A recent article in Forbes magazine espoused the virtues of the humble dasheen bush, more favourably known as callaloo bush. Of course, here in TT callaloo has first place on our Sunday lunch tables along with dishes the likes of coo-coo and provision.
It is the main ingredient in saheena, dasheen bush bhagi, callaloo rice, and makes a very satisfying and undeniably delicious soup when correctly flavoured up with lots of fresh local herbs, garlic, coconut milk and hot pepper.
Crab is always a welcomed addition to a pot of callaloo but I often add pumpkin in place of the crab. A knob of butter added at the end, after a good swizzle provides a silken, yet textural soup.
I always refer to a bowl of callaloo as a big bowl of greens, and given its high nutritional profile, high in vitamin A and C, good quality protein, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and iron; there is no reason to omit this great green leaf in favour of other newcomers.
Let dasheen/callaloo bush become a staple when you go to the market. Note though, real dasheen leaves will display its signature burst of purple at the centre of each leaf.
Historians say the crop arrived with the African slaves, as one that would be easy to propagate and provide good nutrition from the root to the leaves. Decades later who are we to disagree?
Fish baked on callaloo leaves
1½ lbs fresh fish fillet marinated in 2 cloves minced garlic, one tbs minced chives and basil.
1 tbs coconut oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 bunch callaloo bush, preferably rolled, tips removed and chopped
¼ cup coconut milk
6 basil leaves
1 tomato sliced
1 hot banana pepper, sliced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, (optional)
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1½ cups milk
½ tsp salt and pepper
pinch grated nutmeg
Heat oil in a sauté pan, add garlic and cook until fragrant and tender but not brown. Add callaloo bush and sauté until wilted, season with salt and black pepper, add coconut milk and cover and simmer until tender about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make the sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan, add flour and cook to a smooth paste, do not brown, add milk and stir to remove any lumps, cook until thick, season with salt and pepper, add nutmeg. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350F
Assemble the casserole, in an ovenproof dish, place cooked callaloo onto the base of the greased dish, spread evenly, lay seasoned fish fillets on top, place tomato on top of fish, basil leaves and peppers.
Pour sauce on top of fish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if using.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes just until fish is tender.
Serves 2 to 4
Callaloo stuffed crepes
These are great as an appetiser, serve them topped with a light tomato sauce
For the crepes:
1 cup cake flour
⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
2⁄3 cup each milk and water
3 tbs melted butter
Whisk together flour, nutmeg, salt.
Combine water and milk. Add to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time.
Whisk in melted butter.
Rest 10 to 30 minutes.
Preheat a 6-inch frying pan, grease lightly and pour about ¼ cup of batter into pan, swirl to cover bottom of pan, if batter seems too much in pan, pour off excess.
When crepes appear dry around the edges, flip, cook for a few seconds later and remove.
Makes about 10, five inch crepes.
For the sauce
⅓ cup flour
1¼ cups milk
3 eggs lightly beaten
salt and black pepper
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan heat milk, whisk in flour and cook until smooth and thick about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool slightly and stir in eggs, nutmeg salt and pepper.
Warm mixture gently and add Parmesan cheese.
For the callaloo
1 small bunch /dasheen bush, leaves only, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
½ cup coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ hot or hot pepper, chopped
Warm milk in small saucepan and gradually add flour, whisk in flour and continue cooking until thick, move from heat and stir in eggs and cheese, stir well to combine, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, set aside.
Make the callaloo filling, heat oil in sauté pan, add onions, and garlic and pepper, sauté until tender, add callaloo bush and stir.
Add coconut milk slowly while callaloo is cooking.
Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes until tender.
Add callaloo to sauce mixture. Spoon mixture into crepes and roll.
Place on plates and spoon spicy tomato sauce over top.
Serves 4 to 6
For the spicy tomato sauce:
2 tbs olive oil
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1 28-ounce can tin tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
fresh basil or 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
Make the sauce by heating olive oil in a heavy saucepan, add onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant, add carrots and cook for 5 minutes longer.
Add tomatoes and break with the spoon.
Season with salt, pepper and add sugar. Add basil and continue to stir.
Cover and simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
Taste and adjust seasonings.