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Over the Christmas break I spent a month visiting my parents in the Caribbean on the little known tropical island of Nevis. Nevis has been known by many names throughout its history; ‘Oualie’ in pre-Columbian times meaning ‘land of beautiful waters’, ‘Dulcina’ by its first English settlers, meaning ‘Sweet One’ and finally ‘Nevis’: an abbreviated form of ‘Nuestra Senora de las Nieves’ which means ‘Our Lady of the Snows’. Previously a Crown Colony of the British Empire, having been one of the earliest Caribbean islands settled by European migrants, Nevis is now a federal two-island country with its neighbour St Kitts. Today, the assorted locality of this paradise consists of Nevisians, Kittians, Europeans, Americans and West Indians from other islands, giving the island a uniquely multi-cultural and welcoming atmosphere. The island is still unspoiled due to a lack of commercial industry or urbanisation, unlike many other locations in the Caribbean Sea, and instead its natural tropical beauty is preserved – yet it is largely unknown by tourists. Because of this, when I’m in Nevis my first question to people I meet is always ‘how did you discover the island?’ The most common answers involve family relations or recommendations from friends, as only real explorers can find this exotic spot on their own.
While I was there in December, I went to a traditional Nevisian cooking class. ‘Traditional’ in the sense that we drank beer throughout, cooked in my teacher’s cluttered kitchen and followed no recipe, so we just guestimated all of our measurements! We produced a typical Caribbean dish called ‘Goat Water’ with dumplings. It may sound disgusting – I thought it would be! – But it turned out to be really delicious and much like a good old English stew. My cooking coach was smiley and relaxed throughout our class and told me he had grown up cooking for a very large family; his father had 73 biological children and his mother had 12! As far as I know this is an enormous family even by Caribbean standards! He was also vegetarian, but told me that he often cooks with meat for others, and shared that he never tastes his cooking because he cooks so often that he already knows it tastes delicious. If you are anything less than a very experienced chef I wouldn’t encourage following his example! The recipe below is his own and therefore has no measurements, but I have tried to break it down into a ratio for your ease!
Simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Puree in a blender:
Knead this puree into a ball with 3 parts flour. Form tiny grape-sized balls and drop directly into your pan of boiling stew.
Needs about 5-10 mins cooking time – they are ready when they float!
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