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A taste of the Caribbean

24/05/2016

There’s a food revolution under way in the Caribbean. Chef Orlando Satchell urges Peter Swain to tuck in

Chef Orlando Satchell at his restaurant in St Lucia

Chef Orlando Satchell at his restaurant in St Lucia

St Lucia’s local celebrity chef Orlando Satchell is a chef on a mission. ‘We already have some of the world’s greatest flavours here in the Caribbean,’ he says. ‘But now we’re stepping it up a gear. Presentation is the key. You show how much you love the food not only by creating tasty dishes, but also by presenting them brilliantly well.’

 

On his menu in his restaurant in Soufrière, which you can visit on a shore excursion in St Lucia, you’ll find delicacies such as kingfish with a red wine and guava sauce, and fishcakes made with green bananas and salt cod. ‘Instead of potato, we boil bananas then mash them and add the cod. We serve them with a creole sauce and sweet potato fries,’ he explains.

 

And there in one dish is the secret of the Caribbean’s culinary transformation: fresh, locally grown ingredients combined with international fare, and skillful presentation by chefs trained in Europe or the USA. 

 

Bountiful lands

Almost anything can be sourced in this tropical region. From the deep blue seas, fishermen bring delicacies such as wahoo, mahi, red snapper, spiny lobster and conch to the table – you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted spicy conch chowder.

 

And from the lands of plenty, exotic fruits, pungent spices and succulent vegetables are staples of local life. Many have a colourful history, too. Take the humble breadfruit, which grows on trees and tastes like a potato (but better). Captain Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, was bringing the fruit from Tahiti to the West Indies when it all went, er, pear-shaped. Despite the mutinous actions of crew, the crop did eventually arrive and is now a firm local favourite.

 

Cacao, the bean from which we get chocolate and believed by the Maya to have been discovered by the gods, has for many years been successfully cultivated in St Lucia. And when in the Caribbean, don’t ignore the soursop. The spiky fruit looks rather unappetising, but makes the most delicious ice cream and is now being nurtured by local farmers. 

Fresh exotic fruits

The bountiful lands of the Caribbean yield many different exotic fruits and vegetables

World-class chefs

Exemplifying the new approach to sustainably produced food, the brand new Belle Mont Farm on St Kitts has created an organic garden from which the likes of avocados, pomegranates, mangos, papaya and carambola (starfruit) are combined by French maestro Christophe Letard in the Farm’s the Kitchen restaurant.

 

And it’s this international influence that’s really making a difference. Chefs at destinations like St Kitts, Barbados and St Maarten hail from France, America, Holland and Japan.

 

‘Not only the chefs, but many of the ingredients originate in Asia, Europe and Africa,’ points out Orlando, who’s from London via Birmingham. ‘This is real fusion cuisine: ginger from Asia, coconut from Thailand, cod from Europe, christophine (chayote) from Mexico.’

 

For P&O Cruises guests stopping in St Lucia, Orlando offers an intimate culinary tour de force on the A Taste of St Lucia shore excursion, with a demonstration of his fine culinary expertise followed by a three-course lunch served for a maximum of 20 people at a time. ‘A guest should be treated as if they’re coming into your home,’ believes Orlando.

 

Working with marinades and seasoning, it’s all about creating the ‘mmm’ effect, – his mahi with creole rice and coconut sauce is simply unmissable. ‘My cuisine always relies on local, fresh ingredients and perfectly cooked food,’ says Orlando. ‘When preparing tuna, for example, I always say that it should just kiss the grill.’

 

It all adds up to a delectable prospect and every island has its own tastes. In the Caribbean, variety really is the spice of life, which is half the fun of cruising here.

 

Peter Swain

A former award-winning TV documentary producer, Peter Swain now specialises in Caribbean travel stories, and recently won the 2015 Award for the Best Feature by a Caribbean Journalist at the annual Caribbean Media Awards.

 

Find a cruise to the Caribbean >

 

More shore excursions in St Lucia >

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