Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coconut Bake

Trinidad and Tobago Islands have, and always will have, a soft spot in my hart.  I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks there.  Mostly, on Trinidad on the Northern tip of the island in a little fishing village called Toco.  We became close friends with our hosts, Auntie Patsy and her Husband Rodolph.  I think of them often and miss them a great deal.  I learned a great deal in Auntie Patsy's kitchen, cooking with what you have at hand and around you.  Breadfruit, Coconut, Plantains, Christopher root, Mango's, Guava, and Black Tip Shark to name just a few items.  One of the Culture shock moments was when needing items for a meal.  You didn't just run down to the local grocery store, seeing how there were none.  You had to know your surroundings.  What plant was ripe with fruit or veggies.  What time the tide was in or out.  That was your Local market.  There was farmers and local fishermen that would drive there little trucks around the village and shout what there daily catch or harvest was.  If you had money you could buy there wears, but most people were quite poor and that was not always a luxury. 

I recall my very 1st morning at Auntie Patsy's home after 3 days of driving and air travel.  My wife Amy and I were famished for something substantial.  As we sat at the breakfast table we were served a fresh, straight from the oven, loaf of Bread, a bowl of a white spread that we thought at the time was a cream cheese spread, a fruit juice and a bowl of various fruits.  We launched into the bread first, which later we learned was called "coconut bake".  With slice of coconut bake in hand, we headed for the spread and loaded our bread slice with the white concoction.  With a huge bite and now a overstuffed mouth full of coconut bake with the white spread our taste buds took a screeching halt.  I turned and looked at my wife with a perplexed expression of "Why in the world am I tasting FISH?"  With great effort and a full glass of fruit juice at the beckoning, we both downed the mouthful of coconut bake with the Trinidadian traditional spread called "Fish Paste".  Once our mouth was clear, we downed our fruit juice to wash away the shock, only to be met with the taste of Wheat Grass which was the mistakenly thought to be fruit juice.  This is the point in our time in Trinidad that we begin to open our eyes to a wondrous world of new experences. Connecting to a people and culture through food.  And like so many other events in my life, it happen in the kitchen, were friendships have been forge for century's and will do so far into the future.  What a wonderful journey!
Once back in the states we began to missed the many creations of Auntie Patsy's kitchen.  So we tried to recreate "Coconut Bake" which was our favorite daily treat.  After many trials and errors we came close to the real deal.  Not the exact recreation though, since we have no fresh coconut trees near us at 5500 ft above seas level and being land locked.  So we run down to the local store and buy our coconut and check out all the while missing the fresh sea breeze and the wonderland of the trees and fields of wild growth that we experienced.  So, for those of you that love bread and also love coconut here is that wonderful creation.

Coconut Bake

5 cups Flour
1 tablespoon yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Shortening
1/4 to 1/2 *Fresh* grated Coconut   (the bagged stuff just won't produce the same texture or flavor)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cup water


Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.

Rub in the butter and shortening, then stir in sugar and grated coconut.

Add water, and mix into a firm dough.

Turn out onto floured board, knead lightly, shape into a ball and leave covered for 15-20 minutes.

Press into the center and using a rolling pin, roll into a circular shape about ¾” thick. Mark ‘wedges’ into dough with fork perforations
Heat oven to 350°.

Put onto a flat, greased baking sheet and bake till golden brown for about 20-30 minutes.

coconut bake with salt fish

Remove from oven.

Cut into wedges 2-3 inches wide.
Serve hot, attractively arranged on a flat dish.

Someday, I would like to go back to that little village and learn more about the life and culture.  But until then, I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, and imagine the smell of the sea and feel the trade winds blowing upon your face while biting into a warm slice of Coconut Bake.  Imagine the sounds of the Steal Drums floating up from the local gathering spot as you experience a little of the Trinidadian Life.



Unknown said...

My husband and I have Been to Aunti Patsy's several times on mission trips and were talking about her tonight. I hope you were able to enjoy her shark fin soup and the goat steak as well. I really pray some day to get back there.

Unknown said...

My husband and I have Been to Aunti Patsy's several times on mission trips and were talking about her tonight. I hope you were able to enjoy her shark fin soup and the goat steak as well. I really pray some day to get back there.