in the roomy space under the house amid decorated pillars and loud music. I’m telling you about them because they had a Guyanese cook who moved with them wherever they went. She used to make a dish called “Metagee” which I LOVED! A significant ingredient was breadfruit and me with my fastness, at about 13 asked her if she would come and teach me how to make it at my house. She came, and that lesson was a big inspiration for this soup which lies somewhere between Metagee, Trinidadian Sancoche, and brand new Sun Temple……
Breadfruit & Coconut Soup
Serves 6 (or 8 as a starter)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) raw breadfruit cut into chunks
240g (8 oz) raw pumpkin cut into chunks
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic pressed
1 green chilli finely chopped
2 seasoning peppers finely chopped
1 c St. Lucian local celery (use just the celery leaves in UK)
1 tbsp chopped broad leaf thyme
125g salt fish (soaked, most salt removed and rehydrated)
400ml (15 oz) coconut milk
enough water to make it into a soup (I used about 1 L, 35 oz)
salt and pepper
The photo above shows rehydrated salted cod with most of its preserving salt removed. This used to be “poor man’s food” when I was a child. It certainly isn’t anymore and adds a rich, rounded taste to many dishes which make your taste buds sing Caribbean songs once it is in your mouth. I soak it in lots of water which I change about 3 or 4 times to remove the salt. How often you do this will depend upon the salt fish you get. Its always better to err on the side of taking too much out with salt fish as there’s nothing worse than to have spent time and energy preparing a lovely meal only to find that your “kissing tackle” is puckered from too much salt.
The photo below is of local celery. I’ve added it because it looks quite different to the fat celery sticks seen as part of a salad in colder climes. This celery packs a taste punch and is often used as a “seasoning.”
Soften the onions in the heated coconut oil and then progressively add all the ingredients, adding the coconut milk last. When the breadfruit is soft, turn off the heat and using a potato masher (or whatever other tool you fancy), mash a section, and only that section of the pot of soup. What you’re aiming for is a thickened soup base but with yummy chunks left for interest.
Depending on how vigorous you were with your soaking and rinsing of the salt fish, you may need to salt your soup a little bit.
I have saved a bowlful for Stephanie as she is the breadfruit monster in our family.