Callaloo is considered our [Trinidad] national dish by many. A statement quite debatable since we our Twin Island Republic boasts of a wide range of scrumptious dishes! In my version of callaloo, spinach, ochroes, carrot, pumpkin and fresh herbs are simmered in coconut milk. The pumpkin and carrots, which aren't traditionally added, compliment the spinach and lend sweetness to the dish. The ochroes add smoothness and the coconut milk provides unrivaled depth of flavor and creaminess. The fresh herbs and green seasoning contribute even more caribbean flavor to the callaloo. Soulfood at its best.
[Warning and 2015 update: You will find different variations of this recipe on the web after this post, but know that this is the original recipe, perfected after decades in mine and Mummy's "Trini" kitchen--Any alterations will not produce the same authentic flavor!!]
A typical Sunday lunch in my beloved country consists of callaloo, white rice and stewed chicken, a piece of macaroni pie, a side of boiled ground provision and maybe some potato salad too. Yes, I am proud to say the majority of us Trinidadians layer carbs upon carbs....upon carbs...arguably food heaven.
Each household in Trinidad probably has their own version of this dish. This is CWR's version. I think you are already familiar with my style of cooking. I try to stay away from highly processed foods as often as I can. In addition, living in New York without easy access to the "Dasheen bush" leaves, I have had to make some adjustments. The end result is just as delicious and satisfying and of course super healthy!
This callaloo is a nutrient-dense dish and contains all your vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients...and did you know, according to the history books, the world's most beautiful women, Cleopatra of Egypt and Yang Guifei of China loved to eat okra because it is so good for the skin, hence I add up to a pound!), amongst other wonderful benefits? What are you waiting for?
I ate it everyday last week with Jasmine rice for lunch. I am capable of peculiar things like that, some things I don't get tired of. My immune system required a boost, that's all I can say in my defense. I made it again yesterday to eat all week for lunch. Yes, again. This time I added some wings...
My recipe below uses chopped frozen spinach and does not include meat. I wanted to make a purely vegetarian dish for my vegetarian readers (I apologize for all the pics of chicken on this post...I tried :-( )!! But for the carnivores like myself, you have the option and free unadulterated will to add pieces of chicken, beef, prepared salted beef or salted pigtail, blue crab and/or probably any other type of protein....or all of the above. If you do the latter, we should probably be best friends...call me.
1/2 - 1 lb ochro, sliced in 1 inch pieces or use pre cut frozen ochro
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 scallions, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 small bunch thyme (about 8 sprigs, whole or chopped finely)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons green seasoning, optional but recommended
1 stalk celery, finely chopped, optional
2 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper ( I used 3 tsps Himalayan Salt salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper)
1 habanero pepper
Optional- 1 lb chicken, beef, crab or prepared salted meat etc.
Assemble ingredients...note that the spinach is already chopped, the ochroes cut and the pumpkin already peeled and sliced. My grocery didn't disappoint today!
Wash and chop scallions, celery, onions, slice carrots, mince garlic. You can finely chop the thyme (if young and soft) or place the entire bunch whole in the pot-just remove the stems after cooking.
If using fresh coconut milk(which I highly recommend) prepare that too, otherwise use the canned milk choosing a brand without preservatives. For my detailed instructions on how to make coconut milk, Click here
In a saucepan over low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, when hot, add pumpkin, carrots, ochroes, spinach, scallions, celery, onion, thyme, garlic, green seasoning and the habanero pepper.
Add coconut milk to pan, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
This is what the yumminess looks like with chicken wings....
Cover and let simmer (low heat) for 1-2 hours minutes until all ingredients are cooked and soft....turning every 15-20 minutes to mix and prevent sticking to the bottom.
When finished, remove habanero pepper (being careful not to burst it) and (meat if using) and swizzle using a swizzle stick (also called dhal ghutney in Trinidad) to break up chunks...you may also use a food processor or blender or hand immersion blender for a finer, smoother consistency...I use the swizzle stick because the end result has texture which I like, plus less clean up….If you cook it long enough there is no need to swizzle.
Place back meat into the pot and serve hot over rice. Heat lovers can break the hot pepper on their plate and ooh and aaah your way to the last grain of rice.