Can you imagine a callaloo without having some nice fresh picked ochroes in it? I like to think that it’s the ochroes that make our traditional callaloo ‘just right’ in terms of its viscosity and – dare I say it – taste. Back in the day, my Granny either bought ochroes in the market, or grew them and in between plantings, we would head to the market on Saturdays, where she had a habit of picking up an ochro or two and just snapping off the tip to see how fresh they were. The general rule of thumb is that you must hear it snap. If it bends and you have to force it to come off, they’ve got a bit of age on them and won’t release enough slime to get the pot going. (A word of advice... don’t go snapping off ochro tips just so in the market or you’ll have some very angry vendors chasing you, okay?)
When it comes to that other component in your callaloo pot, i.e. dasheen bush, it’s a bit less complicated. The purists tend to get their rolled up bundles of callaloo bush in the market as well, sometimes finding ‘rolled bush’ which are simply leaves that were picked very young and will be quicker to break down when cooked. However, if you’re getting regular callaloo bush, don’t make the mistake of getting leaves that are looking old, wilted or lack that waxy, fresh look about them. Then again, the quick cooks like me who have had their fill of peeling and chopping bush tend to go for the pre packaged callaloo packs sold in the supermarket. They usually contain a sealed packet of chopped callaloo, a couple pegs of garlic, a piece of pumpkin, and a hot pepper. Unfortunately, they never pack enough ochroes and I always have to get extra to make up my pot. Small thing. Like I always say, when making callaloo, rule number one is that you always get the best ingredients, which brings me to today’s Eye Food recipe for a simple callaloo that doesn’t require too much stress to execute.
Have fun cooking!
My Simple Callaloo
One callaloo pack from your local grocery. (Note: These will have pre chopped bush, 1 or 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 of coconut milk powder (mixed with 2 cups warm water)
Salt (to taste)
Black pepper (optional)
• Wash the callaloo bush and place into
your cooking pot. (Do not add water).
• Add the cubed pumpkin, ochroes, sliced
onion, garlic, pimento peppers and chive
to the pot.
• Sprinkle a little salt over the vegetables
and place the hot pepper in the middle.
(If you’re feeling brave, take the tip of
your knife and poke a hole in the pepper!)
• Prepare the coconut milk powder by mixing
it with 2 cups of warm water and stirring
until dissolved. Pour slowly over the
• Set the pot on the stove, cover and cook
for 8 to10 minutes, stirring the pot gently
and making sure not to bruise the hot
pepper too much. Taste for salt and heat.
• 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. If it’s looking like it’s ‘drying out’, add a little water to the pot.
• Remove the hot pepper and process the
mixture in a blender by pulsing it gently.
DO NOT liquefy – the mix must still have
some “bite” to it.
• Pour into your serving dish and enjoy with
your Sunday lunch!