Dear Escoveitch Fish, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways! This is real Jamaican comfort food. It says everything about Jamaica in one dish: spicy, salty, island, coastal, tangy, fresh, shelf-life, inexpensive and bang for buck and bite. This may remind you of a ceviche, which is where it gets its Spanish roots. You see, Jamaica was first colonized by the Spanish when Christopher Columbus happened upon our native American “Taino” Indians in 1493 in his “discovery” of the New World, making our country the landmark stop in the West Indies. Ceviche, is a natural preservative and the acid in it cooks the food. A little zealous for fire-cooked food, our people had to “Jamaicanize it” by cooking it on the stove and then ‘cooking it’ again with the vinegary escoveitch… you know, to make certain the fish is really dead!
This dish is very popular during easter in Jamaica as many stay away from meat and chicken during Lent, but it is available year-round at the popular Hellshire Fishing Village in St. Catherine and in many Jamaican homes. Some like it served hot out of the pot and others like it the day after when the escoveitch sauce takes on a new note after having soaked in the fish overnight. Please try it and tell us how you like it. Here’s how you should do it.
Ingredients: 1kg / 2lbs Fresh snapper or parrot fish (we mean fish so fresh you could almost see it swimming and cook it the same day you buy it), 1tbsp salt, 1tbsp peper, 1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice/Jamaican peppercorns/pimento, 1 scotch bonnet pepper whole, frying oil
Method: In a large wok or frying pan, heat some high oleic sunflower, avocado or soybean frying oil.
Combine salt and pepper in a small plate along with ground allspice and rub into fish. We like to slash the fish on the sides so the rub can penetrate nicely.
When the oil gets hot, stick a tiny hole into the hole scotch bonnet and put in the pan.
If it is wet, or frozen, this will happen so be careful.
Take out the pepper when it it browned and use tongs to place fish in hot oil.
Fry until lightly coloured and turn.
Ingredients: 1 scotch bonnet pepper, sliced thinly, 10 whole ground allspice berries /Jamaican peppercorns/pimento berries, 1 large whole brown onion, 1/2 medium carrot, chopped, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups vinegar (or as much as needed to cover the ingredients).
While the fish is frying, slice onion rings, julienne carrots (long thin sticks) and slice scotch bonnet by holding it with fork as shown. Failure to do this may result in serious bodily harm, just joking, but seriously, you don’t want to accidentally rub your face or eyes with a hand that has been messing with these peppers!
Method: Combine and cover in an air tight jar. Will last forever in the fridge, just use as needed.