What is Oil Down, exactly?? Yes, it's the Grenadian National dish, that's correct. You have been paying attention. Craig and I experienced our first authentic oil down at the end of our hash run. It was delicious even though we weren't entirely sure what all the parts were. Originated by the Carib Indians and cooked in a huge pot over an open fire, it's what the south would refer to as "comfort" food. It is a hearty combination of vegetables, dumplings, meat, spices and coconut milk. The namesake comes from the fact that the coconut milk, as it simmers, releases a fragrant oil that rises to the top and, once it reaches the bottom of the pot (get it? oil down), it is ready to serve.
I had a traditional recipe that called for pig snout and salt fish. Other recipes call for pig tail and salt beef. I opted to go with my own version of oil down using chicken, minus the fore mentioned delicacies. Although I may work my way up to trying those too. Really, you can make this one pot meal with what ever you have on hand. No matter what meat is used, one thing remains the same, all the recipes contain breadfruit (similar to a potato, but not really), callalou (similar to spinach, swiss chard or kale), pumpkin (or squash) and dumplings. The ingredients are then layered into the pot, cooked and stirred just before serving.
If you want to try a little Caribbean oil down, I have copied the recipe that I used, which is a conglomerate of recipes and advice given to me by locals that make it on a daily basis. If you ask 10 locals how to make it, you might very well get 10 different recipes. Everyone has their own signature dish, with a slightly different twist. There are as many different oil down recipes as there are people in Grenada, I'm sure. That is the beauty of this dish, it is very versatile, requires one pot and very economical to boot!
I didn't have any breadfruit, but I had Christophine and potatoes this time
Layered in the pot with the callalou on top
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bread fruit, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (white or sweet potatoes)
4 cups callalou, coarsely choppped
4 cups pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 Chicken thighs (skin and bones optional)
4 Chicken drumsticks
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1-2 seasoning peppers, chopped (mild green chills or jalapeño)
2 TBSP curry powder
2 cans coconut milk (not lite)
2 TBSP veg. oil
Salt & pepper
2 cups flour
1 TBSP butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a bowl and rub butter and flour together until mixture looks like small peas.
Slowly add enough heater to knead to a stiff dough
Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope-like shape about 12-inches long
Cut into 2 inch lengths and drop into boiling stew for about 10 minutes.
Heat oil over medium heat in large pot.
Brown meat if using skin on. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add onions, carrots, celery, seasoning peppers, garlic, ginger, curry powder and sauté until softened.
In a single layer, place chicken, breadfruit and pumpkin on top of onion mixture.
Layer some callalou on top of chicken mixture
Continue layering until all the ingredients are used
Pour in coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, cover and for 30-60 min. or until chicken is cooked through. Don't stir until the end when you are ready to serve.