Such is the significance of crab in Martinique that there is actually a crab-hunting season which commences on February 15. The highlights of the season are the two crab festivals – including a crab race, la Patte d’Or. Come Easter time, matoutou crab is a celebratory meal made across the island. The crabs are broken and cleaned before being marinated overnight in onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, parsley, lime and scotch bonnet. Cooked in Colombo and tomato pastes with more scotch bonnet, this spicy dish is served with rice. The best crabs are ‘purged’ for a few weeks in advance by being kept alive and fed a clean diet of lettuce, coconut and fruit.
Other than flying colourful paper kites and eating hot-crossed buns, Bermudans traditionally enjoy codfish cakes at Easter. So common are they that food stalls sell them, and every family has its own favourite recipe. Similar to regular fish cakes, they are made with saltfish, which has been a Caribbean staple since early colonial times. Salted Atlantic cod is soaked overnight to remove the salt and then made into cakes with potato, onion and seasoning. Similar in many ways to Jamaican Stamp and Go, but generally fluffier and with a more subtle flavour. Head down to Horseshoe Bay on Good Friday to watch the kite competition and enjoy some homemade codfish cakes as a snack.
Ask a Jamaican what they eat at Easter and you will hear ‘bun and cheese’, and indeed the spiced bun with cheese is everywhere at Easter. However, for a special meal on Good Friday, escovitch fish is the go-to choice. Although it can be bought year-round, this dish, made with king fish or snapper, is the highlight of the Easter culinary experience. The fish is seasoned with salt and pepper before being fried. The vinegar-based dressing is made of onion, carrot and julienned bell peppers; pimento berries introduce some flavour, while scotch bonnet fires the dish up Jamaican-style. If you have the patience, soak the fish in the escovitch overnight before cooking. If eating out, try Gloria’s in Port Royal, or head to the beach at Hellshire.
The national dish of Barbados, cou cou with flying fish, is an acknowledgement of the ubiquity of this fascinating fish. Eating fish on Fridays is a long-standing Christian tradition – in Barbados this takes the form of beachfront Friday Fish Fries. However, Easter is special and everything is done on a grander scale. The Oistins Fish Festival is held every year on Easter weekend; lasting three days, the festival celebrates fishermen with calypso music, fun and games. The highlight is the fried flying fish – the fish is limed, seasoned with Bajan seasoning and then floured, breadcrumbed and fried. Eat it on the beach for that authentic experience.
Accra, or akwa, is a local type of saltfish fritter – much closer in appearance to Jamaican fitters than the Bermudan codfish cakes. This local dish is particularly popular at Easter as a savoury way of eating that traditional Easter fish. What gives accra their St Lucian taste is the particular type of creole seasoning and West Indian hot sauce used to spice them up. They are particularly good with a dipping sauce made of locally grown tamarind.