The Caribbean has a reputation for spicy food. Jerk, curry, pepper sauce – despite our already hot climate, we love our food hotter. But there’s one hot, extremely popular Trinidadian dish that left my American husband perplexed – corn soup. It is EVERYWHERE in my homeland. Sold on corners in high traffic nightlife districts, available for sale at every fete, and made with a loving and steady hand in homes all over Trinidad. Including my own.
Just about every Saturday, my sister Petal makes a big pot of her Trinidadian Corn and Beef Soup. Thick and comforting and nutritious, it’s a friend and family favorite and frequently we have “soup limes” (social gatherings where everyone comes over to eat soup)! My husband was surprised by that when we were last at home. His surprise wasn’t because of the social gathering aspect – Trinis love a lime! The surprise was that such a thick and hearty soup is so ubiquitous and popular in the Caribbean, when such soups are frequently cold-weather staples. My response – Trini corn soup is just THAT good. I love eating it at home in its native environment – most often out of a styrofoam cup on a pavement on Ariapita Avenue or Western Main Road in St. James, Trinidad. And I love making it for cold weather comfort food occasions, like this current frigid, snowy weather that’s hitting Chicago. A good bowl of Trini corn soup is a welcome taste of home for me, even while the weather outside remains frightful.
My sister Petal graciously shared her recipe, and when I tried to make it in Chicago I learned a few things by trial and error.
#1 – this will require some day-before preparation, and while you’re making it it requires attention and regular stirring. Don’t just let this sit in the pot while you check your social media because you could easily ruin a whole pot of soup without realizing it. I speak from experience.
#2 – not all of the ingredients are easy to find, and you’ll probably have to swap things out. Trying to make this myself made me realize how many varieties of delicious root vegetables (AKA “ground provision”) we use in Trinidadian cooking. When I tried to find eddoes and dasheen in Chicago, I was told that those are varieties of “taro root” and they likely had one kind but not the other. SO strange.
#3 – this recipe is HUGE and you can either make it and expect leftovers that will last a long time, or cut it down to suit you. The choice is yours!
Here’s my sister Petal’s recipe for Trinidad Corn Soup!
PETAL’S CORN & BEEF SOUP
Serves up to 10 – halve the ingredients for a smaller number of guests
2 lbs. lean cubed beef – seasoned at least night before
½ lb. split peas – pre-soaked – I use yellow but any color can be used
½ lb. salted beef – boiled separately then drained and added to soup pot – can substitute with cooked ham or pork sausage pieces
1 bag mini carrots cut into smaller bites
Salt & Black pepper to taste
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ lbs. mixed ground provisions cut into smaller pieces (sweet potato, eddoe, dasheen, cassava – use American name alternatives) ** I used sweet potato, rutabaga, and butternut squash
2 yellow plantains cut into rounds
½ cups cubed pumpkin ** I have used canned pumpkin, or butternut squash here instead
1 cup potato – cut smaller
2 cans kernel corn
2 cans cream style corn
2 cloves garlic minced
½ cup chopped onion
1 hot pepper
¼ cup chopped chive
1 tsp. chopped thyme – Spanish or French
1 pack sweet corn cut into rounds
Dumplings – optional
In a large pot place meat, peas, carrots and salt beef with enough water to cover ingredients
Cover and cook until beef and peas are tender
Add more water to make required quantity of soup
Add seasonings, onion, provisions, corns, pumpkin, potato, salt and pepper to taste
Add plantains last
Cook slowly and stir often
Taste again and adjust salt/pepper
Dumplings – Optional
1 cup of flour mixed from ¼ cup yellow cornmeal/remainder is white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup water
Mix cornmeal, flour, salt & baking powder – stir in water and drop spoonfuls of dough onto top of hot soup mixture while still in pot, cover and simmer 15 minutes
It’s time intensive but a delicious taste of home. If you make it, let me know what you think! And for another version of Trini corn soup, check out one of my favorite food blogs, TriniGourmet.com!