Sunday, March 20, 2011

When Callaloo leads Sunday Lunch

Living in Trinidad and Tobago means that you will inevitably either partake or create a Sunday Lunch, which is always a highly structured affair.
Almost every household – cultural differences aside – has some component of the Sunday lunch on their plates (once time and energy permits). Meat is a must, unless you are a vegetarian. I’ve seen people gorge on stewed or roasted (or barbecued) chicken, pork, beef, lamb and various types of fish. However, for a Sunday lunch to be called just that, it usually has three main components: (1) macaroni pie (a casserole of boiled macaroni that’s baked in a lovely mix of flavoured cheese, milk and eggs), (2) potato salad (which we love to create from boiled, cubed potatoes, green peas and carrots and tossed with flavoured mayonnaise) and (3) callaloo, a unique blended dish made from the leaf of the dasheen plant (or taro), ochroes and coconut milk and sometimes cooked with crab (a regular treat in Tobago).

Today was no different in that I’d planned to have all three parts to accompany my Sunday lunch of rice, boiled ripe plantains and stewed chicken (helped along with a little cucumber salad). The potatoes and carrots were waiting in the fridge. The macaroni was ready to be snapped. The callalloo bush and extra ochroes were on standby. However... I did not feel the vibe to do all this work. Maybe if I had done my usual Saturday prep of cleaning and seasoning, grating and pre chopping … but no. I was left with a decision to make, and I decided that there would be no pie and no potato salad today. Thus, I cleaned and seasoned half a chicken, placed two plantains to boil and washed the rice and started preparing the callaloo with as much love as I always did. Question… would it still be a "proper" Sunday lunch with only callaloo? You tell me…

Now this is how I usually buy my callaloo, pre packaged to save time. The leaves are already cut, so all you have to do…

Is wash the leaves well...

And put them into your pot.

Cut up the pumpkin pieces and add them in,

Then slice half a large onion and chop 10 large ochroes…
Add two whole cloves of garlic (as you can see, this one was beginning to sprout),

Two pimento peppers, cut into thirds...

followed by three crushed up Maggi stock cubes (your preference; I’m using vegetable cubes here) and a hot red pepper! (Doesn’t that pot look pretty?)

Next comes the coconut milk powder, another time saver. Though we live in the tropics, we can’t always find a coconut to grate and extract our own milk now, can we?

Just mix it according to the package directions and POUR on the LOVE!

Cover, put the pot on a medium flame and let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes to start.
After the first 8 minutes, the green leaves at the bottom will wilt a bit as the coconut milk bubbles away. Give it a good stir and cover again.

About 10 more minutes after that (and a reduced flame) the pumpkin begins to break down and the hot pepper begins to deflate. A word of caution; resist the urge to flatten that pepper with your spoon… the HEAT will be crazy! Taste for seasoning and add a little salt if you like.

Five minutes later, we have a cooked callaloo! The liquid is thick and leaves nice slimy trails when dropped from your spoon. The ochro seeds have also changed colour, which is one of the things my Granny always told me to check.

Now for the blending. First, take out the pepper, for obvious reasons…

Get your blender and pour in half of the callaloo...  (Don’t worry; I grew up using a swizzle stick to blend my callaloo back in the day. The blender saves time and is less stressful… trust me!)

And always remember, when blending hot things, remove the centre cap from your blender's cover and place a cloth over the opening so the the steam will go into it. This way, there won't be a build-up of steam inside.

Pulse it until the texture is to your liking. I like mine a bit chunky in parts, so this is good for me.

Pour into your serving dish...

and place the hot pepper back in. All Done!

Here’s my happy plate of stewed chicken with baked beans, white rice, boiled plantains, cucumber & tomato salad and my lovely callaloo, which I polished off with a glass of LLB. Yum!

Here's the easy recipe...
Simple Callaloo


One callaloo pack from your local grocery. (Note: These have pre chopped bush, 2 pieces of pumpkin, 4 or 5 ochroes and 1 hot pepper. However, you will have to purchase extra ochroes… they never pack enough.)
¾ to 1 cup peeled and cubed pumpkin, cut into cubes
8-10 ochroes, sliced into ½ inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
2 gloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic paste)
1 or 2 pimento peppers, sliced
2 stalks chive (optional)
1 red, yellow or green hot pepper (left whole)
1 packet coconut milk powder (mixed with 2 cups warm water)
2 Maggi stock cubes, your preference
Salt (optional)
Black pepper (optional)


  1. Wash the callaloo bush and place into your cooking pot. (Do not add water).
  2. Add the cubed pumpkin, ochroes, sliced onion, garlic, pimento peppers, chive and to the pot.
  3. Crumble the Maggi cubes and sprinkle them over the vegetables and place the hot pepper in the middle.
  4. Prepare coconut milk powder by mixing it with 2 cups of warm water and stirring until dissolved. Pour slowly over the vegetables.
  5. Set the pot on the stove, cover and cook for 8 to10 minutes, stirring the pot and making sure not to bruise the hot pepper. Taste for salt.
  6. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes until the callaloo bush is tender and the ochro seeds have changed from gray to a pinkish colour.
  7. Remove the hot pepper and process the mixture in a blender by pulsing it. Do NOT liquefy – the mix must still have some “bite” to it.
  8. Pour into your serving dish and enjoy with your Sunday lunch!

Now you tell me, was that a nice simple Sunday lunch or not? I mean, from the looks of the plate alone, I doubt that a macaroni pie and potato salad was necessary here at all; it would have bordered on gluttony, hahahaa! My point was that a Sunday Lunch is whatever you make of it, whether you have all three items or just one. Once the food is made with love and enjoyed, there’s no way you can go wrong.

So, I hope you enjoyed a peep into my Sunday cooking and I look forward to hearing your take on the Sunday Lunch phenom. Take care of yourselves and families in the meantime and like I always say, doh forget to mind de pot! Love and hugs! :-D


  1. Makes my mouth water -- I always wondered what Callaloo was. It looks delicious, is what it is!

  2. Just got on to your blog. Love it! The pics are really vibrant as well. Well done