This recipe is a mixture of memories of sampling street food at the Breakfast Shed, an open-air market collective in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the kind assistance of my friend Akeisha Hayde, known as the “Trini Chef” and director of culinary operations at MIT.
Callaloo refers to a dish made with vegetables — usually dasheen, taro, or spinach leaves — in some Caribbean islands. But on other islands and throughout the African diaspora, callaloo is known as the leaves of the amaranth plant, which belongs to the swine herb family and is found in the wild here in New England.
Urban farms such as The Food Project, the Urban Farming Institute, and a few large New England migrant worker farms have led the way in meeting customer needs, growing callaloo for sale in local markets. The nutrient-rich plant grows easily during the spring and summer seasons in small vegetable plots and can be used in a variety of ways† It can be cooked in soups and stews, sautéed or even added to smoothies just like kale.
For this stew recipe, I tapped into my frozen stock of callaloo (yes, it freezes well, like spinach or kale). It’s usually made with crab meat or pork tail, but in this vegan version I’ve spiked the dish with extra vegetable stock and nutritional yeast for umami flavor.
For 4-6 people, accompanied by rice or another side.
- 3-4 tablespoons neutral frying oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced 8-12 large okra (stems removed, thinly sliced)
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 2-3 Trinidadian chilli
- 2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced (varieties such as heirloom squash or kabocha squash)
- ½ cup coriander or culantro/recao, finely chopped
- ½ bunch of thyme
- 1 bunch callaloo, seeded and roughly chopped including stems
- 1 bunch spring onions, diced, both the green and white parts
- 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
- 2-3 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 vegetable stock cube or 2 teaspoons stock paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
- Wash and prepare all products.
- Add the oil to a deep Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan. Saute onion and garlic over medium heat until soft but not brown. Add the chilli and stir to soften as well.
- Add the okras. Then add the pumpkin, thyme and culantro leaves. Stir.
- Crumble the precious metal and add the callaloo. Stir to coat with the baked aromatics. Add the nutritional yeast. The callaloo will be bulky, but will decline to less than half its volume.
- Add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Bring to a boil and now add the whole pepper if using. Close the lid. Reduce the heat to keep the simmering low. Cook for about 20 minutes to allow the callaloo to break down completely.
- Use a hand blender, rotary stick or transfer to a traditional blender and process until smooth. You can add hot stock to adjust desired consistency. Ideally, your batch will have a smooth, stew-like consistency.
- Serve warm with rice, other grains, or dip bread.