This green fig with saltfish recipe is a tribute to the wonderful people of St Lucia. On our first trip to St Lucia many moons ago I was fortunate to have something very similar to this meal and I remember our hosts saying that it was their national dish. I never really confirmed this, as we were too caught-up in enjoying the great food and general hospitality of St Lucia. BTW, if you ever visit St Lucia and you’re ‘convinced’ that you should go to signal hill… make sure you’re in good shape. That trek up the hill had me craving oxygen! My time would have been better spent drinking a coconut at the Castries market.
It’s funny how when you’re a child on the islands you always think whatever your mom made was her recipe or creation… not knowing that up and down the chain of islands known as the Caribbean the same dishes are prepared for kids just like us by their mom. How could this be a popular dish in St Lucia when our mom was the only one who knew how to make it?
2 lbs green cooking bananas
pinch black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper
2 cups cabbage
2 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
3/4 cup saltfish
1 medium tomato
Notes. The salted fish will still have remaining salt, so keep this in mind when adding salt to the dish. Remember to wear gloves when handling scotch bonnet peppers and be sure to wash your hands with soap and water directly after. Green fig is simply green ‘cooking’ bananas.
You have 2 options when it comes to cooking the green fig (bananas), you can either peel them before boiling or peel after they’re done cooking. I’ll show you the simple method. Trim off the ends and discard, then using a sharp pairing knife cut a shallow cut (the thickness of the skin) down the length of the banana (follow one of the natural ridges). TIP: coat your hands with vegetable oil or wear gloves as the sap from the green bananas can stain or cause your hands to itch.
Place the trimmed bananas in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a rolling boil and let them cook for about 20 minutes. You’ll notice two things. They will darken (even go black) and where you made the cut, it will open up.
Drain and allow to cool so it’s easier to handle (peel).
The salt fish (salt cod in my case), was soaked in cool water, then drained. After which I placed it in a pot with about 4 cups of water and boiled for about 25 minutes. We need to rehydrate the dried salted fish and remove most of the salt it was cured in. I usually get boned salted fish, so there’s never any bones to remove. Rinse with cool water and squeeze dry. Now shred into the size flakes yo like.
Chop/shred your cabbage, onion, tomato, garlic, thyme and parsley. Then heat the vegetable oil (you can also use olive or coconut oil) on a medium flame in a deep sauce pan. Add the flaked salted fish and turn the heat down to low. Let that cook for about 4 minutes as we want to create a lovely flavor base.
Now add the onion, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper and thyme and let it cook for a further 3 minutes.
Toss in the shredded cabbage and give it a good stir. It’s also now time to add the boiled bananas (they should be cool enough to handle). The cut we made before boiling them would have opened up, so simply peel back and remove the skin. If you see any sort of stringy things, remove those as well. Now chop into 1 inch pieces and add to the pot and sprinkle in the salt.
Turn the heat up to med/low and make sure to mix everything well so the flavors coat the green bananas. After about 4 minutes (depending how cooked you want the cabbage… I like a little crunch) toss in the diced tomato and parsley, give it a stir, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the residual heat from the pot finish cooking things.
This is a one pot dish and there’s enough here for 2-3 people as a full meal. If it’s being used as a side it will be enough for about 5 people easily. I refer to such meals as “country” meals as it takes me back to when I was a carefree kid on the islands and life was very simple in our little village in the countryside.