As mentioned in my previous post here, my boyfriend and I had a nice little vacation in the Caribbean to kick off 2018. After our adventurous night in Antigua, we headed over to Montserrat via the tiniest plane I’ve ever flown on. That was a little nerve wracking because even just a slight wind would push the plane around, but we made it safely and the rest of our trip was amazing. We swam and played in the sand like 10-year-olds on beaches where we were often the only ones there, we swam in the pool and lounged on the patio of our villa just watching the ocean or the huge iguana that lived in the tree next to the pool (we named him Igor the Iguana), and we ate well. Usually, when I say I ate well on vacation, I proceed to provide a list of restaurants I tried. Montserrat is a small island with a population of just about 5,000, so it’s not exactly a fine dining mecca. On this vacation, we wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet at our villa as much as possible anyway, so we ate in a lot. Before we left New York, I pulled together a couple of recipes for Caribbean food using fish and shrimp, thinking these items should be easy to find and super fresh…we were going to an island, after all, right? Wrong! Even though there is great fishing in the Caribbean, the people of Montserrat apparently don’t really fish much. Most of the food on the island is shipped in from larger islands, so all meat is frozen. I’m ok with frozen shrimp or chicken, but I prefer my fish to be fresh, so we had to adjust. Sometimes when in a new place, you have to adapt and find ways to modify the plan a bit. We had a fun challenge ahead of us.
The first day we arrived, the property manager for the villa took us to the grocery store to stock up on supplies. It was a tiny little store and it didn’t have everything we were used to seeing in our grocery stores in the US. We also felt rushed because the property manager was waiting. It was all a little overwhelming. Not a problem. We pulled together some canned goods, a bag of rice, and some cheese and crackers to get us through the next day or so. Our “pantry meal” actually ended up being really good! I used black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, jarred jalapenos, rice, and spices to make a really tasty beans and rice dish that lasted a couple of days.
On day three, we had a little more time on our hands, so we took a taxi back to the store and spent a little more time exploring. We found the frozen meats and got a bag of shrimp and a couple of chicken breasts. Then we realized that the fresh produce is all in the refrigerator at the side of the store – makes sense because the doors to the store are always open and bugs are everywhere. Armed with this jerk shrimp recipe from Lawren Moneta, we went looking for everything else. As mentioned, this was a tiny store where variety was limited, so once again we adapted. Instead of cantaloupe, I just put some pineapple in the salsa. We couldn’t find a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, so I used the jarred jalapenos we previously bought. Honey was extremely expensive and we couldn’t find limes, so the juice from the pineapple pulled double duty for sweetness and acidity. We also didn’t have thyme or cilantro, so I just left it out. The shrimp was still very good, and the sweetness from the salsa was a really nice compliment to the salty and spicy shrimp! In fact, it was so good that I made it twice during our 9 days at the villa.
Another dish we really enjoyed was chicken curry. Curries are very common in Caribbean cuisine, and the grocery store where we did our shopping was owned by an Indian couple, so we decided to buy a bag of Indian curry powder so I could attempt my own. It was really easy and tasty! Here’s what I did:
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 potato, diced small
1 box frozen spinach
1/2 cup chicken stock (I couldn’t find this, so I used a bouillon cube)
Saute onion a couple of minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute. Add chicken, potato, curry powder, and chicken stock and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked through. Add coconut milk and spinach and continue cooking, breaking spinach apart as it thaws. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft and spinach is thawed and integrated well. Add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, more curry powder. Serve over rice or, as they often do in Montserrat, wrapped in a roti.