Making a great Caribbean stew may take some time, but the result
is meat that falls off the bone into deliciously flavoured
Cooking a proper Caribbean stew takes a laidback "no problem"
attitude typical of the islands. Long cooking at a low temperature
ensures you of tender meats that fall off the bone, and gives the
flavours ample time to mix and mingle. Meat is a main element of
most Caribbean stews, including beef, pork, chicken or goat, with
legumes and vegetables added to create a rich and robust
10 Simple Steps to a Delicious Stew
Whether you're making a Trinidadian curry chicken, a Bajan beef
stew or a Jamaican oxtail and beans, the cooking method is pretty
much the same:
1. Chop boneless meats and vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
Meats on the bone should be cut at the joints into manageable
pieces. Season meat with salt and pepper.
2. Heat some oil in a large heavy pot (a good Dutch oven gives
the best flavour), and brown the meat to seal in the natural juices
and create an appealing outer colour and
texture. Remove poultry after it is browned and add it back to
the stew after step 4 so that you don't dry it out; other meats can
remain in the pot the entire cooking time.
3. Add onions, garlic and ginger (if using) to the pot and
sautÃ© for about a minute.
4. Add seasonings and cook for another minute.
5. Add chopped vegetables and stir to coat. Dry legumes that
have soaked overnight can be added at this stage.
6. Add bouillon and enough water to cover all ingredients. Put
the lid on and turn the heat to high to bring to a boil.
7. Once the stew is boiling, turn the heat down to low-medium,
and let cook for 1 to 2 hours or until meat is tender. Check the
stew every 30 minutes or so, and add additional
water if required. Canned legumes can be added about 20 minutes
before the end of cooking.
8. Adjust seasoning to taste.
9. If the gravy has reduced to a nice thickness, you're ready to
serve. If it still seems a bit watery, you can give it a little
help. Turn the heat back up to bring the stew to a boil. In a small
bowl, combine one tablespoon of cornstarch and a cup of cold water,
stirring until completely dissolved. Once the stew is boiling, add
the dissolved cornstarch, stir and return to a boil.
10. You should now have a thick and delicious stew that's ready
The most common meats used in Caribbean stews are beef, chicken,
pork and goat. It's better to buy tougher cuts of meat for stewing,
which become tender during the stewing process. Softer cuts will
disintegrate during the long cooking times.
Beef: Cubed and trimmed stewing beef can be
purchased in most food stores. Look for stew meat with some
marbling and connective tissue, as this will keep the meat tender
and provide more flavour. Most stewing beef is from the round
(rump), but the best flavour comes from the chuck (shoulder), which
you can always buy and trim yourself. Beef stews tend to include
carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and lots of thyme.
Oxtail: In Canada, cows are more plentiful than
oxen, and so the oxtail that you buy is actually cow's tail. Worry
not; these bovine kissing cousins have essentially the same
flavour. Buy oxtail cut into small pieces from a West Indian shop
or specialty butcher. Don't let the appearance scare you off, the
meat has a wonderful flavour once you've stewed it down to tender;
just be aware that this can take several hours. Made with lima
beans, tomatoes, hot pepper and thyme, oxtail stew has a
deliciously rich flavour.
Chicken: Chicken stews can be made using the
whole chicken cut into parts at the joints, or using only breast
meat, as you prefer. Using only white meat will require less
cooking time. The most well-known Caribbean chicken dish is curry
chicken, made with tomatoes, hot peppers and curry powder. Some
people add carrots and potatoes to the stew, or potatoes can be
boiled separately and served on the side. Brown stew chicken is
seasoned with green onions, soy sauce and ketchup, with the
addition of carrots, potatoes and tomatoes.
Pork: Several Caribbean dishes add a piece of
salt pork or pig's tail during cooking to add a bit of extra
flavour. Stew peas is one of the most common stews that uses pork
for flavouring, which is made by cooking the pork together with red
peas, hot peppers, garlic, thyme and water in a large pot for
several hours. A pressure cooker will reduce the cooking time
significantly. Dumplings are normally added towards the end.
Goat: Goat is really only ever served curried.
You can purchase pre-cut goat's meat from a West Indian store, or
de-boned from a specialty butcher. Curry goat turns out best when
you let the meat marinate in a mixture of curry, garlic, tomatoes,
onions, green onions and hot peppers for several hours before
cooking. Reserve the seasoning while you brown the meat, and add it
to the pot as you would for any other stew.
Rich in flavour, Caribbean stews are delicious
stick-to-your-ribs fare that taste great anytime of year,
especially on a cold autumn day. Best when they're nice and thick,
stews are traditionally served with rice and peas, fried plantain,
dumplings and greens. The next time you're feeling like you're in a
food rut, try the taste of the islands with a traditional Caribbean