Dominica on a Plate by Grant Greg Lynott

It’s delicious and also nutritious! Dominican food is a  diverse, natural cuisine that thrives all over the island.  Ingredients are muddled into a mix of quirky plantain recipes, the odd dark rum flambé and off-beat seasoned stews.   Amazingly, there is a deeply satisfying world of flavour hiding in plain sight. One just needs to be willing to explore different tastes to find it!

The bounty from land and sea is one of the unique traits of Dominican life that fascinated me when I first arrived on this wild and untamed island about two years ago. The obvious all-encompassing devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria provided an extraordinary opportunity for me as a chef to watch an island rebound and reinvent itself. It challenged me in myriad unfamiliar ways.

Nutmeg

From my first day in the kitchen, the abundance of seafood, as well as heirloom fruits and vegetables seasoned with fresh bay leaf, cinnamon bark and a host of native spices gave me a new and exciting perspective on Caribbean cooking. Therefore, instead of trying to bring my past to Dominica, I began my journey of discovery to find my place within it. As such, I proudly  and endlessly strive to reach  the essence of Dominica’s culinary soul .

Influences from all around the world have made their mark on the Dominican palate. Consider these three unique but hugely popular staples here on the island:

  1. Pelau is  a lightly spiced rice dish that is made practically the same way from Toucari to Castle Bruce. Its origin is the Indian staple, Pilaf that found its way to the Caribbean during the colonial period via Jahaji Indian indentured workers of the British, French and Dutch estate owners.
  2. Saltfish (dried and salted cod) evolved from a 16th century barter for molasses and sugar from North American traders. And you can’t call yourself a Dominican if you don’t have some green fig (green banana) and saltfish in the morning!
  3. Then there is the humble breadfruit, which is a starchy, often roasted addition to any meal. In the late 1700’s, it found its way to the Caribbean on the infamous HMS Bounty.  This fruit’ quickly spreadthrough the Lesser Antilles, giving rise to one of the most important starches in Dominica.

With such plentiful plant-life growing out of the fertile soil, it may not be surprising to learn that most of Dominica’s native edible plants are used in herbal medicine. As well, a variety of distinctive flavors are present in these historical additions to local cuisine. Unlike any other Caribbean island, nature here works its magic to offer up new and exciting tastes.

Dominica isn’t a style of food or a set of distinct spice-infused tastes. Instead, it’s a living and ever-changing culinary adventure based on history, inspired by what has always grown here.

Fried and roasted plantians and bread in old traditional kitchen.

For that reason, I am delighted to introduce guests to Dominican food and will develop recipes that are based on my discoveries here to share with others.

Grant Greg Lynott, who hails from Winelands of South Africa is Executive Chef at the award-winning Secret Bay, near Portsmouth Dominica.

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