Recipe: Cornmeal Cou Cou

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Many Caribbean islands have their own take on this side dish, which traces its origins to Africa. Variations include substituting coconut milk for the okra or using chicken stock instead of water. The following is the classic Barbados version, the epitome of simple, satisfying comfort food. If you don't have a cou cou stick, the implement traditionally used to stir the dish as it cooks, use a wooden spoon.

This recipe is adapted from Laurel-Ann Morley's Caribbean Recipes Old and New.

Serves 6

    • 12 okra, sliced thin
    • 3 cups cornmeal
    • 6 to 8 cups water
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 tablespoons butter, preferably red butter (Irish cooking butter)

Bring the water to a boil, add the okra and salt, and cook until very soft and mushy. Use some of the liquid in the pan to moisten the cornmeal. Place about half of the okra liquid in another pan, and add the cornmeal slowly, turning with a cou cou stick and adding more okra liquid as needed and stirring continuously.

When mixture is smooth and stiff, add the butter. Cover and let steam over very low heat for a few minutes. Spoon into a buttered bowl.

To read Rebecca's piece about the little-known foods of Barbados, click here.

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Rebecca Rothbaum is a New York-based freelance writer who has contributed to the New Yorker, Gourmet, New York magazine, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications.

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