blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Fishcakes, and other food

A taste of St Helena

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Stay away from restaurants that have menus in five languages. That’s always a tourist trap. You want to eat where the locals eat.
CurtisStone

Here are some of the foods you can taste when you visit. And we’ve provided recipes so you can try them at home!

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

Go to: RecipiesHow to go food shopping on St HelenaRead More

Like all isolated places, St Helena has developed a unique food-culture, influenced throughout its history by the British, by the many immigrant populations including African and Indian slaves and Chinese labourers, and by the ships passing through. A typical buffet-style meal might include roast meat and potatoes, salad, vegetables and meat or fish curry!

You can read more about the cuisine of St Helena on the Wikipedia.

This page concentrates on the local food of St Helena, with recipes passed down over many generations.

With the coming of the Airport much work has been done introducing non-island food to St Helena. While this may meet some need, why come to St Helena and eat just the same as you do at home? Surely one of the most exciting things about a visit here is to try the local food? So that is what we present below.

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Sampling local food is one of our Top Twenty things to do during a visit to St Helena.

Top Twenty things to do [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Recipies

See the note below on Chilli and Salt.

Go to: St Helena Fishcakes‘Bread ’n Dance’‘Around the mast’ or ‘Plo’‘Do Down’‘Stuffed Pokes’‘Black Pudding’Dessert: ‘Boiled Pudding’…and many moreAbout Chilli and Salt

If you enjoy some of the recipes below, you can buy a book packed with 90 pages of St Helena recipes, including variations of the ones shown here and many, many more. The book is called ‘What’s Cooking on St Helena’, and it’s available from inter alia, the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]Moonbeams Shop, price £6 (for export please contact the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]Moonbeams Shop).

St Helena Fishcakes

Dish of fishcakes [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Nothing compares with Anne’s fishcakes […] we had a couple of cold beers and Fishcakes that I will never forget as long as I live. Maybe it was 23 days at sea, but they were just so good. Made with fresh fish and chillies, they are to die for{1}.

St Helena has always been an isolated island surrounded by hundreds of Km of ocean. Not surprisingly, therefore, fish has been a main component of the St Helena diet throughout the island’s history. Of the locally-caught fish, Tuna is by far the most prevalent. Indeed it has been quipped that the St Helena Cookbook might be subtitled ‘101 things to do with Tuna’. One recipe, however, seems to stand out, in the minds of locals and visitors alike: St Helena Fishcakes.

Naturally there are many variations on the basic recipe, from the simple to the exotic. We’ve even encountered recipes that include ingredients not readily available on St Helena! The one below is a reasonable average.

Ingredients

The essential ingredients are as follows:

  • 250g fresh tuna{2}

  • 300g potatoes

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 medium egg

  • 1 rasher of bacon, diced

  • 1 whole chilli, chopped finely

  • ½ tablespoon chopped parsley

Then add spices to taste (or as available). Any or all of:

  • 1 pinch of thyme

  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of paprika

  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder

  • 2 tablespoons of curry powder

  • Salt to season

Method

  1. Peel and boil potatoes in lightly salted water until soft. Drain, mash and leave to cool;

  2. Cook and shred the fish with a knife until fine;

  3. Add the mashed potato and mix thoroughly;

  4. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil;

  5. Fry the onion, chilli and bacon until lightly browned, adding spices as required;

  6. Cool, then add to fish and mashed potato;

  7. Add the egg and mix together thoroughly;

  8. Form cakes to about 2cm thick and about 6cm round;

  9. Return to the frying pan and fry cakes until medium-brown on both sides

Serve with a slice of lemon, with rice or in a burger-bun.

‘Bread ’n Dance’

Actually tomato paste sandwiches, so named because they are always served at a dance, or other social event.

‘Bread ’n Dance’ [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Ingredients

  • 450g fresh tomatoes or a 400g tin of tomatoes

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 chilli

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Cooking oil or butter parsley

  • 2 rashers bacon, finely chopped (omit for a vegetarian version)

  • 1 beaten egg

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan

  2. Add onions, chilli, bacon and herbs

  3. Fry until soft then add tomatoes with juice, salt and sugar

  4. Using a fork mash tomatoes

  5. Simmer mixture until all the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a thick pulp

  6. Stir in beaten egg until cooked

  7. Remove from heat and cool

  8. Store in the refrigerator

  9. Serve in sandwiches

‘Around the mast’ or ‘Plo’

The origins of the name ‘Around the mast’ are unknown but presumably have a seafaring context. ‘Plo’ is probably a corruption of Pilaf.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 450g bacon, chopped

  • 4 large potatoes, chopped

  • 1 cabbage, chopped

  • 2 large carrots, chopped

  • 2 small slices of pumpkin, chopped

  • 1 tomato, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 225g rice

  • 1 heaped tablespoon medium curry powder

  • Tomato sauce

  • Worcestershire sauce

  • Parsley

  • Water

  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Heat oil and fry onion until starting to brown

  2. Add curry powder and sugar and cook for about a minute

  3. Add bacon and chopped vegetables and steam for an about 10 minutes

  4. Add sufficient water to cover all the ingredients

  5. Add the washed rice and season with salt, herbs and sauces

  6. Cover and bring to the boil and simmer gently until all the water has evaporated and the meat and vegetables are all cooked

  7. Add more water if necessary

Serves 4 - 6. To make Beef or Chicken Plo, follow the recipe above but steam uncooked beef or chicken pieces until partially cooked and brown on all sides before adding the vegetables and rice etc. When making Fish Plo do not add the fish until rice and vegetables are nearly cooked.

An alternative ‘Healthy Plo’ recipe is also available.

‘Do Down’

Cabbage Stew. The origins of the name ‘Do Down’ are unknown but it may refer to the cooking process.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cabbage, sliced

  • 4 potatoes, chopped small

  • 225g bacon pieces

  • 1 large onion, sliced

  • Salt and pepper

  • Thyme

  • Parsley

Method

  1. Heat oil in pan and fry onion and bacon until the onion is transparent

  2. Add potatoes, cabbage and seasoning to taste

  3. Cover and steam until potatoes are cooked

‘Stuffed Pokes’

A ‘poke’ is a fish’s stomach. This would normally be the stomach of a large fish, e.g. a Tuna. The origin of the term ‘poke’ is unknown.

True story: Catherine, now Director of moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]Moonbeams Shop, but then with the Development Agency and only recently arrived on St Helena, was taken to meet the island’s fishermen. “Do you want a poke?” one enquired. Catherine blushed. Then someone told her what the local term meant…

Ingredients

  • 2 large fish pokes

  • 900g mashed potatoes

  • 120g bacon, finely chopped

  • 2 large onions, finely chopped

  • Chopped parsley

  • 1 pinch thyme

  • Seasoning

Method

  1. Wash pokes thoroughly and boil in salted water until tender

  2. Set aside to cool

  3. Meanwhile fry the onions, parsley, thyme and bacon until lightly brown, then add to potatoes and season to taste

  4. Spoon seasoned potatoes into the tender pokes

  5. Season the pokes

  6. Secure the ends with some white cotton or white string

  7. Put some cooking oil into a saucepan, just enough to cover the bottom and heat gently

  8. Add pokes and cook until golden brown for about 1 hour, tossing during cooking time

  9. Keep lid on saucepan

Serves 2. If fish stomach is not available perhaps a sheep’s stomach would do.

‘Black Pudding’

If you’re British you may think you know Black Pudding; but then you haven’t tried St Helena Black Pudding!

‘Black Pudding’ [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Ingredients

  • 3 large skins (pigs’ or calves’ intestines)

  • 250ml animal blood

  • 800g rice (white or brown)

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 rashers of bacon, finely chopped

  • A handful of parsley, finely chopped

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 1 pinch of mixed spice

  • 1 pinch of thyme

  • chilli to taste

Method

  1. Clean skins carefully by washing them several times, turning them inside out and scraping any slime away.

  2. Leave them to soak for 12 hours (e.g. overnight) in a mild solution of salt and water.

  3. Boil rice until nearly cooked.

  4. Lightly fry onion, bacon, herbs and chilli then add to the rice.

  5. Strain the blood into the rice mixture until the rice is just covered in blood.

  6. Season, add mixed spice and mix well.

  7. Wash and dry the skins, then stuff them loosely with rice mixture and secure ends.

  8. Prick with fork and put into pot of boiling water for 30 minutes, until skins are tender.

  9. Remove and drain.

Dessert: ‘Boiled Pudding’

The name is fairly obvious… Boiled or steamed pudding was a common dish aboard ships in the Royal Navy during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Ingredients

  • 675g flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice

  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 340g margarine

  • 340g sugar

  • 4-6 beaten eggs

  • 450g mixed fruit

  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla or almond essence

Method

  1. Burn 3 tablespoons of the sugar to give a caramel colouring

  2. Cream margarine and remaining sugar

  3. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly

  4. Sift the flour and spices and fold in a little at a time together with the fruit

  5. Add vanilla or almond essence and burnt sugar, mixing it to a dropping consistency

  6. Spread a wet cloth over a cake-shaper and lightly flour it

  7. Put the pudding mixture in the cloth and tie it very tightly with string, leaving enough room for expansion

  8. Boil it in a large saucepan of boiling water for 3 - 3½ hours (put a heat-proof plate at the bottom of the saucepan to prevent it from sticking)

  9. Top the boiling water up from time to time

  10. When cooked remove it from the cloth and allow it to cool before cutting

…and many more

If you enjoyed some of the recipes above, you can buy a book packed with 90 pages of St Helena recipes, including variations of the ones shown here and many, many more. The book is called ‘What’s Cooking on St Helena’, and it’s available from inter alia, the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]Moonbeams Shop, price £6 (for export please contact the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]Moonbeams Shop).

About Chilli and Salt

Chilies are plentiful and cheap and are greatly used by the inhabitants, who seem particularly fond of hot food.{a}

Saints prefer spicy food and tend to use hot chillies in great quantity. Most of the recipes here could be made entirely without chilli, but then they wouldn’t give the authentic St Helena taste. St Helena Black Pudding without the chilli would simply be ordinary Black Pudding! We recommend you are guided by your palette. Put in as much chilli as you dare; then add just a little bit more!

Similary, Saints put quite a lot of salt in their food. This too is a matter of taste, but also, doctors tell us, a matter of health. You may wish to moderate the quantity of salt you add, and maybe use low-sodium alternatives.

How to go food shopping on St Helena

Sorry, no potatoes [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

So you’ve finally made it to St Helena. You’re established in your self-catering flat in Jamestown and you’ve eaten what was in your ‘welcome pack’ so now you need to go shopping to prepare a meal.

If you live in a bigger country than St Helena (which, let’s face it, is most of them) you would probably start by flicking throught your collection of recipies, deciding what to cook, writing down a list of the ingredients you will need and then going shopping to buy them.

In St Helena that just won’t work!

Here you do it the other way around. You start by going shopping and buy anything you can actually get that might be useful. Then you go home, survey your collection and thumb through your recipies to see if there is anything you can prepare with the ingredients you have managed to find!

This promotes creativity. For example, you may fancy Key Lime Pie but can’t get limes - use lemons instead. Tuna will substitute for most meats in most recipies. Use your imagination and experiment!

Read More

Go to: ‘Eating Local’Article: “Salad - A Saint Helena Tale”

‘Eating Local’

Published in the St Helena Independent 2nd September 2011{3}{4}

St Helenian culture, just like the people of the island, is a hot-pot of all sorts, with influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, English, Chinese and Indian to the Caribbean, French, African and American. These international flavours have blended to form what is now, the unique culture of St Helena. A clear example of this, is St Helenian cooking.

Although dishes like Black Pudding, Fishcakes, Goat Meat Curry, Coconut Fingers, Fudge and Guava Duff all originate from other international cuisines, nowhere in the world are these dishes made with the flavouring and methods as they are on St Helena. As a part of the ‘Buy Local Campaign’{5}, many St Helenian eating establishments are developing and enhancing the local dishes, so that they may be included on their menus. Embracing the campaign, proprietors have adopted a policy of using as much fresh, local produce in their meals as possible.

Ann’s Place

St Helena Garden Salad [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]
St Helena Garden Salad

Ann’s Place, named after its original proprietor Mrs Anne Sim, is a very familiar restaurant on the island. Known widely to islanders and visitors alike, especially visiting yachtsmen, many of whom have heard of Ann’s Place before they even arrive.

Owners Richard and Jane Sim are very proud of the reputation they have established for their business. Guests at Ann’s Place know they can always get a fresh fish meal or the traditional fishcake made from fresh local tuna. Jane also tries to source other meats and vegetables locally as well. All salads on the new salad menu at Ann’s Place are made from local salad vegetable including the St Helena Garden Salad, made from lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, cucumber and a choice of meat slices.

See also our Yachting and Castle Gardens pages.

The Sunflower Café

N.B.The Sunflower Café closed on 31st March 2017.

The Sunflower Café situated at Woodlea, Alarm Forest, provides a facility and food service for small private functions and will cater to menus that are designed with the customer.

The Sunflower Café is a family business providing a variety of three course menus, from the traditional St Helena Dishes to a more international style of cuisine. Business owner, Ms Millicent Stopforth (Millie as she is affectionately known) is keen to utilise as much fresh produce, for her dishes as possible, and comments that “we have a variety of fresh fruit, vegetable and meats available on the island but one cannot always guarantee the supply. For a business like mine where I can design a menu to the clients requirements whilst considering what is in season, it isn’t so bad; however I can imagine the irregularity of supply of fresh produce is quite a hindrance on those places that have to provide a daily menu”. Millie is keen to support increased production on the island as this would ensure that she could offer a more diverse menu range to her customers.

Wellington House

Wellington House [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]
Wellington House

Wellington House, named after the Duke of Wellington, who visited St Helena in 1805, is primarily an accommodation facility in Main Street, Jamestown, providing food services primarily for the hotel. However the Wellington does provide a booking service where the public can book the venue or a table for dinner. Proprietor, Mrs Ivy Robinson considers her meals to be a traditional English style of cooking however she is always proud to say that “we have a distinct St Helenian flavour to our food”.

Did the Duke of Wellington stay at Wellington House?

It’s a popular belief that Wellington House is so-named because Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington stayed there during his visit in 1805. But actually he didn’t. In Jamestown he stayed at (Old) Porteous House, just across the road from Wellington House, which was destroyed by fire in 1862 and recently re-built. He also stayed at The Briars. Wellington House is named in his honour - that’s all.

These are but a few of the food establishments operating on the island. But wherever you go, you can guarantee a fusion of traditional St Helenian cooking complemented with true ‘Saint’ hospitality.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

Article: “Salad - A Saint Helena Tale

Published on the blog Notes from a (very) small island 24th November 2014{3}{6}

When I moved here I never thought I’d be writing a blog about salad. Salads, even the very best ones just aren’t that interesting, even for a geeky foody like me. But I’ve literally just finished dinner (of a salad obviously) and it struck me how much the meal told a story of life on the island. We’ve had salad here before, but just normal, run of the mill salad. When I was last home I told people that if you want a salad you have to buy a lettuce when you see one and then hope you see a cucumber before the lettuce goes soggy and limp. Tonight that went a step further and everything came together, but for one night only.

If you know me and know my physical stature you would presume that I’m not much of a salad muncher, but you’d be wrong, because I love all food (expect mushrooms, I bloody hate mushrooms, why would you eat anything that smells that bad when it’s cooking) and hence the rather nonathletic figure I just mentioned. This has been changing since I’ve been over here, the outdoor lifestyle, limited activities other than sport and lack of convenience food has meant that I have lost weight for the first time in my life. Actually it’s the second time, I also lost weight during the summer of 1989 when we holidayed in a then still Communist Bulgaria and the food was somewhat lacking for a 9 year old’s palate. For instance breakfast on our flight over on Balkan Airways was cold beef and peas, at 7am, not really appetising.

Anyway, back to the salad, like some of my other posts have said before, what you really crave is what you can’t have and here that is often salad. So, whilst I am being healthier in general I’ve actually really wanted a good salad, so much so that we’ve been talking about it for a while. A salad with all the constituent parts, with a blue cheese dressing (although that wasn’t for me) and some crusty bread. Simple, right? Well, no, after being here for 15 months tonight was the first time all the constituent parts came together at the same time, we’ve had them all at some point or other but never at once. So we’ve just finished dinner, of a salad, and it was fantastic and most of the constituent parts had their own little story to tell.

Ingredients:

Salad

Lettuce - Locally grown, I can’t tell you what type it was, but I bought it 10 days ago and since being here I’ve become very good at preserving food, lettuce has even become a bit of a specialty.

Cucumber - Arrived on the last ship from South Africa. We have cucumber quite often but as it often doesn’t coincide with anything else we tend to use it with a Hendricks and tonic, which let’s be honest is probably the best way you can use a cucumber.

Walnuts - Regularly available from the ‘health shop’, however rumour is that this is closing down soon, making the shopping just a little bit harder.

Red onion - Now this is rare, we have onions all the time, but very rarely red onions. I got these 3 weeks ago and thankfully I managed to save one for an occasion such as this.

Dressing

Hellman’s Mayonnaise - Something that I haven’t seen on the island at all, but that’s ok because we planned ahead and brought two years supply with us. Along with all the things that we didn’t think we can get easily here, we planned what we would use over two years and did a huge shop before we came, packed it in our container and sent it half way round the world. This included mayonnaise, toilet roll and my Alpecin shampoo to help with my receding hairline. You can get mayonnaise here, but if it’s not Hellman’s it’s just not right.

Blue cheese - Around Christmas time the cheeses become a bit more available, it’s possible to get Cheddar in two distinct flavours (mild or mature) all year round, but other cheeses are a little rarer and worth stocking up on/hoarding when you see them. I’ve had this one for quite a while and saved it especially for this dressing, I’m pleased I got to use it before it went out of date.

Garlic - This is surprisingly abundant so I cook it with it most nights. Just in case, we did actually bring garlic powder with us.

Sides

Beetroot - One of the things you have to do when shopping here is check the dates. I think some of the suppliers have deals to buy foods close to their sell by date. Add on to this the shipping time to get here and often food on the shelves is beyond its sell by date so it’s always worth checking. But pickled beetroot lasts forever, that’s the point of pickling it, the jars will last a few years so there’s no point in checking. Or so I thought, I actually bought a jar which was 6 months out of date, just how long had it been knocking around? It had probably been on the shelf since before I started work at Leeds City Council let alone planning my trip here.

Tomato, spring onion and mozzarella - Now this was a real treat. Tomatoes are generally common but cherry tomatoes aren’t and this is what we had tonight. We’ve only has them once before in fact. These were imported but strangely enough I’ve actually started noticing wild tomato plants on the island. They are the smallest tomatoes I have ever seen and I first noticed them on the tennis court, but we went walking on Sunday and they were everywhere. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to actually eat them though{7}. Spring onions are very rare although the islands seems to have a glut of them at the moment which is often the case with different foods. The mozzarella is the same story as the blue cheese, only available at Christmas!

Salad Cream - See Hellman’s Mayonnaise but this time it has to be Heinz.

Crusty Bread Roll - This arrived today, well actually it arrived on the boat last Tuesday but we got our boxes today. This was our Christmas shop with all the goodies we need to have a proper Christmas, wine, ale, Quality Street and Mince Pies. We also ordered some of that part baked crusty bread. It’s a real treat here.

So there you have it, how to make a salad Saint Helena style and how much effort and planning goes into making what would normally be a very simple meal.

Feral tomotoes [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]

Laugh at funny fishcakes humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Fishcakes, and other food]


Credits:

{a} Benjamin Grant, in ‘A Few Notes on St Helena’, 1879{3}



Footnotes:

{1} Read the full blog posting (106.0Kb)

{2} Fresh is best but tinned will do

{3} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged

{4} Naturally we can’t guarantee that all of these establishments will remain in business, though at the time of writing (March 2015) all of them still are.

{5} Aimed at improving the use of locally-produced, as opposed to imported foodstuffs

{6} See more blogs.

{7} Website author’s note: not only are they edible, they’re delicious!



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