The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

St. Lucia:
February 11, 2010

Sharing the Love

Valentine’s Day is coming, and tradition demands a romantic dinner. Which got me thinking about the food, recipes, and personality of Orlando Satchell, who runs the kitchen at Ladera Resort, perched high between the Pitons, the massive twin peaks at St. Lucia’s southern end. We spent a morning with the 46-year-old chef last year, starting at the Saturday market in the nearby seafront town of Soufriere, and then returning to the resort for a cooking class – a two-part, hands-on intro to Caribbean cuisine that Satchell offers weekly for guests who want a taste of the island beyond the beach.

That morning, Satchell trailed nine foodies behind him as he bounded through the market on his Lacoste runners, woven shopping basket slung over his arm. Bouncing from table to table, he doled out samples – sour-sweet tamarind seeds, wedges of grapefruit dripping sugary juice, green jelly coconuts hacked open so we could slurp the refreshing water – and freewheeled cooking ideas. “Sharing the love,” he calls it.

This is not a chef who keeps his culinary cards close to his vest. After handing out crisp wax apples for us to taste (unrelated to North American apples, they’re watermelon-juicy and slightly mouth puckering) and adding some to his basket – “I’m thinking poached with rum for dessert” – he was off and running on the possibilities of pungent local ginger root (for a refreshing drink, steep it with lemongrass and pineapple skin, sweeten to taste with sugar syrup, and serve over ice; rum optional) and christophene, called “cho-cho” in his native Jamaica and chayote in most of North America. “It doesn’t have a strong taste of its own, so you can use it many different ways,” he explained. “In Jamaica, we even mix it with cinnamon and sugar to make a pie filling.” At Ladera, he uses it raw to make slaws, bakes it into a swoon-worthy gratin, and pickles it with garlic and hot pepper for bar snacks. (I’ve included a recipe in The Spice Necklace for my take on this; see p. 357.)

Chef Orlando
Sharing the love of Caribbean cooking:
Chef Orlando of Ladera Resort
Back at Ladera after the market, we mellowed out on a just-invented rum cocktail whipped up to Chef’s specs – starting with a frozen peanut punch (“peanut butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, nutmeg, and love”) he’d picked up at the market – while an assistant lit two coalpots, traditional West Indian charcoal-burning clay cookers that are still widely used in St. Lucian kitchens. Time for cooking class. Satchell heated a dry curry blend in a little oil to start the curried vegetables that would be folded inside whole-wheat roti. The eminently likable chef had no trouble getting class participation, and soon turned the curry over to one of our group’s four newlyweds, after draping her in an apron and planting his tall chef’s hat on her head. (I’d already thinly sliced plantains to prove I’d absorbed his quickie preliminary lesson in knife skills.) Someone else was assigned to make the roti dough and roll it out, and when the first effort was thick and clumsy looking, Satchell sent our classmate off with “Mr. Peter,” his St. Lucian baker, for some remedial roti work.

Tips flew as furiously as the flour when he coached us through the next dish – cocoa-and-spice dusted dorado (mahi-mahi) served with watermelon and pineapple salsa built on a base of passion fruit syrup and splashed with ginger rum – and then showed us how to plate what we’d prepared, plus two soups he’d made ahead: caramelized onion, rich with coconut and cream; and callaloo, made from the heart-shaped leaves of the dasheen plant. (If you can’t get callaloo, you can substitute spinach.) Satchell put a tall stainless-steel ring off-centre in a wide soup plate, ladled caramelized onion soup – made with coconut and cream – into the ring, and then carefully ladled dark green callaloo soup around it. When he gently removed the ring, a perfect creamy white island floated in a callaloo sea, providing the dish with both visual and taste contrast. Class loved this simple trick, especially when Chef told us we could use cutters in other shapes. “I’m going to use a heart for Valentine’s Day,” gushed one of the newlyweds.


The perfect sensuous starter for a romantic dinner. Only one problem on Receta: No heart-shaped cutter. But a little experimentation revealed that turning a circle of creamy soup into a symbol of love was child’s play. So what if the edges were a little rough? Click here to check out the results and the recipe.

Back to top

Sign up to be notified by email when I post a new blog

Comments are closed.