Kohlrabi, rum and whelks

 March is a transitional month for farming in the Cayman Islands, a time when it’s still too dry for some of the summer crops and when it’s getting too hot for many of the winter crops.

It was therefore the last hurrah for some of the fresh ingredients featured at the sold-out Brasserie Harvest Dinner event on 18 March.

One of those ingredients was purple kohlrabi, grown in the gardens of Joel Walton’s Plantation House.

Brasserie consultant Chef Dean Max likes to cook with little-known ingredients and kohlrabi is no different.

“Most people have never tasted it before,” he said of the vegetable in the cabbage family that can be prepared similarly to a turnip.  Unlike a turnip, however, kohlrabi grows above ground.

For the Harvest Dinner, the kohlrabi was cubed and roasted with olive oil and salt, much the same way potatoes would be roasted.  It was served with dual main courses, Mackie Powell’s delicious local beef stew and Brasserie’s fresh catch of the day.  On this evening, three different types of snapper served as the catches of the day.

The evening was unique in that in addition to wine pairings, Tortuga Rum Company provided several rums with the meal.

“Rum is the wine of the Caribbean,” said Tortuga Rum Company’s Robbie Hamaty.

The rums, which included 5-year-old and 12-year-old Tortuga rum, were served straight up

“These are sipping rums,” Mr. Hamaty said.

Besides the little known kohlrabi, March’s Harvest Dinner also included another somewhat under-appreciated local ingredient: whelks.  Instead of being stewed in the traditional Cayman way, the whelks were boiled out of their shell, scraped and then minced and mixed with other ingredients, including scotch bonnet pepper. The tasty result, which was still warm when served, was served over crackers and passed around during the Champagne reception.

The dinner also featured raw cucumber and garlic-chive soup, which was served cold in clear wine bottles.  The viscous, lime-green liquid looked like something that should have been served at a St. Patrick’s Day event the night before, but the taste was phenomenal.

Other dishes served at the event included freshly made flatbread with smoked duck breast and lentil puree; local arugula salad with the Brasserie’s own sun-dried tomatoes; and curried eggplants grown in the Brasserie’s own garden.

With Robbie Hamaty in the house, dessert had to feature rum cake of some sort, and in this case it included pound cake topped with whipped papaya cream, then doused with Tortuga Rum Liqueur.  Also on the dessert menu was guava panna cotta and coconut macaroons, which paired well with the sweetness of the rums.

Only one more Harvest Dinner – on 8 Aprial – remains before the Brasserie takes a pause for the summer months. The dinner series will resume in November.  However, since April’s event sold out within days, most people are just going to have to wait for the beginning of the fall harvest before they get a taste of the freshest food Cayman has to offer.