While I am enjoying sitting by the fire and watching my one-week-old granddaughter sleep, my Culinary Institute of America colleague, Chef Noelle Barille, is teaching on The Culinary Center aboard Riviera.

The Caribbean is a ‘bucket list’ destination for ‘foodies’ and one with a rich culinary heritage of influences from Africa, Spain, England, France and of course, the native islands themselves.  What intrigues me about the Caribbean is how the home cooks here have married spices, fish, meats and produce used to create this vibrant cuisine.  This is a ‘slow’ cuisine with a small global footprint, making it a paradise for those with a reverence for ‘unfussy’ food with personality!

This season, Chef Noelle is leading three culinary tours in St. Lucia, Tortola and Antigua.  I wanted to share them with you, along with some of our favorite Caribbean recipes for you to try at home (and as you cook be thinking of your next cruise with us!)

The Spices Cooking Studio

The Spices Cooking Studio

New for us in 2015 is a day at ‘The Spices Cooking Studio’ in St. Lucia. Limited to 10 guests, this tour is an intimate immersion into the spices that make these islands such a culinary treasure chest.  The group was greeted by our host, Jenni Killam who has travelled and studied Caribbean cooking for over 30 years.

Tour through an abundant herb garden

Guests toured an abundant herb garden, featuring unique herbs like chadon beni

Jenni and her team explained that today they would be ‘cooking lime’ which is a Caribbean term for hanging out with friends, preparing a meal and sharing it. The morning started with an overview of the day’s menu, followed by a tour through the abundant herb garden – local tarragon, parsley, cilantro, lemon grass and chadon beni (which is similar to cilantro but stronger with larger leaves) were begging to be harvested today!   Our sous chef provided insights about the vegetables and spices to be used in the cooking today, particularly chayote squash, green paw paw, peppers, coconut, fresh grated cocoa, bay leaves and chadon beni.

Preparing a three course meal

Preparing a delicious
three course meal

After a tour of the garden, our guests – armed with recipes – were eager to start the preparation of their three course meal, while enjoying beverages of fresh coconut water, local spiced rum punch and “tea” made out of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, star anise and bay leaf.

Lucian Fish Stew

Lucian Fish Stew

On the menu today was a vibrant, refreshing Island Salad made with grated squashes, green paw paw (papaya), lime, garlic, seasoned peppers and honey, along with a colorful Lucian Fish Stew of fresh turmeric, calloloo, white yams, carrots, unripe green bananas and a brightly colored and flavorful stock.  Dessert was a Cocoa Tea Flan prepared with grated cocoa and spiced with star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and nutmeg.

Castries open air market featuring island specialties such as ground seasoning peppers and hot sauce

Castries open air market

After a relaxed meal outside overlooking the beautiful bay from the hillside, guests made a quick trip to the famous Castries open air market, many buying the local cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise, and island specialties such as ground seasoning peppers and hot sauce. Armed with their spices, recipes and hands-on cooking experience, guests are excited to recreate their cruise memories at home.

I wanted to select a recipe that reminded me of my many trips to St. Lucia and the colorful market in Castries. I’ve picked one of the favorites from The Culinary Center – Island-Roasted Caribbean Nuts.  I use the spice mixture on nuts, rub on roasted chicken and use in my banana bread… so check back tomorrow and enjoy!