I am a “bajan” by birth and American by rights – What does that statement mean for me? It means from a culinary perspective; I get to enjoy the best of both worlds. I was born and raised in Barbados, a place where I enjoyed the rich culture and beauty of what Caribbean has to offer and now I get the express all of this island-ness in this great land called America. These two places are where I draw the depths of my culinary experiences and I am looking forward to sharing this with you.
Today I am reminiscing on many of my childhood favorite foods and memories. I caught myself drooling and laughing at the same time as I think about dishes like fish cakes and conkies. Remembering how I could not wait to get my hands on these tasty morsels like a kid getting set free in a candy store. Many times I have driven an hour from Westchester to Brooklyn to the bajan restaurant “Culpeppers” just to indulge in these tasty treats. But it is nothing compared to being on the beach in Barbados and enjoying it all with a glass of rum punch or a good cold Banks Beer yummm….Can’t wait to go back to Barbados for the holidays and enjoy it all.
For my first recipe I wanted to share one of these recipes with you: the tasty dessert called Conkies. Conkies, or as it is sometimes known in America, Pasteles. Although, it is a bit different from true pasteles – Conkies is a sweet cornmeal based dessert that is cooked by steaming in banana leaves.
This treat was once associated with the old British colonial celebration “Guy Fawkes Day” on November 5 but is now prepared during our Independence celebrations time. By the way, we celebrate our 50th Anniversary of Independence this year.
I changed a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, toasted coconut on top, along with adding cranberries, which is not native to Barbados to add my own spin. You can also create your own interpretation of this recipe by adding a fruiting compote topping or a sprinkle of fresh fruit.
I am looking forward to see what variations you discover for this recipe – share them with me on Insta (@natashachef)!
2 cups coconut flakes ((dried and unsweetened))
¾lb pumpkin (peeled and grated)
½lb white sweet potato (batata) (peeled and grated)
¾lb brown or coconut sugar
1 teaspoon all spice
1 tsp (almond extract)
4oz raisins or cranberries
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn flour (make sure its finely ground)
6oz melted butter
1 cup milk
8 Inch squares banana leaves or aluminum foil
Get a double boiler- (a pot that has the streamer piece) or a vegetable steamer
Add water and bring to a boil
Then lower to a simmer
In a bowl mix the ingredients from coconut flakes to the 1 tsp of salt until they are well incorporated
Then stir in the butter, and milk until the mixture is smooth and looks like a really thick cake batter.
*Add a little more milk if too chunky but it must not get runny.*
Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture in the centre of the banana leaves or foil and fold the edges tightly (like a gift-wrapped package) ensuring nothing comes out.
In the pot place the conkies and pack them closely together. Ensure the water does not touch them as the steam will cook them.
Rotate them every 20 mins and let them cook for an hour or until firm.
Serve warm and sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar or toasted coconut as a garnish.