Preparing the Oil Down, Grenada's National Dish.
One weekend we got invited to go to an Oil Down, which is a traditional neighborhood party here in Grenada. Oil Down is the national dish of Grenada and is a hearty meal of meat and provisions stewed in coconut milk over an open fire. It is called oil down because the coconut milk simmers down and releases its rich flavored oil into the pot. Yum! It is Caribbean comfort food at its best. Traditionally it is the men who cook the oil down, but this time we all pitched in and helped. It is quite a production to make, with lots of peeling and chopping and grating, truly an all day event. So we gathered everyone together in the afternoon, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.
The first layer of the oil down is breadfruit, which is a giant green orb that you see hanging from the trees around Grenada. Although the consistency is nothing like a fruit at all, more like a potato. Go figure? Then there is a layer of seasoned meat; chicken and trotters and other pig parts (kind of gross looking, but added great flavor). Then a layer of pumpkin and carrot and
Breadfruit, kind of like our potatoes, is the first layer.
taro root and green figs and okra go into the pot. Don’t forget the seasoning; a little allspice and turmeric and seven thyme and peppers. Top it all off with chopped callaloo (one of our favorite island veggies, similar to spinach). And finally it is time for the vital ingredient, fresh coconut milk. Yes, fresh homemade coconut milk. This labor intensive process starts with splitting the coconuts in half with a machete, then grating the flesh of the coconut into fine shreds, and finally squeezing out the milk. Whew! It’s hard work and took us hours to finish. But once it’s all done, the oil down is placed over an open fire and cooks for a couple of hours. And you know what that means, it’s time to lime. Pour yourself some rum, talk with the locals, and get your appetite ready for this feast extraordinaire!
The great thing about an oil down is that it makes enough food to feed the entire neighborhood and it really brings everyone together. Served piping hot from the cauldron, this delicious food is profuse with flavor. And incredibly filling! We had a great time making this national dish- it was quite an
Then you layer in the meat- chicken and pig parts.
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