Cou-cou and flying fish is the national dish of Barbados. This is my take on this traditional dish, whilst still keeping it as authentic as possible. In this recipe my cou-cou will be accompanied by a delicious tuna gravy.
Although cou-cou is normally made with cornmeal, breadfruit cou-cou is another fave of locals. However, cornmeal cou-cou is the most popular and traditional form.
Let’s get started!
Note: I do recommend reading the whole post and not skimming, as it will have more detailed instructions, and watching video for visual guide.
Authentic Cornmeal Cou-Cou Method
Before you start cooking your cou-cou and tuna gravy, I recommend prepping everything first, as when you start the cou-cou, you won’t be able to stop. Make sure you have all utensils and “equipment” out and ready.
Start with cooking the sweet potato and gravy first (and the pickled cucumber if adding), this way you can get these two things out of the way, and concentrate fully on the cou-cou.
What cornmeal should you use?
You could say the most important component of cornmeal cou-cou would be the cornmeal. You’ll need to use fine cornmeal to make this recipe, which you should be able to find relatively easily.
Cornmeal tends to cook quickly, but like any dish when using cornmeal, it forms lumps easily. I’d recommend pouring the cornmeal in off the heat, then placing it back onto the heat when combined. See video for more.
Tuna Gravy or something else?
Ok, to be honest, you can use any meat in your gravy. I’ve recently been using these cans of thai chilli tuna (check video for exact ones) because I like the taste, and I always have them in my cupboard due to the “panini press”.
Traditionally, flying fish is used when cooking cou-cou, however, flying fish isn’t as readily available as it was in the past, so many people swap it out for other meats/fish. Popular subs are salmon and chicken. This recipe is also a great vegan recipe as well! Just leave out the meat!
You’re ready to go!
Cou-cou is actually a quick and easy dish when you get the hang of it. It can have a steep learning curve, but once you get over it, it’ll be smooth sailing.
Let me know how your authentic cou-cou with tuna gravy turns out, how you like yours, or even how your family makes it!
Check out another authentic bajan recipe here.
Cou-Cou with Tuna Gravy
- Cou-cou stick
- Large Bowl
- 8 oz Fine Cornmeal
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup Chopped okras
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Sweet Potato white/yellow
- 1 can thai chilli tuna
- 1/2 onion sliced
- 1/2 sweet pepper sliced
- 1 tomato
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper optional
- 1/2 tbsp bajan seasoning optional
- fresh herbs: thyme, parsley, spring onions
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- Boiled water
Spices (1/2 tsp of all or to your taste)
- all purpose seasoning/stock cube
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- curry powder
- mixed herbs
- Boil sweet potato in salted water until cooked, set aside
- In pan, sauté onions, peppers, tomatoes, scotch bonnet and herbs on medium heat until softened
- Add bajan seasoning (if using) and mix well
- Add can of tuna (or whatever meat you're using), season with spices and mix until well incorporated. Add ketchup and stir
- Using boiled water (or reserved water from cooking sweet potato) top up pan and bring to boil on high heat.
- Place gravy to the back of the stove, on a medium high heat, to let simmer and reduce down
- Add okras, salt and water to pot and bring to boil
- When okras boil, turn down heat to insure water doesn't boil over, and let simmer for 5 minutes
- Strain okras into bowl, reserving all water
- Set pot off stove and add half the water from okras back to pot, mixi in cornmeal with cou-cou stick and pressing to the side of pot until ball forms. Add more water if needed for ball to form.
- Return pot onto stove on a low heat, pouring a small amount of the liquid to stop from burning
- When bubbles form in pot, incorporate liquid into the ball of cornmeal, making sure to form back into ball
- Add half the okras and incorporate
- Pour water onto ball and leave until more bubbles form on the bottom
- Repeat steps until all the okras are incorporated and cou-cou is cooked
- If okra water remains in bowl, transfer to other jug but do not throw away
- Scoop out amount of cou-cou you want into bowl and shake, making sure it hits side of bowl. Flip to get a more perfect round shape
- Serve by making a small indent into the top of your cou-cou ball, and add your sweet potato and gravy