A fluffy cornmeal dish made with okra, coconut milk and lightly seasoned
Cou cou is very popular amongst the English speaking islands, almost all of these Caribbean islands cook it, only the formula varies. In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about let me brief you on this dish, firstly the spelling of the name – cou cou or coo coo is the same thing.
As I said mentioned in the post introduction coo coo is a fluffy cornmeal dish made from cornmeal turned/folded with vegetables, coconut milk and midly seasoned. In Barbados coo coo forms as part of the national dish served with flying fish, I had the luxury of visiting Barbados (BIM) several times and a local guy took us to a place where they made the best cou cou in town. It was so nice I had to go back for seconds, that and the fact I’m just greedy.
Also, the Virgin islands (British and US), Antigua and Barbuda consume cou cou, though they refer to it as fungi. In Jamaica we eat cou cou, turn cornmeal or tun’ cornmeal if you say it in patios – the recipe is a slight contrast to our Eastern Caribbean neighbors with the omission of okra and people like to add saltfish directly to the cornmeal as opposed to serving it on the side.
Well now that I’ve given you the low down on cou cou and the various names it’s known as in the Caribbean, let’s get down to business with cooking the darn thing. Okay this is the Trinidadian version of cou cou what seals the deal with this popular dish is the pimiento pepper.
This slender, aromatic pepper is quintessential in Trinidadian cooking, sadly I wasn’t able to get hold of any pimiento peppers so finely sliced up some red peppers to substitute the taste. I forgot to mention that the key ingredient – cornmeal is also known as polenta in other cultures, you may know it as that, it’s virtually the same thing.
This recipe is very simple to make, however, when adding the cornmeal to the liquid you need to STIR, STIR, STIR – seriously give your arm a complete workout that’s how vigorous the stirring should be. This is an important step to decrease the risk of lumps.
I used 2 1/2 cups of liquid (coconut milk and water) which produced a fluffy/creamy texture, some like their cou cou more dense, if that’s the case then simply scale back the liquid, omitting roughly 1/2 cup worth of liquid during the initial stage where the okra simmers in the coconut milk.
Serve with a load of veggies to keep it vegan or stewed fish as seen above.
- 1 cup cornmeal (fine and non GMO)
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp of dairy free butter
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- ½ cup of warm water
- 1 small onion, diced
- 8 okras, sliced finely
- 2 tbsp of pimiento peppers or 2tbsp of sweet red peppers
- salt to taste
- Boil the coconut milk and then reduce to a low heat.
- Add the finely sliced okra and leave to simmer until tender, this should take 5-7 minutes, given the size of the sliced okra.
- Half way through tenderising the okra add the onion, butter, garlic and peppers, stir then continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the liquid mixture from the heat, and begin to add some of the cornmeal while stirring rapidly. Tip - the quicker you stir the less likelihood of lumps forming.
- Return the pot to the stove, again adding the cornmeal in segments while stirring and folding until everything is incorporated into the pot.
- If the mixture is too dense add the water, slowly to determine your desired texture.
- Continue to cook for another 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is firm. Fine cornmeal cook relatively quickly compared to the course kind.
- Season with salt according to taste