“How about I make you some of my breadfruit pie,” Marina suggested while we were deciding what to have for dinner the day she cooked for us in our Airbnb villa, up in the hills of Vieux Fort on the southern tip of Saint Lucia.
“What’s breadfruit?” I asked.
“Oh, you will love it,” She said by way of explanation. “Trust me, you will love it.”
Marina is the maid who looks after the property we rented for five nights, a woman with a wonderfully contagious laugh and plenty of stories to tell. She’s also available to cook for a small price, giving her guests a list of ingredients to buy in advance. We wanted as much of a local experience as possible, so we were open to whatever she suggested.
So breadfruit pie it was, and she was right – we did love it!
Marina printed on lined yellow paper a neatly written list of ingredients for us to buy and we agreed that she would bring the breadfruit, some mahi mahi fish to prepare with local spices that would go nicely with the breadfruit pie and some tamarind from the tree in her garden – another local fruit – to make us some juice, which is something she does daily in her own home.
We were the only tourists in this part of town from what we could see, let alone in the local supermarket. The shops sell an interesting mix of imported goods – mainly from the US and UK (including a ton of Waitrose Essentials brand products like juice, toilet paper and peanut butter).
- 1 breadfruit
- 1 cup milk
- 3oz grated cheese, plus more to sprinkle on top
- 1 cup of mixed vegetables (she told us to buy frozen, but you could mix fresh veg like carrots, broccoli, green beans, etc – chopped small)
- 1 tablespoon butter
Start by cutting your breadfruit into four quarters.
Wash the pieces. In a pot, cover with water. Add salt to taste. Put on the stove and bring to a boil.
Once the water has boiled and the pieces are soft enough to easily slide a fork into (like boiling potatoes), drain and set aside to cool for about half an hour.
Peel and core the breadfruit.
Marina held out a piece for us to try and it does really have a similar taste to a potato but the texture is almost more like bread.
Using either a potato masher or a fork, crush the breadfruit. She stressed that she leaves the chunks bugger than you would when mashing potatoes so you can taste the texture and know you’re eating breadfruit, not potatoes.
Grate the cheese.
Add your milk to the crushed breadfruit along with the cheese, mixed vegetables and butter. Mix these together like a dough.
Grease a baking pan (or use non-stick) and add the batter to the pan. Smooth out the top and spread a bit of grated cheese on top top.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese turns brown on top.
Along with the breadfruit pie, we had mahi mahi fish prepared like this: Fill the bottom of a wok with oil. Add in a few chopped peppers, a handful of parsley, 1 onion, 5 pieces of garlic (grated), one sliced tomato. Place the fish on top followed by a packet of creole seasoning. Cover and cook on high to steam for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Marina doesn’t usually eat with her guests, but we convinced her that there was more than enough food and she should really stay and enjoy it with us. It took some persuading but eventually she gave in and we had a great chat over lunch.
She told us a bit about her life which we listened to intently: how her mother is one of 15 kids, her father one of 17, how she would have loved to have had an opportunity to make a life for herself in the US or UK but was never able to get a visa, about her travels to the other islands, the odd jobs she’s done over the years to make ends meet, her love of gardening, books and enjoying the company of her two grandchildren.
She told us how she buys a pig with her family every January and raises it at home until it is slaughtered at Christmas to feed everyone. The neighbours in her community all drop into each other’s houses on this day and everyone feeds everyone. She has some other animals as well as a baby goat which was given to her as a pet so she won’t eat that one.
We talked about the food in Saint Lucia – like pig tail soup and the high prices of seafood despite it being an island, the incessant heat, the struggle of many within an economy when there is a high rate of unemployment, the huge expense of medical care, and the long walk she has to take from Vieux Fort into the hills to come to work every day after a bus ride from her own village (although if the weather is bad, it’s common to hitchhike).
All in all, learning to look a local dish and sharing a meal with Marina was a hugely enjoyable experience and one of my favourites of our trip. More to come…