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The Two Captains



Volume XXI - West Indian Favorites

Our daughter's wedding in May 2003 took us back to the Caribbean not just geography-wise, but food-wise as well. Plucked out of Mexico , where food is cheap in the restaurants as well as in the markets and where it is, well? Mexican, we were plopped back down in the Virgins where food is none of the above. The 2Cs nearly had a collective heart attack

The Virgins Islands is and always has been an expensive place to buy food. We had just forgotten. Back in the old days, on charter, we regularly spent about $600 a week on food, wine and liquor for four people! Of course we were eating elegantly. The fact that the Virgins are a major tourist destination, drawing people to resorts, hotels, condos, and charter yachts for a week at a time means there is a disproportionately high demand for gourmet items. In St. Thomas alone, in addition to regular supermarkets, there are at least three gourmet specialty markets ? Gourmet Gallery's two branches and Redhook's Marina Market ? and two bulk buying stores ? Cost U Less and Price Mart. Three if you count Kmart.

Demand is one element of the high cost of food in the islands. Supply is the other. We always used to laugh at bare-boaters overheard in the market despairing of prices higher than back home. We'd shake our heads and say, ?Just be grateful it's here.? People forget the realities of getting foodstuff to an island 900-some miles away from the continental US.

After a few days of shock, the 2Cs adjusted quickly. Access to such diverse food items was a luxury we couldn't resist. At Judy's apartment we cooked for ourselves two of our favorite charter recipes ? Middle Eastern lamb and Swordfish with Mango Salsa (see Galley #1). Down the hill, at the Shipwreck Café, we had the absolute best hamburger (and most expensive) we have enjoyed in some time. Sailing aboard Ursa Minor, chef Judy cooked many of her specialties that we love, chicken parmagiana, pasta with lobster, Yam Yai salad, and some great fresh mackerel ceviche. We did the lobster and fish thing on Anegada at Cow Wreck Bay , and of course the Friday/Saturday barbecue at Foxy's was as fine as we remembered.

But surely the highlight of our month in the Virgins was the week we spent at the Sandcastle Resort in White Bay , on the island of Jost Van Dyke (www.sandcastle-bvi.com). This beautiful resort is so low key, so well camouflaged by sea grapes, that despite many visits to it's famous Soggy Dollar Bar, I had never formed a clear idea of the resort behind it. Thanks to Tiffany's selection of it for her wedding week, we remedied that.

In addition to being one of the most perfectly relaxing vacation venues (See Logbook # 94-Virgin Islands) I have ever encountered (and that's saying a lot given our lifestyle), Sandcastle is well known for it's fine cuisine. As charter captains, we had always thought it way too expensive for our guests and never once came here on charter. That was our loss. Eating out elsewhere in the islands this trip realigned our values. After the first dinner (for which guests sign up for one of three choices ?usually meat, poultry or seafood ), we decided that a Sandcastle four-course dinner was, in fact, a very good value.

Sandcastle's current chef is Oliver Clifton. Born on Virgin Gorda, Oliver has worked at just about every major hotel in the BVI. He has been at Sandcastle since April 2000. What really impressed us about Oliver's cuisine was its versatility: from fine continental cuisine (we can't say enough about those fabulously grilled meats) to such famous West Indian dishes as pumpkin soup, chicken roti (available at lunch) and Key Lime Pie.

If you stay at Sandcastle, breakfasts and dinners are included. Sailors, however, can put the hook down in White Bay and come in for lunch and, on a signup basis, for dinner if there is space available.

With permission I include Sandcastle's recipes for three West Indian favorites.

Pumpkin Soup ( © Sandcastle)
(Pumpkin soup was the first flavor I associated with the Caribbean . At Sandcastle it was our first taste of Oliver's fine cuisine.)
10-12 servings

2lbs peeled pumpkin
1 qt chicken stock
½ cup smoked bacon or ham bone
½ cup butter
1/3 cup flour
2 Tbsp minced red sweet pepper
2 Tbsp minced onion
1/3 cup minced celery
3 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 oz heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mince ginger
salt and pepper

  • Sauté onions, sweet pepper and celery in a thick pot over moderate heat for 4-5 minutes.
  • Slice pumpkin into ½ inch pieces. Add pumpkin and stir. Add a little stock just to cover pumpkin, along with ham bone or bacon. Simmer for about 20 minutes without burning. Lower heat if necessary.
  • When most of the liquid is evaporated, turn off the heat. Add the flour, stirring to blend. Add in remaining stock and, turning heat back on, continue to simmer while stirring the bottom. Skim off any froth and fat.
  • Add remaining ingredients except cream. Simmer an additional 20 minutes.
  • Remove bacon or ham bone, thyme and bay leaf. Add cream.
  • Allow soup to cool off and put it through food processor (or blender)
  • Reheat and serve. (Optional 1 Tbsp honey)

Chicken Roti (© Sandcastle)

(At Sandcastle, rotis are served at lunch and should not be missed. These are very authentic. Just like we were taught to make them in Trinidad!)

Roti Skins

½ lb yellow split peas
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
3 cloves of garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
1lb flour (approx 3 ¾ cups)
1 Tbsp baking powder
oil, as needed
water, as needed

  • Boil peas in sufficient water with turmeric and salt for 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander. Purée peas in food processor with garlic and pepper. Add cumin and mix well.
  • Knead flour with water, baking powder salt (Ed note: no amount given) and a little oil. Cut into 9-10 pieces and form into balls.
  • Spread each ball out with fingers, squeezing edges and leaving middle thick, and place 1 heaping Tbsp of ground pea mixture in middle of dough round. Close up by squeezing edges together. Let stand 15 minutes with a dab of oil on top to prevent drying out.
  • On a floured board, roll each ball out very thinly to about 14? in diameter, and cook on a hot baking stone or griddle , brushing oil on each side, for about 30 seconds per side.
  • Fill with curried chicken and fold up like and envelope.

Roti Filling

2 lbs boneless chicken thigh meat
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp black pepper
1 small green pepper,, minced
1 small red pepper, minced
1 sprig of thyme
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cube
2 cups of water
2 cans chickpeas, drained

  • Cut up chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in sauce pan and fry curry powder for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
  • Add cut-up chicken and cook another 3-5 minutes
  • Add all other ingredients and continue to simmer, stirring frequently until potatoes are soft and sauce is thickened.
  • Spoon into Roti Skins and fold like an envelop
  • Serve with mango chutney.

Key Lime Pie (© Sandcastle)
(At Sandcastle, Key Lime Pie was available for dessert every night and no other offering could keep up in popularity! It's so easy, it's embarrassing not to make it yourself! A lot cheaper?but not as nice?as a week's vacation in the islands!)

1 graham cracker crust
3 eggs (separated)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup lime juice (fresh is best)
1 Tbsp. sugar

  • Blend yolks with sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Pour into graham cracker shell.
  • Make meringue (beat) with egg whites and sugar. Spread on top.
  • Bake in 375 degree oven until meringue turns light brown.


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