Callaloo

What the hell is it, I hear you say?  Callaloo is a tropical, spinach-like plant, and the name of a (creole in origin) dish that is made from it.  It's like a rich ham hock chowder, made with okra, leafy greens, a gorgeous blend of herbs and a coconut milk base.  There is also a subtle sweet kick of scotch bonnet pepper (make it gentle, or, if like me you heart a bit of heat, make it hot enough to blow your eyes out of their sockets.)   In Trinidad, we also use dasheen leaves (another form of wild spinach) to make Callaloo.  However, here, I make it using the everyday, humble (but nonetheless super) spinach. I don't even have to say that it is packed with so much wholesome green-age that would make even Popeye blush, but it is also low-carb, and you can use reduced fat coconut milk.  Super tasty and healthy.  Win-win.  egarding the meat element of the Callaloo, you can use any form of salted meat, beef or pork.  If you are feeling particularly adventurous, go for pig tail!  As it finishes cooking, I like to throw in a fat handful of cooked crabmeat, but cooked, shredded chicken also works well, and if you feeling particularly flush, cooked lobster meat works a treat and makes it extra special.  

What the hell is it, I hear you say?  Callaloo is a tropical, spinach-like plant, and the name of a (creole in origin) dish that is made from it.  It's like a rich ham hock chowder, made with okra, leafy greens, a gorgeous blend of herbs and a coconut milk base.  There is also a subtle sweet kick of scotch bonnet pepper (make it gentle, or, if like me you heart a bit of heat, make it hot enough to blow your eyes out of their sockets.)  

In Trinidad, we also use dasheen leaves (another form of wild spinach) to make Callaloo.  However, here, I make it using the everyday, humble (but nonetheless super) spinach. I don't even have to say that it is packed with so much wholesome green-age that would make even Popeye blush, but it is also low-carb, and you can use reduced fat coconut milk.  Super tasty and healthy.  Win-win. 

egarding the meat element of the Callaloo, you can use any form of salted meat, beef or pork.  If you are feeling particularly adventurous, go for pig tail!  As it finishes cooking, I like to throw in a fat handful of cooked crabmeat, but cooked, shredded chicken also works well, and if you feeling particularly flush, cooked lobster meat works a treat and makes it extra special.  

time:  35-40 mins cooking + 5 mins prep                                                                                                                                                                                                         

serves 2

a small ham hock, cooked and shredded, reserving the bone                                      

170g spinach                                                                                                                

60g okra, chopped                                                                                                          

1 small onion, peeled and chopped                                                                                                    

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed                                                                                        

3 sprigs thyme                                                                                                                

1.5 tsp chopped chives                                                                                                      

1 tbsp chopped parsley                                                                                          

400ml coconut milk                                                                                                    

200ml vegetable stock                                                                                                  

a scotch bonnet (habanero) pepper                                                                  

vegetable oil                                                                                                                

salt and pepper

1.  On a medium heat, in a large saucepan, add a generous glug of vegetable oil and the chopped onion.  Soften the onion for about 5 minutes, but don't brown them.

2.  Add the spinach, okra, garlic, herbs, coconut milk, stock, ham hock bone, a small handful of the ham hock and the scotch bonnet pepper.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Turn the heat up and bring to the boil.  Then turn heat right down, cover the pan and simmer for about 30 mins.

3.  Carefully remove the bone, the woody stalk of the thyme and the scotch bonnet pepper, keeping the latter, if you want to add more spice.  

4.  Using a hand-blender, carefully blitz the callaloo until it is uniformly green, but still with a little texture.  (If you don't have a hand-blender, blend in a free-standing blender).

5.  Stir through three-quarters of the shredded ham hock.  Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if needed.  If like me, you want more spice, chop up the scotch bonnet pepper, discarding the seeds.  Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.  (I have had several painful experiences that I would not wish upon anyone...)  (You can also incorporate the following cooked and shredded proteins at this stage: crabmeat, chicken, lobster, for a little added pizazz).

6.  Serve in bowls, garnishing with the remaining shredded ham hock (or indeed with any incorporated protein as above) and sprinkle as much chopped scotch bonnet as you like.   You can also serve the callaloo over rice, if you fancy a heavier meal.