Bajan Cou Cou – Caribbean Polenta. In Italy, it’s polenta. It goes by different names in different Caribbean islands. However, the Bajan version with Okra is probably the most common throughout the Caribbean.
Cornmeal is something we use a lot in Caribbean cuisine – everything from beverages to breakfast porridge to desserts to breading for fried foods. Anything made with cornmeal makes me an instant fan. In the frigid winter temperatures we had last week and expected to return in a few days, there is nothing like starting the day with warm and comforting Cornmeal Porridge. Cornmeal Pudding is a Caribbean classic that ends the meal on a wonderful sweet note. Today, I am showing you another Caribbean cornmeal specialty.
The most popular savory cornmeal porridge in America is Italian polenta. However, many other countries have versions of this porridge. In South Africa, it’s called Pap. In the Dutch Caribbean where my mother is from, we call it Funchi. Cooked with okra, it is called Fungee in Antigua and Coo-Coo (other times spelled Cou-Cou) in Barbados. In Barbados, it is one part of the national dish of Flying Fish & Coo-Coo.
I have prepared this version today. Okra’s gelatinous nature binds the cornmeal in the same way cheese does in the Italian version. Obviously, if you are one of those who despise that gelatinous nature of okra, this isn’t the dish for you, but for the okra lovers out there…
- 12 thinly sliced okra
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a large pot, bring 2 cups of water and salt to a boil. Add okra and cook for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup water and cornmeal and stir until smooth. Add to pot slowly, stirring constantly. Add remaining water and continue to stir.
Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes, until thickened.
Spoon some of the mixture into greased ramekins or bowls for individual servings. Leave for a minute or two.
To serve, invert into plate and top with a pat of butter. The heat from the coo-coo will melt the butter.
In the Caribbean, we would eat this with fish.