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Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Food commentary. There’s something reassuring in the saying, the more things change, the more they are the same. The aphorism can’t always be taken at face value but it does suggest that life is about the fundamentals. Take soup for instance, well this is a feature on food, no matter how fancy we get with our food it is one dish that we all return to. There is nothing like the comforting warmth that a good bowl of soup provides.

Hot or cold there isn’t a country on the planet that doesn’t have its traditional version of soup. Just think of some of the world’s best known soups like Borscht from Russia, Bouillabaisse from France, Clam Chowder from America or Gazpacho from Spain and you see that it is a dish that tells you as much about that part of the world as any cultural icon.

I’m willing to guess that the popularity of soup began back in our hunter-gatherer days when if there wasn’t meat for the pot you relied on cooking vegetables. No doubt back then in times of plenty the soup pot would be adorned with both vegetables and meat.

Coming back to the present day, or at least a not so distant past, I admit that when I was a child soup meant trying to avoid vegetables and tubas: I had no liking for pumpkin, yam, green banana or dasheen so the West Indian version of ‘Soup’ brings back bad memories. With matured taste buds I now realize that regardless of whether you use vegetables meat or a combination of both the possible ingredients for a good soup is endless.

It’s not just me who’s had to rethink their ideas about soup, the food world is fast waking up to the fact that there’s a lot of goodness in a bowl of soup. If soup is cooked right none of the goodness is lost apart from what would be lost by adding heat; so it makes sense that eating soup is a great way of getting your five or seven a day.

Chicken Soup Photo courtesy wwwjoyofkoshercom

Chicken Soup. Photo courtesy www.joyofkosher.com

Another benefit of regularly eating soup is that is great for those that want to eat well while on a diet. Depending on the ingredients you use soup can reduce your calorie, fat or carbohydrate intake while supplying your body with nutrients without leaving you feeling as though you’re running on empty.

If the ultimate aim of us eating seven a day is to ward of life threatening diseases then the claims for Tom Yum Gung soup are interesting to say the least. Researchers in Thailand and Japan are fascinated by the fact that Thais have a very low rate of intestinal cancers and have put it down to the ingredients in Tom Yum Gung soup, which contains coriander, lemon grass and chilies. At present the researchers are not sure how the chemicals in the soup fight cancer but are sure that the main ingredients in the soup can block cancer cells.

What I take from the researchers claims is that not only is it a good thing to explore different sorts of soups but it is well established ingredient combinations that are good for you. The Caribbean, like any other part of the world, has its own soup traditions, here are some you might recognize and hopefully some that are new to you.

Caribbean Chicken Soup

It is said that chicken soup is medicine to revive the dead and that’s why I’ve given it prime position. Let’s be realistic, no food could be soefficacious but it’s certainly the case that every culture wheels out a version of chicken soup when illness strikes.

In terms of production values it is also fitting to lead with the Caribbeanpot.com team; I’ve always had positive things to say about their videos and this being no different in that regard.

For preparation you’ll be quite busy with this dish as there’s quite a range of ingredients, which isn’t unusual for a Caribbean soup. One of the things that I will challenge Chris on is his suggestion of using a ready-made stock. I would definitely recommend that you make your own stock with chicken bones as this is where you’ll get the reviving goodness. Making a stock will of course mean that you’ll add to your cooking time but you can always start this days before making the soup.

I’ll quickly finish by saying most of the ingredients will be easy to find apart from the eddoes, which you may have to go to a specialist shop to find.

Jamaican Red Pea Soup Recipe Video

This dish comes from the Cook Like a Jamaican team, who are becoming a bit of a regular fixture in this feature. The Cook-Liketeam is not as slick as Caribbeanpot.com but all of the key production values are as you’d want and the presentation as ever is warm, friendly and instructive.

The way the final dish is presented doesn’t make it look that wonderful but the reason I’ve included it is that the main ingredient, beans, and should always be part of a healthy diet. I also like the fact that the beans in this dish are cooked from scratch, which means soaking them overnight and then boiling them until they’re soft. Though this recipe uses ox tail but it does allow for the use of a ham hock for those of you who are not that adventurous.

The beans and the ox tail preparation make it clear that this dish will require a deal of your time but at least there is nothing difficult to find when shopping for ingredients.

Jamaican Fish Tea Soup

The How to Cook Great team is another production company whose videos I’ve listed in past features. As is usual for the How to team this video has no presenter and the key information is given through the use of graphics. The fact that every effort is made to ensure that all details are made clear means that this presentation style works well.

Like the chicken soup there is quite a list of ingredients so you can expect to spend a bit of time putting this soup together. What’s more you’ll have to make a fish stock however this will not require the same amount of cooking time as the chicken stock: 20 – 30 minutes according to the video’s graphics.

In terms of your shop for this dish there is nothing in the list of ingredients that you’d having trouble finding but make sure you get your fish from a high quality fishmonger.


Trinidad’s Callaloo

Strictly speaking this dish is intended to be served as a vegetable accompaniment however it has the same consistency of soup and even the chef, Khalid Mohammad, suggests that it can be served as a soup dish. I’ve also included this dish because its vegetarian and is made from a super healthy green leaf.

This video comes from the Culinary Institute of America, which is a new one to me, and features a chef cooking in a professional kitchen. The other production values of good sound and well thought out camera work are there in spades and make for a good looking product.

As for putting this dish together yourself you shouldn’t have any problems, given that there’s not a massive range of ingredients and once everything’s been cut up its all about one pot cooking.

I will not suggest that the shopping trip will be straightforward, as I’ve not seen Callao among the vegetables on offer in major supermarkets. That said if you have a Caribbean or African food supplier in your area you should find what you need.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


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