Recipe: Eastern Caribbean Inspired Callaloo Stew
This recipe is a mix of memories of street food tastings at the Breakfast Shed, an outdoor food market collective in Port of Spain, Trinidad and the kind help of my friend Akeisha Hayde, known as “Trini Chef and Director of Culinary Operations at MIT.
Callaloo refers to a dish of green vegetables – usually dasheen, taro or spinach leaves – on some Caribbean islands. But on other islands and throughout the African diaspora, the callaloo is known as the leaves of the amaranth plant, which belongs to the amaranth family and is found growing wild here in New England.
Urban farms such as The Food Project, the Urban Farming Institute, and some large New England farms with migrant workers led the way in meeting customer needs and growing callaloo to sell in local markets. The nutrient-rich plant grows easily in spring and summer in small vegetable plots and can be used in a variety of ways.. It can be cooked in soups and stews, served stir-fried, or even added to smoothies like kale.
For this stew recipe, I dipped into my frozen stash of callaloo (yes, it freezes well, like spinach or kale). It’s usually made with crabs or pigtail, but in this vegan version I’ve fortified the dish with extra vegetable broth and nutritional yeast for the umami flavor.
For 4 to 6 people, served with rice or another side dish.
- 3-4 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped 8-12 large okra (stems removed, thinly sliced)
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- 2-3 Trinidad peppers
- 2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced (varieties like heirloom pumpkins or kabocha squash)
- ½ cup cilantro or culantro/recao, finely chopped
- ½ bunch of thyme
- 1 bunch callaloo, seeded, seeded and coarsely chopped, including stems
- 1 bunch green onions, diced both green and white parts
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 2-3 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 vegetable stock cube or 2 teaspoons stock paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (optional)
- Wash and prepare all products.
- Add oil to a deep dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan. Over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the chiles and stir to soften as well.
- Add the okra. Then add the pumpkin, thyme and culantro leaves. Stir.
- Crumble the ingot and add the callaloo. Stir to coat well with the sautéed herbs. Add nutritional yeast. The callaloo will be bulky, but shrink to less than half its volume.
- Add the coconut milk and bring gently to a boil. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.
- Reduce heat to low and add whole pepper now if using. Close the cover. Reduce your heat to maintain a low simmer. Bake for about 20 minutes to allow the callaloo to break down completely.
- Use a handheld immersion blender, swivel stick, or transfer to a traditional blender and blend until smooth. You can add hot broth to adjust the desired consistency. Ideally, your batch will have a smooth, stew-like consistency.
- Serve hot with rice, other cereals or bread.