Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cayman Islands - Rundown

Seven Mile Beach
Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Author:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Burtonpe

The title may be a little misleading, the Cayman Islands are not rundown, but one of the traditional recipes of the island is so named.

Sitting in the Caribbean Sea, the three islands that make up the Cayman islands - Grand, Little and Brac - are a British Dependent Territory. Known for being an off-shore financial centre it is also a popular tourist resort with large cruisers pulling into the port of George Town on Grand Cayman.

Though first spotted by Columbus in the fifteenth century, the islands were not settled until the 1700s. Food was basic to begin with and the main easily farmed staples were the foods taken from the sea - conch, turtle and lobster. Turtle is still considered the national dish and is primarily sourced from the Cayman Turtle Farm. This farm, which you can visit and hold baby turtles (be aware their little flippers flap like crazy and are quite strong), is a research facility as well and releases hundreds of turtles into the wild each year.


The underwater world of Cayman is more exciting than the world on top to my mind. We explored the depths of the ocean in a submarine, as we were going down to 120 feet I got to see the faintest glimpse of a turtle in the wild - an absolutely brilliant experience. From a slightly shallower depth I snorkelled with the stingrays in Stingray City off of Grand Cayman. A series of sandbars create shallower waters to which snorkellers and divers migrate to swim with the elegant rays. We motored out in our own boat and caught a baby barracuda en-route which we chopped up to feed to the rays. Their bodies were like velvet as they brushed against us to eat from our hands.
Stingrays at 'Stingray City'
Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Author: Wikipedia author Lhb1239

On our return journey we managed to hook a full-size barrabcuda which we cleaned and simply barbecued in foil with herbs. Caymanians cook their fish generally as either a stew or fried in coconut oil on an iron skillet. The Cayman one-pot dishes of the 'meatkind' - fish, turtle, chicken, pork - or 'breadkind' - breadfruit, yam, cassava or starchy vegetables - are the original slow food. Cooked in covered pots in the cookrum, a separate cooking building, they would take hours for the meal to be prepared.

However, it is the rundown or coconut dinner which I will focus on. Coconuts are plentiful on the islands and a staple part of the diet. the rundown can be used to flavour or thicken stew and is really a form of boiling down coconut milk to form a custard.  A healthy oil can also be extracted during the process, whilst the custard can also be used as a dip.

Recipe

Ingredients:
2 medium-sized dried coconuts
Just enough water to chop coconuts in blender
Yields approximately 1 cup of rundown, a mixture of about 1/3 oil and 2/3 custard.

Process
Break open the coconuts. Remove the coconut “meat” from the shell with a knife. Be careful as this is not an easy task.. Cut the coconut “meat” into small pieces and chop up in a blender using the chop setting. Chop coconuts in batches so as not to overload the blender.

Blend the coconut in batches until the coconut is a fine consistency and the liquid resembles milk. Use a large strainer to separate the coconut from the milk. Hand squeeze any remaining milk from the residue. 

In a large uncovered cooking pot bring the coconut milk to a rapid boil then reduce the flame to medium and cook until the water evaporates and what remains is a combination of clear liquid (oil) and custardThis takes approximately 1 to 11/2 hours. Add salt to taste. As it cools, the custard will absorb most of the oil. Chicken, meat, fish or vegetables can now be added to the mixture.
Chicken Rundown

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