Recipes from Fiji


I just have two words to say about this week's meal: coconut bread. And I can just end the entry there. Because Fijian coconut bread is so delicious, I don't really need to say anything else.

Oh, you probably want the recipe though. I guess I'll have to finish the entry.
You probably know something about Fiji already. At the very least, you know it is one of those tropical paradises that everyone wants to go to. I'm sure that's because of the food. Well, maybe the beaches and the weather also have something to do with it, but mainly I'm guessing it's because of the food.

Meal from Fiji
Fiji is an archipelago of 332+ volcanically-formed islands, located in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,300 miles northeast of New Zealand. Most of the population live on the two largest islands—Viti Levu and Vanua Levu—with the remainder living on any one of 110 other smaller islands.

Scene from Fiji
Photo Credit: Flickr user flip.01.

The majority of Fijians live on the coast since the inland regions are mountainous and overgrown with thick tropical forests. While not very habitable, those inland regions are rich in forest and mineral resources—and the coastal regions, of course, are rich in ocean resources. Together all those resources help make Fiji one of the most economically developed nations in the Pacific island region. The very active tourism industry doesn't hurt, either.

So I was on Wikipedia looking for some basic background on Fijian cuisine when I received firsthand confirmation of one of Wikipedia's major flaws—letting just anyone come in and make edits. Because among traditional Fijian meats Wikipedia lists "wild pig, human, and various birds." OK so yes, I know that Fiji has a history of cannibalism but really, Wikipedia, don't you think if you're going to mention it under the heading "Fijian Cuisine" you need to include just the teensiest bit more explanation? 

Anyway I will just say that modern Fijian cuisine as I understand it depends heavily on seafood, typical tropical-type root vegetables such as taro and cassava, lots of coconut and probably not very much human.

On to the menu:

Ginger Fish
(from The Fijian Kitchen)
  • 2-3 lbs firm white fish (I used cod)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 3/4 cups white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp ginger root, grated
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Parsley, coriander or slivered ginger root (for garnish)
And on the side:

Baked Pineapple and Sweet Potato
(from The World Cookbook for Students)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled until just tender and thickly sliced
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
  • 4 tbsp green onions, chopped
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
And for dessert:

Sigh.

Cocount Bread
(from The Fijian Food Safari)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup grated fresh coconut
Most of this meal comes together quickly, so I'll just list the directions in the order I listed the recipes.

First the fish:

Rinse and pat dry the fish. Rub the lemon juice all over the fillets and refrigerate for about an hour. Then brush on the vegetable oil and place in a shallow casserole dish.

Put the soy sauce, corn oil, wine, garlic, sugar and ginger into a blender and pulse. Pour over the fish.

Bake at 350 degrees, basting frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork (you can also use a meat thermometer and bake to an internal temperature of 145 degrees). Garnish and serve.

And now for the potatoes:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease a casserole dish and put the sweet potatoes into it. Season with salt and pepper. Add a layer of pineapple and more salt and pepper.

Top with the coconut, even more salt and pepper and finally with the green onions.

Grate a little bit of cheese on top (if using) but don't go overboard. Bake for 30 minutes.

And now for that wonderful bread:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, toast the grated coconut in a dry pan until golden.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and salt. Gently stir in the coconut.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Stir in the coconut milk and vanilla extract.

Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Fold gently or until just combined. Don't overdo it or you will lose all that air you got from beating the eggs.

Now pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for one hour, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

So you already know what I thought about the coconut bread, but seriously, this whole meal was delicious. The fish had a nice, tropical flavor that was enough to make Martin declare his new-found love for cod, which is really something coming from a guy who is usually pretty ho-hum about fish.

I really, really liked the sweet potatoes and pineapple. Not just because pineapple is hands-down my favorite fresh fruit, but also because it was a very unusual combination of flavors that tasted delicious together. (Once upon a time I would not have expected pineapple/cheese to be a good combo but I actually suspected I would like this recipe based on how much I enjoyed that combo back on Bouvet Island.)

And the coconut bread, ah, yes, the coconut bread. Martin said, "So how many times a week will you be making this?" Happily—I mean, sadly—my children did not enjoy the coconut bread. So Martin and I were forced kicking and screaming to devour the whole loaf. Did I mention how much we loved it?

Anyway that was Fiji. Another gem, and it was a particularly happy day because that gem was also easy to prepare.

Next week: Finland

For printable versions of this week's recipes:



4 comments:

Lyn said...

Hi Becki,
Just catching up with your blog after a long time. (Re)-read the England stuff with some amusement - thank you! Thanks also for your vote of confidence in English food, of course you're right, good English cooking ranks right up there with the best.
Two suggestions:
steaming the potatoes is a pain, so you might like to consider the Jamie Oliver method (for doing roast potatoes absolutely perfectly, but works for mash too),boil the potatoes, then drain and leave in a hot pan with the lid off to steam off excess water - easy-peasy:
you mention steak and kidney as a no-no, but have you considered steak and oyster? Maybe oysters for you have a similar yeuk quotient, but maybe (as in the UK) you can buy smoked oysters in tins, which work well too? Just don't tell the kids there are oysters in it, it tastes great!

Ellen Nierenberg said...

I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog! My family has been making "international dinners" for the past 12 years, with a new country every Saturday. We've been around the world 3 times already. This time around we listen to music from the country while we're eating - a real cultural experience!

It was great for me to find your blog - you did all the hard work finding the good recipes! So right now I'm munching on yummy coconut bread from Fiji, here in Norway. :) My husband says "Det var deilig mat!", which means "That was great food!"

I've never actually commented on a blog before, so this is a first. Keep up the good work/fun! Let me know if you need some recipes from Norway. :)

From Ellen (and Jens)

Becki Robins said...

Hi Lyn thank you for the tips! That's actually the way we do roast potatoes and I'll try it for mash; I don't really get why you would spend all that time steaming them, actually, but according to Martin Delia knows everything. :) I might have to try steak and oyster but I think I'd have to lie to my husband about what was in it too, haha. Sometimes it's hard to even get him to eat tilapia.

Becki Robins said...

Hi Ellen thank you so much for the compliment! I'm so glad you liked the coconut bread, it's one of my favorites from last year. And I would love to have some recipes from Norway! So many of my recipes just come from the internet and it's great when I find a source who actually lives in the country where the recipe comes from. :)

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