Thursday, September 2, 2010
Mark's Serre: a tale of the Belizean Love Affair with Coconut
Fish: about 2 pounds of mackerel, barracuda, culibri, any firm fleshed fish, steaked or cut into other bowl sized pieces.
Coco yam about 1 lb (or dasheen or taro root, found in most well stocked produce sections, in the "exotics" section. Ask your grocer, or substitute potatoes if you absolutely have to. See a picture here: coco yam)
Cassava root about 1 lb (again, most well stocked produce sections in a grocery store will have this around. See a picture here: Cassava root)
Onion (about two medium, finely diced)
Bell pepper (about two medium, finely diced)
1 can (2 cups if fresh) coconut milk
Garlic (plenty, finely minced)
Black pepper (fresh ground, to taste).
1. Peel cassava and coco yams (collectively known as ground-food in Belize because they come from the ground), cut into big chunks. The brown skin of the cassava will come off along with a white thin layer of underlying flesh. Finally chop onion, bell pepper. Crush black pepper, salt. Cook all vegetables and ground-food in a pot with coconut milk, plenty of minced garlic, pepper, a little cumin, salt and enough water to completely cover the ground-food. Cook until ground-food is tender. Add minced cilantro to taste .
People often include breadfruit, ripe plantain or green plantain fu-fu (cooked mashed green plantain dumplings) in this stage of the serre.
2. Once fish is cut into steaks or pieces, fry until browned in a little coconut oil.
3. Place fish in pot, on top of the stew of tender ground-food and vegetables, simmer til fish is done. This won't take long, test with a fork if need be.
4. Serve with pepper/onion sauce.
Pepper or Onion sauce
This is an essential accompaniment to the Serre. The acidity of the lime and vinegar and the heat of the habanero cut the richness of the coconut milk and create a perfect balance of flavor. Whether you call it pepper or onion sauce depends on the ratio of onion to habanero-go with what works best for your tastebuds and heat preference.
Preparation: Mince an onion and add to taste a quantity of finely minced habanero pepper. Remove the seeds and white internal membrane if you want to tone down the heat even more. Add minced cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Some people like more vinegar, some like more lime juice. Experiment and see which you prefer. Let the whole concoction sit in a glass container. You can leave it covered on the counter for several weeks and it will stay perfectly fresh as the onion and pepper pickle themselves in the lime juice and vinegar.
Serve with Serre and other heavy stews, with refried beans at breakfast, on top of guacamole or anytime you need some hot pepper flavour.