Cornmeal Cou Cou

>> Saturday, 7 July 2007

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Barbados’ national dish is cornmeal cou cou and flying fish. Long ago, cou cou used to be a regular every-Saturday dish in many households just as pudding and souse is, but these days, because of the time it takes to prepare, a lot of people have stopped making it regularly. If we’re not careful, the technique of making good cou cou will fade away as we all get busier, eating out becomes the norm, and those with the knowledge of making cou cou leave this world without being able to pass on this traditional dish.

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Read this week’s column where I talk about my timidity about making cou cou. Many of you will recognize similarities in the method of preparation and polenta will come to mind.

Here's a recipe I adapted from Barbadian Chef, Peter Edey

Recipe - Cou Cou

6 okras, sliced thinly
2 cups cornmeal
1 tbsp butter, plus extra for buttering dish
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp thyme, minced finely
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups boiling water
2 cups tap water


  • Perferably, but not necessarily, a heavy-bottomed pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowl for molding

  1. Soak cornmeal in 2 cups tap water 5 minutes before you are ready to start making the cou cou
  2. Heat oil in pot and saute onions, garlic and thyme for 1 - 2 mins
  3. Add sliced okras and saute for one minute
  4. Add 4 cups of boiling water, cover pot and let boil for 10 - 12 minutes
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the okras and set aside and keep warm
  6. Pour out half of the liquid from the pot and set aside (reserve)
  7. Turn the heat to very low, add the soaked cornmeal and salt
  8. Stir constantly to avoid lumps and to avoid the cornmeal mixture from scorching
  9. As the cornmeal begins to dry out, add the reserved liquid in stages until the cornmeal is cooked
  10. As the mixture begins to break away clean from the sides of the pot, add back the okras and incorporate fully
  11. Let the cou cou continue to cook until firm (but not stiff). Again, the mixture should break away cleanly from the sides and when you insert the spoon in the middle of the cou cou, it should stand and remove easily from the mixture.
  12. Pour cou cou into a generously buttered bowl and swivel/shake it around to form a mold
  13. Invert the bowl with cou cou onto a platter
  14. To serve, create an indentation in the center of the coucou and heap with stewed fish, meat or vegetables letting the rich sauce spill over the sides.

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