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West Indian Cuisine and recipes

West Indian Recipes and cooking

Cooking  by Country - May 2002


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Go to:-   West Indies Speciality Dish  |  W. Indies Featured Ingredient  |  Cooking by Country Main Page



Whilst this is not a country in the true meaning of the word, the cuisine from the whole region is of such an exciting nature that we've cheated in order to include the various countries' recipes all in one go.



The West Indies, more popularly known as The Caribbean since World War II, is a large group of islands that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and on the continent of North America. It is comprised of three main island groups, including the Bahamas in the north (over 700 islands), The Greater Antilles in the centre, including the countries of Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles to the southeast, divided into two groups, the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands including the islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique and Trinidad amongst the many.


Ancient Times, History and Influences on Caribbean Cooking


It is believed the first inhabitants were American Indians - Arawaks and Caribs. With the abundance of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, these peoples probably prepared food in the most simplest of ways. Then came old Christopher Columbus (again) in 1492 laying claim for Spain, quickly followed by the English, French, Portuguese and Dutch bringing slaves from Africa. 


The Europeans brought with them their farming ideas including the introduction of pigs, sheep and cattle. Indeed, one type of Caribbean cooking is known throughout the world today: the barbecue - derived from the French "de barbe a queue" which literally translates to "from beard to tail" from the practice of roasting  a whole pig  over an open fire. 


They also imported plants such as bananas, coconuts and coffee and established plantations for the wide scale growing of sugar cane, bananas, coffee and the like. After slavery ended, indentured workers were "imported" from India and China. They too brought with them their culinary customs all of which have now fused into an exquisite and exciting gastronomic extravaganza.



Current Day Caribbean Cuisine



Caribbean cooking really is a world of its own. The melting pot mix of peoples in the islands has produced a cuisine which is unrivalled throughout the world.


Whilst there are a few dishes which are common throughout the islands in general, each island has it's specialties and ways of cooking. For example, in islands such as Martinique and St. Lucia, there is a strong French influence, both of them having been ruled by the French at some time during their history. 


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One thing that binds them all, is their use of herbs and spices, albeit in different proportions, and their reliance on fresh seafood, meats and vegetables. The one exception to this is the use of saltfish (salted cod) which is a remnant of the early European visitors who introduced it to the islands, salting having been a common method of preserving foods for the long voyages from Europe to the colonies.



Click here for lots of West Indian & Caribbean Recipes on this site



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