Who does it best? Oil Down
Oil down is a popular dish in Grenada and T&T. Photo courtesy Baidawi Assing of Eatahfood.com
One of the things the Caribbean islands share is a fondness for the same types of food. Of course, the way the dishes are prepared differs from island to island but everyone lays claim to having the best.
In this new series, we will look at some of the foods we have in common in the region and examine why it is considered the best in particular islands. Today we look at Oil Down.
Considered the national dish of Grenada, Oil Down is a hefty one-pot meal that has breadfruit at its base. According to the Grenada Cultural Foundation, Oil Down consists of salted meat, chicken, dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo - made from young dasheen leaves and other vegetables. The whole thing is stewed in coconut milk, herbs and spices to add even more flavour.
Oil Down is not unique to Grenada, however. It is also a favourite in nearby Trinidad and Tobago which shares a long history of cultural influences from the Spice Isle.
There are some differences, however, in how each island makes its Oil Down. While both dishes feature salted meat and coconut milk, Grenadians favour dasheen and dumplings in theirs as well as saffron which gives it a yellow hue, Trinis keep theirs simple minus the dumplings but hot peppers are a must-have.
Dexter Mitchell of Made in Grenada told Loop that their Oil Down is best because of what goes into it. “The ingredients especially the breadfruit, the coconut milk especially when the coconut is grated by hand. There is a passion and pride about a Grenadian oil down that goes into its preparation, an intangible quality that cannot be duplicated. That is essentially what sets apart a Grenadian oil down from all the others,” he said.
Baidawi Assing, founder of popular Trinidadian food blog Eatahfood, said determining the best comes down to preference.
“I've never had Grenadian oil down but judging from recipes I've seen, I think it would be really delicious. I don't think our version is better or theirs is worse I think it just comes down to preference. Truth be told, the best oil down I ever had was a veggie oil down made by my partner Bishen’s moms. The creaminess of the coconut milk with the richness of the callaloo bush. It had just the right amount of spice/heat. The breadfruit was cooked perfectly. And it cousoumeh for the correct amount of time. It just tasted like a lot of love went into making it,” he said.
Do you like oil down? Tell us which island does it best for you.
Recipe for Grenadian Oil Down courtesy the Grenada Cultural Foundation
8-10 young dasheen
1 sprig celery, chive and thyme
2 medium carrots chopped
2 green peppers chopped
1 lb dumplings
2 tps tumeric (saffron)
1/2 lb Salt meat (pre-soaked overnight)
1 large Breadfruit peeled
2 cups coconut milk
1 medium onion chopped
Wash and peel breadfruit. Cut into eight sections.
Remove centre lengthways of each section and cut into half crosswise.
Wash and scrape meat, cut into pieces and rinse in lime juice and water.
Remove skins of onions, rinse and cut into small pieces.
Remove seeds of chilli peppers and cut into wedges.
Chop chives into small pieces.
Put salted meat into cold water, bring to the boil and drain.
Repeat three times to remove preserving salt.
Put to cook until just tender and drain.
Sauté onions and garlic in hot oil until onions are pale yellow.
Add chive, thyme, flavouring pepper, salted meat and salt to taste.
Pour over two cups of coconut milk.
Add wedges of breadfruit, sugar, green hot pepper and cook until breadfruit absorbs liquid.
Add remaining coconut milk. Remove hot pepper.
Stir to blend well and cook at a reduced heat.
There should be no remaining liquid.
Recipe for Trini Oil Down courtesy Trinicooks.com
1½ lbs salted meat (beef or pigtails)
1 small onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Leaves scraped from 1 sprig thyme
2 tbsp chopped chive
5 small pimento peppers or mild green chilli, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
1 med breadfruit (2 – 3 lbs), peeled and core removed
4 cups coconut milk
3 seasoning peppers, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet pepper for flavour
Put salted meat into a pot with water. Bring to a boil and drain, repeat three times to remove salt. Cook until almost tender. Drain
Sautee onions and garlic in hot oil until onions are translucent. Add chive, thyme, salted meat, breadfruit, peppers and coconut milk. Add salt to taste. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
Add scotch bonnet pepper for flavour.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until breadfruit is cooked and tender.
The dish is done when the liquid is almost absorbed and the breadfruit looks somewhat mushy.