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A Day Exploring St Lucia & Eating (Cocoa Plantation, Orlando’s & Rainforest Hideaway Lionfish)

Sitting here in Soho looking out at the rain and surrounded by buzzy media types on their phones, tablets and what not, it is hard to believe that this time last week I was in the Caribbean and my biggest problem was being stalked by mosquitos. I love going away, but I also love coming home, and I don’t mind the rain. An Irish person with an issue with the rain, might as well have an issue with the sky, blades of grass, cows that moo, and anything else everyday and not extreme.

It rained in St Lucia too. Quite a bit. Lush misty rain that waters the cocoa trees, the giant rainforest, towering palms, gorgeous eclectic flowers, the vivid greenery, and the occasional boa constrictor (true). We drove along the coast and into the rainforest along windy steep roads dotted with small villages, seashores, luxury resorts and finally, our destination, a cocoa plantation. Rabot Estate is owned and run by Hotel Chocolat in the UK, but it is run entirely by St Lucian staff, and supports St Lucian cocoa farmers, producing a single estate cocoa for production in the UK (they are building a factory in St Lucia now too).

[Read more]

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The Atlantic Here & There: Ireland, Antigua & St Lucia

Caribbean sunset from St James, Morgan Bay (St Lucia)

Caribbean sunset from St James, Morgan Bay (St Lucia)

When we last spoke I was procrastinating, as I often do. Making homemade peanut butter for a supposed quick dish (it was still quick), but you know, what I really should have been doing was my laundry. I was set to fly to the Caribbean the next day and I had nothing clean to pack. At least very little that would be suitable for the heat.

Now, cooking is my jam. Any other domestic things, not so much. I would drive to Edinburgh to buy a packet of crisps to avoid a stint of spring cleaning (I can’t even drive, and I still would). To cut quickly to the end, I put my suitcase on the British Airways scales at Gatwick and the hostess, surprised, commented, only 12kg? You must be hoping for warm weather! I thought: RUBBISH, I completely forgot that extra load of washing that I had hung up to dry.

So here I am in a mish mash of razzle dazzle pinks, greys and yellows, writing to you from my balcony at dusk on the charming island of Antigua. In very funny clothes. A chill is descending as the sun sets, and I quite like that. The Caribbean winter is my perfect temperature range, rarely climbing over 30 degrees, and mostly in the mid 20s, almost always with a gentle breeze.

If you were to ask what my favourite ocean was – and a bizarre question it is, so I wouldn’t encourage it – [Read more]

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Eat like a Bajan: Cooking Bajan Sunday Lunch with Heather in Barbados

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

On arrival in Barbados, you quickly learn a few things. Things from Barbados are Bajan, and Barbados is affectionately known locally as BIM. The people here are so warm, friendly and very generous.

I am always asking lots of questions about food – as you know – as I try to understand what the local food culture is and where it comes from. This nosiness I am sure can annoy, but in Barbados people loved to share, and one lady, Heather, a chef from The Club where I am staying, invited me to her home to cook a traditional Sunday lunch.

How exciting. It is the best thing that I could hope for when visiting another country.

Local neighbourhood where I went to cook in Barbados

Local neighbourhood where I went to cook in Barbados

Heather lives in a lovely neighbourhood, calm, near the sea, and primarily composed of the traditional Bajan chattel houses, lovely wooden homes, usually small, some big, almost always colourful. Heather welcomed me with a traditional Bajan lemonade (recipe soon!) and we got started.

Mac pie, a key part of Bajan Sunday lunch

Mac pie, a key part of Bajan Sunday lunch

The traditional Sunday lunch here has mac pie (a Bajan take on mac & cheese, with lots of spice flavour, and long strands of macaroni), rice and peas (we used local green peas, gumbo peas or split peas are also used), Bajan fried fish, pork or chicken, butter sauce / gravy (a spicy fruity buttery sauce) and coleslaw. Again, a Bajan interpretation with some spice.

Bajan fried mahi mahi (dolphin but not as we know it)

Bajan fried mahi mahi (dolphin but not as we know it)

The macaroni for the mac pie comes in long strands like spaghetti and you break it as long as you want, ours were about three inches long. We cooked mahi mahi (known locally as dolphin), marinated first in lime and salt, as all meat or fish is here before cooking, then stuffed with Bajan seasoning, a Bajan chimmichurri of sorts but much thicker and not used as a dip. It was a wonderful time, I have taken notes on all of the recipes, and I will cook them and write my take on them when I get home.

Bajan lemonade - so refreshing

Bajan lemonade – so refreshing

Cooking a traditional Bajan Sunday lunch

Cooking a traditional Bajan Sunday lunch – loved these colourful curtains

So, watch out for that, and in the meantime, enjoy the photos. I leave Barbados today, on the red eye to London. Very sad to leave but excited to get home and cook, and share lots of Bajan recipes with you.

Stuffing mahi mahi with Bajan seasoning

Stuffing mahi mahi with Bajan seasoning

Seasoned flour to coat the fish

Seasoned flour to coat the fish

Butter sauce / gravy

Butter sauce / gravy

Macpie

Macpie

Bajan fried fish

Bajan fried fish

Heather in her kitchen

Heather in her kitchen

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A Postcard from Barbados

The wild and gorgeous east coast of Barbados

The wild and gorgeous north coast of Barbados

Well, hello there! And greetings, now from Barbados. I am on the second leg of my Caribbean break, nearing the end of it, this time at The Club in Barbados.

It has been a super week. I have gotten under the skin of Bajan food, learned to cook it, had lots of gorgeous fresh local fish and a few cocktails. Typically, I finish with a backlog of all the things that I wanted to do but didn’t. So, I start at 8.30am tomorrow with a trip to see some turtles, cooking in the kitchen here and getting a recipe for pepper sauce (I love that stuff!) and I am going to finish it all with a massage and facial. Then back to London overnight on Wednesday and straight back into meetings and insanity.

Here are some photo highlights. Back soon with recipes, stories and lots more photos.

Bajan fishing boats, Barbados. And people swimming behind!

Bajan fishing boats, Barbados. And people swimming behind!

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Heather, one of the chefs at The Club, who generously invited me into her home to teach me to cook Bajan food. Here with Mac Pie.

Cornmeal cou cou which I learned to make at Enid's Cooking School at The CLub - recipe along with others, soon

Cornmeal cou cou which I learned to make at Enid’s Cooking School at The Club – recipe along with others, soon

Bajan fish cakes in Bridgetown

Bajan fish cakes in Bridgetown

Mural at the Catholic church / school

Mural at the Catholic church / school

Bridgetown, so colourful

Bridgetown, so colourful

Taking it easy in Bridgetown

Taking it easy in Bridgetown

Morris Greenidge, a local historian, who I went on a fascinating tour of Bridgetown with

Morris Greenidge, a local historian, who I went on a fascinating tour of Bridgetown with

The synagogue in Bridgetown - fascinating history, more soon

The synagogue in Bridgetown – fascinating history, more soon

Granny's at Oistins

Granny’s at Oistins

Playing dominoes at Oistins

Playing dominoes at Oistins

Soaking it up at Oistins

Soaking it up at Oistins

Lobster on the grill at Oistins

Lobster on the grill at Oistins

Oistins, Barbados

Oistins, Barbados

Uncle George at Oistins

Uncle George at Oistins

The grill at Uncle Georges with flying fish in the foreground

The grill at Uncle Georges with flying fish in the foreground

BBQ pig tails, possibly the best thing EVER

BBQ pig tails, possibly the best thing EVER

Bathsheba, Barbados

Bathsheba, Barbados

Bajan surfer at Bathsheba, Barbados

Bajan surfer at Bathsheba, Barbados

Old plantation windmill

Old plantation windmill

This crazy little bird was trying to steal my biscuits

This crazy little bird was trying to steal my biscuits

Cotton growing in Barbados

Cotton growing in Barbados

Cotton field in Barbados

Cotton field in Barbados

Door

Door

The wild and gorgeous east coast of Barbados - up close

The wild and gorgeous north coast of Barbados – up close

The Cliff - amazing location and beautifully designed, good food too!

The Cliff – amazing location and beautifully designed, good food too!

A rum baba at The Cliff, with some Mount Gay Very Old Rum

A rum baba at The Cliff, with some Mount Gay Very Old Rum

Mar-tea-ni at The Cliff, Barbados

Mar-tea-ni at The Cliff, Barbados

Travel Info: I am in Barbados on the Barbados Blogathon, sponsored by Tropical Sky & Elite Island Resorts.

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Recipe: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritter Recipe (from Palm Island)

Chef Baka's Banana Fritters

Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Every morning on Palm Island, I would ask what the local breakfast was, and almost always order it. I love Caribbean breakfasts.

On my first morning, the local breakfast was banana fritters. Well, yes please. The bananas here are fantastic, rich and sweet, almost like they have been soaked in a rich banana syrup. I made banana fritters in school at Home Economics and was quite taken with them. These, however, were different.

My school banana fritters were slices of banana, fried in batter. Just that and for a 13 year old Irish cailín a revelation. These Caribbean banana fritters are more of an intense banana American pancake with some gentle spicing. Fluffy, light and like a morning banana tickle. Except that sounds quite rude. It isn’t!

Like banana bread, they are made with bananas just on the right side of brown – speckled skin with some yellow bits – mashed until soft (do you remember banana sandwiches?! I used to love them) and then added to the fritter mixture. Perfect for bananas that have gone too far to eat. Frugal & a wee bit healthy too.

I loved those banana fritters and I ordered them regularly, so I asked Chef Baka for the recipe. He went one better and showed me how to make them. He does weekly cooking demos on Palm Island so he did this one for me.

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

So, here it is. Enjoy! Do let me know how you like it.

Note on the recipe: the recipe is in American cups which I have converted to mls / g. I have included both. Our bananas are not as sweet as the ones here, so it may be wise to add the sugar if not completely ripe, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Enjoy!

RECIPE: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Ingredients

3 big ripe bananas, mashed
1 & 2/3 cups / 250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg (more if you like it – I do!)
1 tsp Cinnamon
2/3 cup / 160ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Oil or butter (for frying)

Method

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in a bowl.
Beat egg well, then combine mashed banana and milk.
Add dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the batter is smooth.
Heat a frying pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to coat the flat area.
Scoop a tablespoon of the batter onto the pan when the oil is heated to medium hot.
Fry on one side until small bubbles start to come through the batter, you will know then that that side is done.
Flip over and flatten the batter slightly.
Fry for a couple of minutes until medium brown.
Place cooked fritters on a few layers of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Best served warm but cooled is good, too.

Further info on Palm Island, and on Tropical Sky’s package to Palm Island.

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A Postcard from the Grenadines: A Lobster Lunch at Tobago Cays

Sailing on the Pink Lady

Sailing on the Pink Lady

I wish I had more time to write, but as I sit here typing, I really should be packing. I leave in an hour you see. However, I really wanted to share some pictures of my fantastic lobster lunch yesterday.

I left Palm Island on the Pink Lady – a small sailing boat that can take up to 4 passengers. We went to Tobago Cays, a protected series of tiny islands and a nature reserve. It is also the home of many turtles which you can see pop their heads up occasionally to breathe. I did see them, but I also snorkelled to have a look. I am possibly the worst and most panicky snorkeller in the history of creation. But I saw turtles, starfish, some seahorses. So despite the fact that I nearly choked when I came up for air, it was worth it.

Back to lunch. One of the small islands has several barbecues and for  EC$12 a pound they will cook you lobster. The lobster lives in little lobster pots off the shore (they buy them from local fishermen and store them live in the sea). When you request one, they retrieve it, kill and prepare it there and then, and really not long after you are eating it. I also had the normal Palm Island picnic, also on the barbecue – chicken, fish, beef, pasta, salads, fruit, fresh juices, rum punch, wine – way too much, but I tried most of everything. So good.

So here are some pics. I am off now. Next stop Barbados!

Leaving Palm Island for Tobago Cays

Leaving Palm Island for Tobago Cays

Island kitchen

Island kitchen on a tiny island at Tobago Cays

Lobster fresh from the sea

Lobster fresh from the sea

Lobster prepped and ready for the BBQ

Lobster prepped and ready for the BBQ

Time to cook!

Time to cook!

The BBQ

The BBQ

Lunch

Lunch

Table is set - isn't it lovely?!

Table is set – isn’t it lovely?!

Lobster grilled on the BBQ with a lovely pepper dressing on top.

Lobster grilled on the BBQ with a lovely pepper dressing on top.

Rum punch on the pink lady on the way back

Rum punch on the pink lady on the way back

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A Postcard from St Vincent

Good morning and greetings once more from Palm Island. Yesterday I went across to St Vincent, principal island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I flew there, it took about 2o minutes in a tiny plane. They used to make me nervous but I have grown to trust the pilot and the air industry and now enjoy the sense of adventure instead. Unless it gets rocky, then all bets are off.

I went to visit a farm. By sheer coincidence, before my arrival the people who supply Palm Island with passion fruit visited, and when I arrived they came up in conversation. It sounded wonderful, so a visit was arranged.

Becky and her husband have repatriated to St Vincent in the last two years. Becky’s husband was born and raised in St Vincent but they have spent most of their adult lives in the US, returning now to farm his grandparents land, now called Madam Ground Farms. The farm is on a steep hill and is packed with passion friut, pineapple, papaya, ginger, mangos. It really is amazing how lush and fertile the land is here. Volcanic soil seems to sprout everything and at speed. It tastes great too.

They are working on an ecotourism project which I will be watching with interest. Five days is not enough here, I need to come back, spend longer and explore thoroughly.

Some highlights from the day in photos follow.

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Union Island Airport – my plane was a little bigger (but not by much!)

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Mango sellers on St Vincent

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And this is their lunch – turkey with green bananas, pumpkin & yam

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Tiny puppy hanging around a countryside bakery

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Preparing bread for the oven

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Passion fruit fresh from the vine

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Freshly dug ginger

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Cheerful red roof

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Cocoa pod

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Cocoa pod up close

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Breadfruit tree. This was knocked over in the last hurricane and lots of new trees sprouted from the old one.

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Freshly harvested okra

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Mango

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Kojo, one of the farmers I visited

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Baby pineapple – had no idea they started pink!

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Mature pineapple

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… we harvested it

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which was more fun than I expected :)

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Looking for fallen nutmeg below the nutmeg tree

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Harvesting papaya

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Loofah, straight from the tree

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Pirates of the Caribbean fans might recognise this (I haven’t seen it!)

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lunch

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Creole chicken – delicious

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Spotted this guy cooking lobster on the beach from the ferry on the way back

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Gorgeous sailing boat at sunset (again, from the ferry)

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A Postcard from Palm Island in the Grenadines

Glorious sunset this evening on Palm Island

Glorious sunset this evening on Palm Island

I know. I am so very lucky.

Here I am in the Grenadines, on a glorious Caribbean island, not even a mile long. I am here as part of the Barbados Blogathon, where four bloggers have been sharing their experiences of Barbados. I am the last one. I tagged on an extra island, as I am a little greedy that way. So, before I hit Barbados, I am spending 5 nights on Palm.

Palm Island is off of Union Island, a short ride in a tiny plane from Barbados. It felt like such an adventure, and it is. Once I arrived at Union, I jumped on a boat, and landed 5 minutes later on Palm. We were greeted with a delicious rum punch and the last 2 days have been bliss.

A wee glimpse now, I will be back shortly with lots on what I have been up to, the food, and also some recipes.

See you soon!

Palm, taken from the top of the Iguana trail on the island. You can see where it gets its name.

Palm, taken from the top of the Iguana trail on the island, with Union Island in the background. You can see where it gets its name.

Rum punch on arrival

Rum punch on arrival

STOP - hammock time!

STOP – hammock time!

My lodgings for my 5 nights on Palm, a stones throw from the sea

My lodgings for my 5 nights on Palm, a stones throw from the sea

A fantastic little - actually quite big - fluoro iguana!

A fantastic little – actually quite big – fluoro iguana!

More Iguanas - I love them - the big one on the right is George - he has been here for years, and the restaurant is his turf

More Iguanas – I love them – the big one on the right is George – he has been here for years, and the restaurant is his turf

Another local - this gorgeous red food tortoise - indigenous to the island

Another local – this gorgeous red food tortoise – indigenous to the island

One last sunset pic

One last sunset pic

You can follow the Barbados Blogathon on twitter, #bdosblogathon.

Disclaimer / info: I travelled to Palm Island with Virgin Atlantic, courtesy of Tropical Sky, and I am staying at Palm Island courtesy of Elite Island.  All animals photographed could not give permission, but I am sure that George is delighted ;) 

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Last Postcard from Grenada

I spent my last couple of hours in Grenada putting together this post. I hit publish, boarded the plane, and got back today. Only when I hit publish, my post disappeared into some unknown ether. Gone from drafts to nowhere I can find, so I have just put it together again, with a very sleepy head.

Recipes, Grenada restaurants and more soon. Enjoy my last postcard for now :)

Grenada

Buying Jacks (small fish) in the blazing sunshine in Grenada

Selling jacks on the key in Grenada

Grenada

Old phone boxes, Grenada

Happy Hill, Grenada

Fisherman, Grenada

Buying nutmeg in the shell at the nutmeg factory, Grenada

Victoria Secrets, Grenada

The wild Atlantic, North Grenada

Met this guy sun drying his own cocoa in his driveway – most people have their own trees and do this

Bananas, Grenada

The Pink Palace, Grenada

Lush gorgeous rainforest in Grenada (the monkeys are in there!)

Avocados on the tree, Grenada

Vanilla on the vine, Grenada

Charlie at Charlie’s Bar, Grenada

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A Postcard from Grenada

Grenada

Grenada

I can’t quite believe that my week on this beautiful Caribbean island is coming to an end, but it is. It has been quite the non-stop adventure. I am busier here than I am in London, simply because there is so much that I want to see, and taste.

Lets start with an overview, and I will be back with more details and videos soon. More photos too, as this is really just the very tip of what I have taken.

Nutmeg in the shell, Grenada

Nutmeg in the shell, Grenada

Mace drying the sun, Grenada

Mace drying the sun, Grenada

Sun dried mace, Grenada

Sun dried mace, Grenada

Nutmeg, with mace, in the fruit - all parts are used

Nutmeg, with mace, in the fruit – all parts are used

Met this young guy on the road, Grenada

Met this young guy on the road, Grenada

The lovely folks at Belmont Estate, Grenada

The lovely folks at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Grenada Chocolate Company

Grenada Chocolate Company

Selling fresh fish from the back of a truck - jacks, very popular and in season now

Selling fresh fish from the back of a truck – jacks, very popular and in season now

Sorrel at the market, Grenada

Sorrel at the market, Grenada

Land crabs at the market, Grenada

Land crabs at the market, Grenada

The fish market, Grenada

The fish market, Grenada

Selling offal soup at the meat market, Grenada

Selling offal soup at the meat market, Grenada

Eating Crab Back at BB's Crab Back, Grenada

Eating Crab Back at BB’s Crab Back, Grenada

Land Crab, at BB's, Grenada

Land Crab, at BB’s, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

Harvesting cocoa at Belmont Estate, Grenada

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Greetings from Grenada! And Now for Something Completely Different: MONKEYS

Greetings from Grenada folks! Gre-nay-dah! Not Greh-nah-dah! In the Caribbean and not in Spain. I have been explaining that a lot. When my Irish accent meets Grenada, everyone thinks I am in Spain.

I am on the Spice Island. There is nutmeg everywhere, cinnamon too. Pimento, and in season cloves. Bay everywhere. Larger and more luscious waxy leaves than what we know. Bergamot scents the air occasionally. Mangos, papaya, so many bananas. Rich flavours, colours and smells permeate the air, and the Atlantic washes the coast every few seconds. My Atlantic from Ireland but the other side of it. The warmer bit.

I have done so much, I am very tired as I type. Hundreds – actually thousands of photographs in – video too. I take video on all my trips but never get the time to edit it. Rather I am never that inclined to. I am forcing myself to do that now. My little craptop, which is missing keys and has others that refuse to work gets me by, but is very whiny when I edit video.

I did though. And here it is. My first one from Grenada is not about food, except that it features bananas. More importantly it features monkeys. Mona monkeys from Grenada. How could I not?!

Now just to warn any newbies – I shoot and edit this myself, so it is well – not BBC standard. But I hope you like it anyway. I had fun.

Enjoy and back soon with lots more spice, seafood and chocolate talk.