Often find yourself reading through a recipe and stumbling across an ingredient that makes you wonder what it is and where on earth you’d buy it? Fear not, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list to make your life that little bit easier - with a few handy hints thrown in for good measure.
A staple in the tropics, breadfruit are full of starch and once roasted, boiled or fried, have a similar flavour to fresh bread, hence the name. If you’re lucky enough to live near a speciality Caribbean shop, you may find fresh breadfruit there. If not, you can buy tinned in large supermarkets or replace them with cooked potatoes in your recipe.
Callaloo is a leafy vegetable popular in the Caribbean and West Africa. It can be prepared in many ways depending on regional cooking style and is often interchanged with amaranth, another leafy green. You can buy fresh callaloo in Caribbean shops or tinned callaloo in most supermarkets. If you’re struggling to find it, use spinach instead.
This thick, molasses-like liquid is made from cassava root. It has a rich, bitter flavour which is used to add an extra umami dimension to pepperpots and stews. You might be able to find it in well-stocked Caribbean supermarkets. If not, replace with a dollop of Marmite – we won’t tell if you don’t.
Also known as yuca, mogo or manioc, they are one of the world’s most drought-tolerant crops. When the woody tubers are cooked, they have a starchy texture similar to potatoes and are used in place of them across Africa and South America. You can buy fresh and frozen cassava in Asian or Caribbean shops and in well-stocked supermarkets.
Known to many in the Caribbean as mahi-mahi or dolphin fish, dorado should not be confused with the mammals dolphins. The flesh has a firm, moist texture with a sweet flavour and is popular on menus across the Caribbean and tropical Americas. If you can’t get your hands on it, halibut or swordfish are good substitutes.
Not to be confused with an unripe banana, green bananas or matoke are small, starchy, non-sweet bananas that must be cooked before eating. Usually served as the carbohydrate part of a meal, they are a staple across Africa and the national dish of Uganda. Buy bunches of them in Asian or Caribbean shops. Unless your recipe states otherwise, cook green bananas in their skins to stop them from absorbing too much water.
Often confused for bananas, plantains are a staple carbohydrate in the Caribbean, South America and West Africa. They are notably larger than green bananas and can be found in various colours from green to yellow and black depending on how ripe they are. Plantains cannot be eaten raw and are usually fried or baked. Buy them in most large supermarkets or at your local Caribbean or Asian supermarket.
Similar to their Indian counterpart, roti are Caribbean flatbreads made with wheat flour, water, oil and baking soda. Once the dough is rolled, both sides are toasted in a cast iron pan until golden. You can buy ready-made roti skins in speciality Caribbean shops, or in the Caribbean or Indian section of well-stocked supermarkets.
This is exactly what you think it is. Cod preserved with salt helps draw out moisture, exceeding its shelf life and making a store-cupboard staple in Caribbean households. The fish comes plastic-wrapped and must be soaked in hot water and washed to remove the preserving salt before eating. Buy it in the Caribbean section of big supermarkets.
Shadon BennyImage source
Also known as shadow benny, this long, prickly herb is popular in Caribbean, Southeast Asia and South America. It’s not easy to get hold of in the UK but luckily, you can replace it with fresh coriander without there being much difference in flavour to the overall dish.
These are one of the most fiery chillies available in UK supermarkets. Not only are they used in Caribbean cooking for their killer heat but also for the fruitiness of the pepper’s flesh. Ripe scotch bonnets are commonly available in green, yellow, orange and red.
Not as sweet as you may think, these large, woody stalks have to go through lots of processes to make sugar. In its raw form the flesh is used for cooking or the juicy stems are chewed raw to extract the nectar – a popular South Asian street snack. Buy raw sugar canes in your local Asian or Caribbean shops.
Wiri Wiri PeppersImage source
These tiny, cherry-like chillies pack a hell of a punch. Wiri wiri peppers grow predominantly in Guyana where they’re used to make hot pepper sauces and pepper rum which is often used to season dishes. It’s not easy to get hold of fresh wiri wiri peppers in Britain, however you could replace them with wiri wiri pepper sauce (found in Caribbean supermarkets) or use Thai birds eye chillies instead.
Now becoming more readily available in the UK than before, yams have been a staple across the globe for centuries, from the Americas, to the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Packed with carbohydrates and starch, you can cook yams similarly to how you’d cook with potatoes. Buy them in most large supermarkets.