image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

So… Bermuda is not a country, it is a British territory. I think deep down I knew this, but in my haste to bring you a continued stream of top notch factoids and culinary ventures…I forgot. So as a compromise (and because I already made the dish), let’s settle on an abridged entry.

Bermuda was first discovered by Spanish captain Juan de Bermudez in 1503. The island was surrounded by dangerous reefs so he did not actually go ashore. This is important to keep in mind, because 106 years later those reefs would save the lives of 150 English sailors including Pocahontas’ future husband John Rolfe. The ship Sea Venture was lost in a hurricane on its way to deliver much-needed relief to Jamestown colony. As it was a young ship, the timbers had not set fully and it began to take on water. The next day, land was spotted and the crew crashed the ship against the reefs to make it to shore. 350 to 450 people died, among who were Rolfe’s first wife and child, and those who made it were marooned for over 9 months.

This is widely believed to have been the basis for The Tempest by William Shakespeare, which was written within the following 2 years. Eventually, many of the survivors built a few boats and made it to Jamestown, where they found conditions far worse than they were on the island.

Bermuda marks the northern most point of the Bermuda Triangle and is in the middle of Hurricane Alley, which causes many of the phenomena attributed to the mysterious occurrences… also aliens. During the War of 1812, the British naval base of operations was Bermuda and where the attacks on Washington D.C. were planned.

The dish I made was a fairly straight forward Fish Chowder (say it Frenchy!). Although the recipe called for Red Snapper, I did some research and found that catfish would be an acceptable substitute and is probably easier for a lot of people to find at their local megamart. The real key to this soup is the clam juice. I cannot stress this enough, it will not be the same without it. You can buy this bottled at most supermarkets, or like I did, drain some cans of canned clams (using the meat for another application). This is a quick, easy dish and very flavorful, you just can’t go wrong!

Next time…we travel to Bhutan.

 

  


 

Bermuda Fish Chowder

3 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1.5 stalks celery, chopped

1 carrots, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1.5 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups clam juice

1 potato, peeled and cubed

1/2 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 pound red snapper (or catfish) fillets, cut into 1 inch pieces

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Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, green pepper, and garlic; saute about 8 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute. Add clam juice, potatoes, canned tomatoes with juice, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeno pepper, bay leaf, and ground black pepper. Simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring about every 30 minutes.
  3. Add fish. Simmer until snapper is easily flaked with fork, about 10 minutes.

 

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image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

You know that moment in youth, during your coming of age when you mother or father sits you down to have “the talk”. “Johnny”, they say, “it’s time we had a conversion that might make you uncomfortable, but believe me, it is a natural and beautiful part of life. It’s time we talked about…pirates.”

Then they go on to tell you that even though pirates seem cool, these days it is not a good career choice. Way back when however, it was AWESOME, and no other hub lives on in legend from the golden age of piracy like Nassau. For a span of about 15 years at the beginning of the 18th century, there was no government and the pirates outnumbered the islanders. Proclaimed as a pirate republic, many of the most well known buccaneers used it as a home base.

Although order was restored shortly after, the outlaw spirit lingered on. During prohibition, Nassau did a huge business in smuggling illegal liquor into the southern ports of the US. It was also the eventual home of modern “outlaw” King Edward VIII who abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. The couple was eventually “relocated” to the Bahamas in 1940 where Edward was made Governor, as it was still under British rule.

Awkward segue.

The first time I ever heard the word Conch was in 10th grade while reading Lord of the Flies. Prior to that I just called it a shell…like a NORMAL person. The allegory in the 1954 novel is about man’s dark inner nature coming out when left without social order. I wonder how closely the “society” the lost boys create on the island resembled that of Nassau under pirate rule. It would be interesting if the pirates were able to coexist functionally, while the innocent boys descend so quickly into savagery and chaos. Maybe someone will write a paper on that.

I was looking for an ingredient that was very indicative of this nation without just being another fish. Prior to this, I had only had conch in fritters in the Carolinas. My amazing local fish monger, Frank’s Fish and Seafood Market, always has whatever I need. When I thawed the meat it looked like a cross between a clam and a cow’s tongue

Oddly enough the word itself is from Sanskrit through Portuguese. The original “shankha” became “concha” through several phonetic changes. As a mollusk it does produce pearls and they have been highly valued for centuries. When cooked, it has a subtle salty ocean flavor, but NOT fishy. A mild flavor that grows as you continue to eat it.

This is a very easy, one pot dish that delivers big on flavor and is very affordable if you can secure the main ingredient. This is another stew/soup/sauce dish that gets its body from tomatoes. Tomatoes are a new world crop, meaning that they originated on in the Americas. So while it is not surprising to find them heavily featured in Caribbean cuisine, the amount that they are showing up in European/Eastern European is impressive. Just an example of how Europe has embraced the fruit in the centuries since Spanish conquistadors brought them home from South America.

Next we visit Bahrain on the Persian Gulf…it’s Gulf, NOT golf…trust me.

 

   


Bahamian Conch Chowder

8 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can clam juice
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb conch meat chopped fine and bite sized chunks
1 tbsp vinegar
6 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 scallions, minced
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

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Directions:

In a large saucepan , medium heat, saute’ the onion, celery, carrots, red or green pepper, potato, thyme, red pepper flakes, allspice, garlic, and bay leaves for 5 minutes or more in olive oil until they begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, clam juice, and broth. Heat to boiling, then reduce to simmer.

Add conch and simmer for 35 minutes, uncovered.

Add vinegar, parsley, scallions, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.