Approx 691 words. 3.5 mins to read.

Carnival is, in my opinion, one of the most memorable and welcoming traditions in the world. I have many fond memories of celebrations in my home country, Trinidad and Tobago: from uplifting Soca music and colourful costumes to all the delicious food and drink you’ll need to sustain you throughout the festivities. Find out what makes Carnival so special, then have a go at creating some of the vibrant dishes associated with this tradition.

What is Carnival?

The origins of Carnival started as a celebration before the start of the Lenten period. It’s celebrated in many countries around the world – Brazil is the largest, but Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago has got to be one of the most memorable and uplifting experiences.

Trini Carnival has become an eclectic mix of traditional and more modern celebrations, from steel bands, calypso and folklore-inspired costume to live music and, of course, great food and drink. Soca tracks are played everywhere and you’ll see plenty of stunning costumes around – think gigantic feathered headpieces!

Plus, there’s always plenty of coconut water and food to sustain you through your two days of ‘chippin down the road’ (this is the trick of dancing while keeping yourself moving with the rest of the Carnival band and DJ trucks).

Yes – Carnival is one-of-a-kind. It’s a time when popular culture takes a back seat and local music and tradition takes the reigns. It’s a chance to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or to set aside any differences and come together as a country. Visitors are always welcome!

Fuel up on food

You’ll need plenty of fuel to sustain you throughout the days’ celebrations! There are a few differences between the dishes enjoyed throughout the Caribbean. My favourites from home include mango chow (sliced green mango mixed with hot sauce, sugar and lime), accra (deep fried salted cod fritters) and curried crab and dumplings! However, the main thing to note is that the food should be just as bold and punchy as the festivities themselves. Here are few of my Co-op recipe recommendations. Oh – and hot sauce on everything is a must!

Keep it classic with this recipe for jerk chicken, rice and beans (a Jamaican-in-origin dish) which pairs Co-op Caribbean style half chicken with coconut rice and red kidney beans. Or, swap chicken for seafood and make these jerk-style prawns instead: the whole dish only takes 30 minutes to make and uses lots of storecupboard staples. Plus, it’s a brilliant recipe for feeding lots of people easily – simply double the quantities for double the people.

For a twist on the classic, check out these jerk chicken skewers served with mango rice and a garlicky yogurt dressing. They’re perfect for cooking and eating alfresco: simply pop the skewers on the barbecue (instead of a griddle) for extra smoky flavour.

Or, perhaps you’re searching for something even more ground-breaking? Blur the boundary between sweet and savoury and try this barmy-sounding banana curry. It’s made with a heady mix of spices, nuts and – wait for it – golden syrup! Don’t knock it till you try it. 

Finally, all celebrations should involve something sweet. Finish on a tropical note with this vegan dessert of boozy, caramelised pineapple slices served with piña colada ice cream. It’s dairy-free and packs all the flavours of your favourite cocktail!

Carnival coolers

Once you’ve worked up a sweat from all that groovin’, rehydrate with something refreshing and zingy. Kids and adults alike will go mad for this blueberry lemonade. Don’t be fooled by the colour though – it’s super-citrusy!

If your celebration is strictly adults-only, these rum-spiked pineapple and ginger mojitos are guaranteed to fire up their tastebuds and only take 5 minutes to make. Be sure to garnish them with wedges of griddled pineapple and fresh mint leaves for a fabulous final flourish. Other, more authentic ideas include a proper Rum Punch, or cocktails that feature Angostura Bitters and Carib Beer. They really do pack a punch!

For more fantastic ideas to take your at-home carnival to the next level, check out all these cracking Caribbean recipes.

Renata Russell
Co-op Head of Risk Framework & Governance and Rise member

Other food inspiration you might like:

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