A tried-and-tested recipe for callaloo soup, from a lifelong fan
Callaloo soup is a lovely homemade meal that you would typically enjoy on a weekend. It is very different from a traditional English soup and has the consistency of stew. Callaloo, a vegetable that tastes like spinach and has a kale-like consistency, is hardy and grown in many allotments around Britain by the Caribbean community.
I remember first eating it as a little girl growing up in England when my mum cooked with it on Saturdays. My mum learned a lot of her cooking skills from my granny. My grandma, who lived to 106, did eat meat a couple of times a year (curry goat), but lived mainly on a vegetarian diet. She had a huge vegetable garden and always the freshest produce.
Nowadays, I cook callaloo soup more as a treat two or three times a year. The soup can be made from many ingredients, including lobster, crab, meat, yams, dumplings, chilli peppers and other seasonings. My grandmas would contain lots of lovely chunky vegetables, yams and dumplings.
As a child I remember my mum would make callaloo with crab and yams. We were especially excited about the yams, as they were a treat due to their scarcity in those days. They had just been introduced to Britain and, when we got wind of some arriving, we would rush excitedly to the shops to buy them.
I was thrilled to hear that the Queen loves callaloo soup. I remember when she visited the Caribbean a few years ago and enjoyed one of our national dishes: ackee and saltfish. If she ever wants me to come to the palace and knock some up for her, I will do callaloo with crab. For everyone at home, heres my recipe:
Callaloo soup with crab
2 tbsp vegetable oil
110g salt pork, or 6 rashers
of bacon, chopped (optional)
450g callaloo, roughly chopped
(use spinach as an alternative)
1 large onion, chopped
1 chopped chilli pepper
(or to taste)
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
2 tsp salt
2.5 pints of chicken
or vegetable stock
1 yam, diced (optional)
225g flaked crab meat, cooked
8 crab claws, cooked
First fry the salt pork or bacon, if using, in the oil in a large cooking pot until golden brown. Add the callaloo, onion, chilli pepper, thyme and salt, and fry for a minute, stirring all the time. Then add the stock and cook gently for about 20 minutes.
At this stage, you can add a diced yam. If you do, cook for another 12-15 minutes. Add the crab meat and stir, then add the crab claws. Take off the heat and rest for five minutes, allowing the crab meat and claws to heat through. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
As told to Daniel Lavelle