This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

or Christians, the practice of eating fish on Fridays dates back to the earliest days of the church. And the forty days of Lent, the season of repentance and self-denial before Easter, is a time when many Christians

(and some non-Christians) eat fish regularly as part of their diet. My mother, a staunch

Roman Catholic, would assiduously buy, season, and prepare fish every Friday in Lent. For Easter week, she would buy a whole fish, usually kingfish, for a special Good Friday meal. This column was originally supposed to be about having

a fantastic fish and seafood spread for Easter. But this year I suspect a lot of people in Trinidad will face great difficulty in sticking to this tradition. In December 2013, a series of oil spills off the south-west

coast of Trinidad spread crude oil along the coast, covering beaches, mangroves, and killing tons of sea life. The disaster has thrown the entire fishing industry into turmoil. It was heartbreaking to see fisherfolk on television holding up oil-covered fish, crabs, and oysters, while they appealed to the government to compensate them for the loss of their livelihoods. The prospects for the environment

are gloomy, with experts saying some of the damage done to the ecosystem is irreparable. Many suggest that the fish and seafood stocks in the Gulf of Paria will take years to recover. And months later the knock-on effect can still be seen

dwindling, pollock has emerged as a popular substitute. There is very little hard work involved in preparing salted fish — all you need to do, after an overnight soak to remove the excess salt, is shred the fish. After this, it can be cooked down with a vibrant tomato sauce and paired with ground provisions, rice, or hefty dumplings. On occasion, I flip the script and prepare an Indian meal

for Easter. And the showpiece is always homemade paneer. As British Asian chef Anjum Anand describes it, “paneer is home- made, unsalted, white cheese. It has a fresh farmer’s-cheese-like quality, and a dense, crumbly texture that works wonderfully with the spices of India. It is full of virtues; it is a great source of protein, packed with vitamins and minerals, and so tasty that even hardened carnivores find it hard to pass up a well-made paneer dish.” You make paneer by adding food acid like lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt to hot milk, to separate the curds from the

When I visited the markets at the start of the year, the effects of the oil spills had just begun to bite. I heard people complain about the cost of their favourite fish, and looked at how they instead chose the less attractive varieties

at Trinidad’s fishmongers and supermarkets, with fresh fish retailing at astronomical prices. In recent years, the trend has been for fresh fish to be more expensive at Easter, because of the heavily increased demand. Kingfish, the most sought-after, has in the recent past retailed at between US$5 and $6 per pound, but fishmongers have warned consumers to expect prices as high as US$10. When I visited the markets at the start of the year, the effects

of the oil spills had just begun to bite. I heard people complain about the cost of their favourite fish, and looked at how they instead chose the less attractive varieties. So instead of kingfish or carite, they’d go for cro-cro and other types of white fish. Some even bought the much-maligned catfish as a replacement for shark. I checked out a couple of places that sold frozen imported

fish, and they reported an increased demand — and, of course, with higher demand came higher prices. On the radio talk shows, people were complaining, but some consumers said they would still buy fresh fish, because it was a tradition they could not break.


s a non-Christian and former vegetarian, I found the discussions interesting, but I also know there are many alternatives to fish at Easter time. Instead of fresh or even

frozen fish, salted fish (bacalao, as the Spanish call it), is a fantastic option. The best salted fish is salted cod, but with cod stocks


whey. Then you drain the curds in muslin or cheesecloth, and press out the excess water. The resulting paneer is shaped into blocks, then dipped in chilled water for two or three hours to firm up the texture. Because paneer is relatively “bland,” it’s extremely easy

to spice up. I’ve found it works best with flavourful curried vegetables that have been seasoned with fragrant spices like ginger, chili, fenugreek (methi), cumin, and coriander, and cooked down with coconut milk and good vegetable stock. Another meatless option is tofu, a commonly used

ingredient in Asian cooking. Like paneer, tofu is quite “bland,” which means it’s perfect for pairing with strong flavours. Nowadays, you can purchase tofu in the supermarket or from Chinese shops. And it’s not limited to Chinese or Thai dishes. I’ve used it in classic pasta dishes like cannelloni and lasagne — blending the tofu in a food processor and seasoning it with herbs like basil and parsley. Traditionalists might find it difficult to move away from

fish at Easter, but considering the budget-busting price, these alternatives — which are much cheaper — are certainly worth exploring. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how filling they are, and by the end of the meal you may wonder what the fuss about fish at Easter was all about. But spare a thought for Trinidad’s fisherfolk, who are still

suffering from the loss of their earnings. It may be hard now, but we must play our role by purchasing local fish when the stocks are replenished. n

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100