Cornmeal and Okra (Bajan Cou Cou) 4.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Jun 27, 2019

Cou cou is said to be the national dish of Barbados, traditionally served with salt cod or fish fried with onions and gravy. This is a version by way of Jamaica, and the recipe calls for a lot of stirring so the mixture becomes as smooth as possible.

You can use a stone-ground or finely ground cornmeal.

Read the accompanying story: A new wave of immigrant cookbooks celebrates America’s delicious diversity


Servings:
4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces fresh okra (stemmed), cut crosswise into thin rounds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup coarsely ground or stoneground cornmeal (227 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

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Directions

Combine the okra, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 4 cups of the water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the vegetable is very soft, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Pour the remaining 4 cups of water into the now-empty pan; bring to barely a boil over medium heat. Gradually add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.

Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for about 1 hour, stirring every few minutes (or it will spatter and burp). With about 10 minutes to go, stir in the drained okra. Keep stirring; If the cou cou seems too thick, add some of the reserved cooking liquid. The consistency should be almost like a choux dough by the end -- almost firm enough to hold its shape in the pot. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of salt.

Divide the okra cou cou among 4 to 6 individual-serving size bowls, smoothing the surface. Let sit for just a few minutes to firm up further, then invert on individual plates. Top each portion with some of the butter and serve right away.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories From the Tables of Immigrant Women,” by Anna Francese Gass (Harper Design, 2019).

Tested by Kari Sonde and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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