As you all may or may not know, I grew up in the Bahamas. Yes, I was born and raised there. But I haven't actually lived there for a loooonnnng time. One of the things I really miss is the food. Conch stew is something that I don't actually remember growing up with, but I do remember eating it in my teenage years. In the Bahamas, it's pretty regularly served as a breakfast or brunch item. Of course, that doesn't stop up from eating it as a snack or for dinner either.
A few weeks ago, I was on vacation with my family in St. Kitt's/Nevis and although it was a pretty steady 85 degrees the entire time, my mom made some conch stew for brunch one day. Let's face it, who's going to turn down home-cooked native food? I haven't been home since April, so it was time to get my fix...
Bahamian Conch Stew
a family recipe
- 2 large conchs, cleaned
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 1/2 tomato, diced
- 4 potatoes, chopped
- 2 limes
- 1 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tbsp ketchup
- pepper sauce or red pepper flakes to taste
- 3 tbsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 7 cups water
1) Bruise the conch. (In layman's terms, this means you need to use a mallet or other object to tenderize the conch. If times are tough, you can always use an empty beer bottle. Thankfully, we had plenty of those lying around the apartment in Nevis...)
2) Place the conch in a pot of water. The water should just cover the conch. Boil for 20-30 minutes. (If the conch has been bruised thoroughly, then you can boil it for closer to 20 minutes than 30 minutes.)
3) In a large pot, add the oil and allow to heat up for a minute.
4) Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Let the roux simmer for about 5 minutes. Don't let the roux burn!
5) Add the tomatoes, onions, thyme, pepper sauce/red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir. (It may seem like a lot of salt, but this recipe makes a large pot of stew.) Stir and let simmer for a minute or two.
6) Add the potatoes, tomato paste and ketchup. Stir and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
7) Meanwhile, take the conch out of the water and cut it into chunks.
8) Add the water, conch and the juice of 1 lime to the large pot.
9) Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are done. For us, this was ~30 minutes but you know how you like your potatoes.
10) Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
11) Serve with bread, johhnycake, and/or a wedge of lime. The lime can be squeezed over the stew before eating, if desired.
The stew is a mixture of flavorful sensations. With each bite you get the spicy broth, which is complimented with just a hint of the tomatoes, onion, thyme and lemon. Then, periodically, you taste the soft potatoes and the fresh, chewy conch. A bowl of this stew is enough to fortify you for a long, productive day of drinking ahead. This is one of the best comfort foods for the upcoming winter season.
Note: You can also try this with lobster, but don't boil the lobster before adding it to the stew. Chop the uncooked lobster into bite-sized pieces and drop into the stew in the middle of Step 9. Remember that lobster cooks really fast, so you'll probably want it to simmer with the broth for somewhere around 10 minutes.