An island tradition that can cure any illness, hangover or bad day can be found on the stove with a few key ingredients included. Boil Fish, or “Boil” has been made by Bahamians for years as they fine tune, add and subtract to make the best island remedy.
Believed to come from our British and American ancestors, there are many influences that go into true Bahamian Boil fish. From the British, Bahamians have brought recipes like their famous English poached fish in lemon and thyme broth. The American’s helped the Boil recipe from their deep southern state’s seafood boil brought to the Bahamas by Loyalists. In both of these influences there are different ingredients, as well as different species of fish that are native to that region, but the comfort level of the final product remains the same.
This meal can be found on all of our Bahamian islands any time of the day and any time of the year. Even though it is popular around Christmas time due to the tradition of preparing a big pot of Boil for family member gatherings, one can find Boil fish at family affairs around the year.
The main ingredients are a white fish, potatoes, onions, lime, spices and goat pepper hot sauce. Accompanied with the dish you will normally find a bowl of yellow grits with plenty butter, and a piece of warm Johnny Cake bread. The spices include, but are not limited to garlic, thyme, allspice cloves, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
The fish normally used is grouper, but in more recent years, due to the grouper fishing season, other fish have been substituted for it such as mahi-mahi, hogfish and grey or lane snapper. Due to the fishing season, which is December 1st to February 28th, these substitutes still have the light, white flakey and oily feel when being eaten.
This dish is not only great for the purpose of a remedy, but is seen at Boxing Day after a long night of Junkanoo, as well as on Good Friday as Bahamians normally turn to the fruit of the ocean during Lent. It is a Bahamian tradition as old as time and our Bahama Mama’s and Old Fisherman will always appreciate being welcomed with a bowl of boil, especially surrounded by their families.
2 yellow onion
2 celery stalks
1 garlic clove
1 tsp ground thyme
1-2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp whole allspice clove
1/4 goat pepper
salt and pepper
- Season fish with lime, salt, and pepper. In separate pot fill with 2 cups of water and put in yellow onions, celery, garlic, thyme, butter, cloves, peppers and potatoes.
- Bring to boil and then cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are almost done.
- Add more water to fill the pot in necessary.
- Add fish with lime juice and reduce heat to simmer the stew for 10 minutes, or until fish begins to fall apart.
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Whilst preparing the boil fish do not forget to make the Johnny Cake and grits for the sides!