This is the first time that we head back to Saint Lucia since our first virtual world tour. After Vera’s chicken roti, it’s my turn to present the national dish of this charming little country: the green fig and saltfish.
No, we’re not going to cook figs, but rather bananas. Yes, this is how banana is referred to in Saint Lucia and other Caribbean islands. Banana is also the first export of this paradisiac island. Banana is pretty much as ubiquitous as potato in Western cuisine. Indeed, banana is often used in a main course (like here), as a side dish, or even in salads.
Salted cod is the fish traditionally used in this dish but other salted fish can be used.
As Vera explained to us, salted cod was historically offered to slaves because of its nutritional intake as well as its low price. Slaves judiciously cooked cod and bananas with spices and other condiments to make such an original dish as this delicious green fig and saltfish.
Salting is a process that has been used for centuries to preserve food for longer periods, similarly to fermentation, a method that I used for sarmas, or pickling, a process that I followed for Salvadorian curtido.
We thus find salted cod in many traditional recipes as in accras, but also other recipes that we published on the blog such as salt fish cakes from Barbados, salt fish from Antigua and Barbuda, arroz con bacalao from Panama, oil down from Granada or the famous bacalhau a Gomes de Sa from Portugal, a country where salted cod appears in many national and regional recipes.
Green fig and saltfish is a recipe that is nowadays often prepared on weekends and special occasions. This is a dish that you will find on the tables during the Jounen Kweyol festival (October 28), along with seafood, sweets, and beverages such as cocoa tea or fresh juices. The International Day of the Creole language and culture is indeed an important celebration on this island that still has a rich French Creole culture.
I cooked green fig and saltfish for dinner and we ate it throughout the weekend. The whole family loved it. The dish is not only very colorful, but the spices and condiments beautifully enhance the green bananas, that add mostly texture but little taste.
I will definitely cook it again, probably with a little more heat if the children are not at home!
- 2 lb green bananas
- 1 lb salted cod
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic , chopped
- 3 pickled peppers , thinly sliced
- ¼ cabbage , shredded (optional)
- 2 tomatoes , diced
- 2 sprigs thyme , chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Place salted cod in a bowl of cold water and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times.
- Cut the ends of each banana and discard.
- Make a shallow cut down the length of the bananas.
- Place the bananas in a deep pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Drain and cool.
- Meanwhile, take cod out of the refrigerator and drain.
- Place in a pot, cover with water and boil for about 25 minutes.
- Rinse with cold water and drain. Crumble the fish, taking care to remove the bones if any.
- Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a deep pan.
- Add cod, and lower heat.
- Sauté for about 5 minutes.
- Add onion, garlic, peppers, black pepper and thyme and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the shredded cabbage and stir.
- Peel the bananas. Cut 1-inch pieces diagonally and sprinkle with salt.
- Add bananas to cod mixture.
- Mix well so that the green bananas take the flavors of the cod and seasonings.
- Cook for 5 minutes then add the tomato and parsley. Stir, cover the pan and turn off the heat.
- Wait 5 minutes before uncovering, then serve.