My friend, Janine, is from the Caribbean island of St. Croix. We share a passion for good food, and when I heard she loved to cook, I suggested we get together for a Western Caribbean Dinner Party! Janine is quite the cook and showed up with Fried Johnnycakes, Saltfish in Butter Sauce, Caribbean Chicken & Rice, and a pot of beans that were some of the best I’ve ever had!…a true tribute to her home island of St. Croix! She even sang us the song about Johnnycakes that they used to sing as kids! Thanks, Janine for a evening to remember!
Fried Johnny Cake
Everyday West Indian staple. No Christmas exists on St. Croix without them. Crucians call it johnny cake, however, may be known by a different name on other islands. Goes hand in hand with fried fish as well as saltfish. Or the kids can simply eat them as a snack.
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 2 tablespoons shortening (or soft butter)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoons sugar
- Oil for frying (Canola or any extra light oil)
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Work shortening or butter gently in with fingertips. Gradually add water until a soft, pliable dough is formed. Knead gently for a few minutes until dough is smooth.
Shape into about 8-10 balls and slightly flatten into about 2-3″ spheres. You’ll need additional dough on the counter to do this. Then drop each sphere in hot, hot cooking oil so that half covers the dough. You should see johnny cake puff and form a larger sphere, and the sides turn brown within a minute or less. When first side is lightly browned, turn over and brown other side. Only turn once. Drain on paper towels.
Last time I cooked these, the kids covered them with powdered sugar. They were yummy that way too. Also, you can add 1/3 slice of a ripened banana, mashed, to the batter. Gives cake more of a ‘benyé’ type flavor, although the shape is not round like a benyé.
Saltfish in Butter Sauce
- 1 lb. Salted Codfish (bonelss & skinless. If you purchase with bone and skin, it’ll be more work for you because you’ll have to de-bone and de-skin the fish)
- 1 sliced onion (slice in long slivers)
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/2 yellow pepper
- 3-4 fresh garlic cloves
- 1-2 Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 1-1.5 sticks butter
- 2 tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
- 1 cup water
- Add hot peppers to taste (preferably 1/2 a habanero pepper)
Soak saltfish in bowl, usually overnight, in order to remove excess salt. May have to throw off water twice to really get rid of the salty flavor. Throw off water. Take fish and in a boiling pan, boil fish until it becomes flaky and soft to taste (about 1-1.5 hrs.). In a separate large sauté pan, sauté butter, olive oil sliced onions, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, along with garlic, capers and Adobo and water (until onions and peppers are cooked). Add flaked saltfish. Simmer together for about 30 minutes. Once cooked together, turn off fire, and drop habanero pepper in sauce; swishing throughout to spice the dish up. (Or you can add habanero or pepino peppers to dish when ready to eat).
Slice Johnny Cake (or not, simply your choice)
Place saltfish on top of the johnny cake or in between sliced johnny cake.
Top it off with a slice of West Indian avocado (big, smooth, ultra green avocados). Although we call them Alligator Pears, the skin and texture of a Mexican avocado probably looks more like alligator skin than the West Indian avocado. The Alligator Pears a little sweeter and have more water in them.