There is something very primitive and adventurous about cooking outdoors on a wood fire. It creates a wonderful, social atmosphere infused with delicious aromas from various foods cooked on open flames.
My family has spent many an Easter camping on the eastern end of the Island. It is a tradition handed down just like roasting sweet potatoes in dying embers, frying fish in coconut oil, eating mangoes and sipping coconut water; and food never tasted better.
The cook would rise early in the morning to start the fire for the day’s cooking. The fire was also the last thing at night the cook tended to, banking it for the next morning’s use.
With this in mind, I have put together a few old time recipes that my family especially enjoyed during Easter
Fish ‘n fritters cooked in coconut oil
The old timers say food cooked over open fire in a seasoned cast iron pot gives food the best flavour.
Freshly caught fish is the perfect traditional camp snack usually eaten with fingers. Serve with fried fritters, cooked in coconut oil and you will have the sweetest smelling camp ground around.
Fifty years ago in Cayman there were an abundance of fish and when papa’s dory made shore, mama Audrey would go down to the seashore to select the best cuts to prepare before papa got home from cleaning the fish.
Trilby’s fried fish
My sister Trilby is the best fish fryer in the group and swears by her simple recipe. “Just salt and pepper the fish, this will do the trick,” she says.
Wash fish with lime and vinegar
Scorch fish and season with black pepper and salt
Place one cup of flour in saucer and season with pepper and salt
Coat fish in mixture
Pour frying oil in skillet. Oil should have a high smoke point in order to get hot enough to fry the fish. Add one Scotch bonnet pepper to hot oil and add fish and cook until golden brown. Lightly fry onions and place on fried fish.
Caymanians like their fritters but not everyone makes them alike. Some like them puffy and fried to a golden crisp while others like them thick and solid and just lightly brown. Jonny cakes made from the same ingredients were baked in cast iron pots instead of frying.
Combine one pound of all purpose flour, one teaspoon baking powder, one teaspoon salt and half a cup of sugar. Knead into dough
Let dough rest for half hour
Pinch off pieces roll into palm of hand and flatten
Place into frying oil and cook until golden brown.
Roasted sweet potatoes with wangra paste
To make roasted sweet potatoes dig a hole in the hot ashes, dump in the sweet potatoes, cover them with more hot ashes. Potatoes usually take about 20 minutes to roast depending on size. Stick a sharp object in potato, if it goes right through potato is ready.
Wangra seeds have a nutty taste, much like peanut butter when squashed into a paste. The long stalks are much like corn but instead have tiny pods that contained seeds.
An old wooden mortar and thistle was used to squash the seeds. Today you can use a blender.
Place wangra seeds in the bottom of the mortar and press into a paste, add black pepper and salt to season.
Remove sweet potatoes from ashes, smother with a globs of wangra paste and enjoy.
Caymanians’ favourite traditional camp fruit is mangoes, which are enjoyed during swimming. Juicy sea grapes follows close behind.
The mango, when in season, is the most delicious fruit for Cayman campers. Usually around Easter, the mangoes are still green but children like to eat green mangoes.
Peel one green mango, add salt, black pepper and vinegar to taste. Let sit for a few hours to marinate and enjoy. This is also done with green tamarind.
A number of varieties of mangos are found locally such as long or round mango, as well as guineps and tamarinds.