This is a dish that is cooked all over Barbados, and it has plenty of fond memories attached to it for me. Usually this conjures up memories of grandmothers cooking it at home, which is what I always think of when I hear the name.
Cou-cou and flying fish is Barbados’ national dish and has the respect of both young and old generations. With mellow flavours, the fresh fish stew is also perfect for a typical British rainy day, as I have had here on many occasions. Flying fish is not very readily available outside of the Caribbean, but sea bass works just as well for the recipe and is much easier to find! In Barbados we always celebrate freshly caught fish in recipes such as this, so get the fish as fresh as you can and feel the love and warmth of Bajan cooking when you make this at home.
Barbados is known for its fresh flavours and love of chilli, but it is also an island of rich stews and of course, some great rum. Bajan cuisine is more of what I would call 'food for the masses', for example, many people have heard of classic jerk seasoning. We also have though a specific Bajan seasoning, often known as chopped seasoning, which is fresher and not quite as spicy – the perfect balance of heat and flavour. This does use a scotch bonnet chilli, so feel free to only use half if unsure of the heat.
This dish stands alongside other traditional recipes such as pudding and souse – pork boiled in salted water with plenty of herbs, then cooked down with sweet potatoes and stuffed into cleaned pigs intestines (almost like a sausage) then steamed before serving. These are eaten each and every Saturday on the island in vast quantities.