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  • Whole Small Fish - 2 lbs
  • Salt - To taste
  • Pumpkin - 1 1/2 lbs (peeled and cut in pieces)
  • Onion - 1 large (chopped)
  • Garlic - 3 cloves (crushed)
  • Scotch Bonnet Pepper - 1 large
  • Thyme - 1 large sprig or 2 tsp dried
  • Scallions - 3 stalks
  • Fish Filets - 3/4 lb to 1 lb
  • Shrimp - 1/2 lb
  • Lobster Tail - 1
  • Blue or Land Crab - 2 (optional)

Jamaicans love any kind of fish soup, which is often used to fortify late-night party-goers, or as an opener to the main meal at get-togethers. I had this version during an overnight stay at Bowden in the parish of St. Thomas in the eastern part of Jamaica. There had been a boat race from Kingston to Bowden and all those involved slept nearby and then boated back to Kingston at leisure the next day. That night we had a wonderful Jamaican feast that started off with this soup, that featured the addition of fresh shellfish. In the 40's and before Bowden had been an important harbour from which boats laden with bananas and passengers would set off for England. The wharf is still there. This version plays on this tradition with the addition of shellfish.


Place a large pot with 2 quarts of water over high heat and add 1 tbsp of salt. Use a selection of small fish such as snapper, parrot, butterfish or grunt that have been scaled and gutted but with the heads still on. Place these small fish in pot and bring to a boil with the pot covered Lower heat and simmer for 45 – 50 minutes. Using a large sieve, strain fish broth. Return strained broth to pot and add pumpkin, onion, garlic, whole pepper, thyme and scallion. Simmer on low heat for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pumpkin will become completely smooth.

For the fish fillet use snapper, jack, kingfish or butterfish. Cut in 2" squares. Shell and devein shrimp. Cut lobster tail, with the shell on, in pieces. If using the crabs, cut in two and clean under running water. Add the shellfish and fish fillet to pot and bring back to a simmer. Taste soup for salt and add more, if needed. Remove the thyme sprig, if used.

Serve hot. 10 servings.

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