Location: North Atlantic
Geography: An isolated island at the same latitude as the Carolinas
Signature flavours: Seafood, root vegetables, beans, rice, banana, rum
I was thrilled to draw Bermuda as my next assignment, knowing from experience that my menu would include a few choice seafood-laden dishes, and most importantly, a rum cake. Eric and I spent a handful of days on the island a couple of years ago and loved every moment of it. Some of our holiday’s highlights were culinary in nature, including steaming bowls of tomato-y fish chowder in Hamilton and sticky rum cake from a glossy pink box (the famous Horton’s brand).
Fish Chowder: A thick soup loaded with vegetables and whitefish, served with a dash of dark rum.
Prep and cooking time: 3 hours
Curried Mussel Pie: Flaky puff pastry stuffed with curried mussels, potatoes, and onions. This is an especially popular snack on Cup Day, a yearly cricket event between Bermuda’s two biggest clubs.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Fried Bermuda Onions: Onion rings in a pale ale batter, deep fried to golden brown crispiness.
Prep and cooking time: 25 min
Gosling’s Rum Cake: A bundt cake studded with toasty pecans, infused with dark Gosling’s rum and glazed with the same.
Prep and cooking time: 75 min
Dark and Stormy: A cocktail made with Gosling’s rum, ginger beer, and lime juice over ice. This is one of Bermuda’s two signature cocktails, along with the Swizzle.
Prep and cooking time: 5 min
The Shopping List
Fresh Atlantic seafood is not so easy to come by in the middle of Ontario, and I was a bit worried about finding live mussels, but came across them at a local market, along with the rest of my ingredient list.
Eric probably had nearly as much anticipation as I did for this meal, having a few guesses as to what I would be making. It was he who had searched far and wide for Gosling’s rum, insisting upon it over any other brand (Gosling’s is Bermudian) and ultimately driving nearly three hours roundtrip to find it.
Both the fish chowder and the rum cake were long undertakings. The chowder had to simmer for two hours and the rum cake had to bake for nearly an hour before cooling and being glazed. It was during downtime in the midst of these rather more time-consuming recipes that I threw together the mussel pie and the fried onions.
My table was set with two bowls of hot chowder, a halved golden mussel pie, a tower of onions, and an entire rum cake on a cooling tray. Eric came to the table with excitement and we dug right in.
I only vaguely remember the taste of the chowder we enjoyed in Bermuda, so I can’t say with confidence that mine turned out just as good, but it was delicious. Having cooked for so long, the vegetables melted in our mouths, and the fish had flaked into pieces, to be eaten up with every spoonful.
I liked the mussel pie best for its curry flavour and flaky crust. I loved the chewy mussels and soft potatoes inside, and the dish stood out to me as something really different and tasty.
The onions were good, but nothing special, although I did like the faint flavour the pale ale leant to the batter. Ideally I would have used Bermuda onions for this recipe, but finding none, used regular white onions instead.
The crowning achievement of the meal — and Eric would be quick to agree — was the rum cake. It was beautiful to behold and even better to eat. Soft and rummy, with crunchy toasted pecans lending each bite a pleasant nuttiness, it was, we both agreed, WSW Showcase-worthy. Originally I had looked for a mini bundt pan to bake it in, but hadn’t found any smaller than ten inches, which is what I used. Thank goodness, because we scarfed it up in its entirely over a few days, regretting nothing.
Eric made a Dark and Stormy to enjoy along with the meal. It’s his favourite cocktail, and he first tried it in Bermuda’s Dockyards area. It has a wonderful, full flavour, between the sweetness of the rum, the spiciness of real ginger beer, and the citrus splash of lime.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.