Settling in, an update on our dachshund in the tropics AND Coconut Bread with the Best Ever Pineapple Jam, a recipe

Double rainbow in Antigua
Double rainbow in Antigua

The brightness and closeness of the rainbow was heart-stoppingly beautiful. “Come outside QUICKLY!” I squealed. The double rainbow, well, it was just a bonus. I curse my photographic ineptitude, but I do my best with a little Canon SX 170 on auto. This image captures my daily wonder at the view and watching the weather roll in.

I love the ocean, so unfairly Antigua can cheat on helping me settle in.

If I describe settling in, as the fact that I have a cardigan on in the evenings when the temperature drops a fraction below 30 degrees C, then I am a native.

However, do I still check the bed sheets and behind the pillow each night before I climb into bed, just in case there are any creepy crawlies present? By golly, yes I do. Therefore, I am very much still a tourist. Let’s not forget inside my pants and down the sleeves of my shirts, I am not taking any chances on this one.

We ran out of water this week in the house and had to order a delivery of government water. That was an expensive moment and a smelly 24 hours due to a breakdown in communications between the property manager and ourselves. “Yes! We have ALREADY run out of water!!”. The children loved not having a shower and going out for hot chips for dinner.

The house we are living in has a cistern that collects rain water. I actually love this system. We knew the level in the tank was low, as there is a drought currently in the Caribbean, and watched out for every rain shower. We counted every drop. When you are this close to nature’s bounty it really makes you feel alive.

Water truck Antigua
Water delivery

There is a hurricane heading towards us at the moment. His name is ‘Danny’ and everyone is watching the weather like hawks. The prediction is that he will weaken but still bring wind and a lot of rain. And that sums us up as tourists as we have just filled our tanks with government water. Bah!

I have also paid the bills for the house. In Switzerland, the country in the world that is most renowned for efficiency, to pay an electricity bill is a simple task. I always paid all bills online with the flick of an ‘enter’ key. In Antigua, however, our landlady told us that the bill may or may not turn up. If it does arrive, it would be stuck on the front door of the house as there are no post boxes outside any houses. The best plan of attack, therefore, is to head to the APUA office in St. John’s and stand in a queue for however long it takes (45 minutes for me this month), to pay your bill directly in cash. This, apparently, is how most people pay their bills every month.

I touched a cockroach accidentally. This has been a very low moment for me. It was on the side of the door as I pulled it closed in the dark. The apocalyptic scream and ensuing obsessive multiple hand washing episodes ensured that everybody knew about it.

There are a great many moments that seduce me in Antigua: The wild donkey in the garden, the lady sitting under the tree at Cobb’s Cross selling the most beautiful produce, stopping to watch the goats cross the road in Falmouth, seeing the stars after dark, trees covered in flowers everywhere, and the spectacular and ever-changing colours of the light around us.

It is a little over six weeks since we stepped off the British Airways flight to Antigua and partook in the bumpy drive across the island to our little rented house near the ocean. Six weeks have passed since I gasped at the view that we look at every day and never get tired of. Six weeks since I asked the question “What have we done?” and cried myself to sleep.

There has definitely been a honeymoon period of pure vacation, followed by getting used to the nitty-gritty of life here, the lows of not finding the food that is familiar to and the highs of snorkelling with tropical reef fish just off the beach. The children have changed enormously and are tropical fish themselves now too. My little girl can’t remember what the house looked like in Switzerland.

As for surf dog Ricky, the celebrity dog in Antigua: I have seen a noticeable change in him recently. He has suddenly had a ‘déclic’ (eureka moment!) and barks with the rest of the dogs in the neighbourhood. He takes care not to lift his leg on and more cacti and has chased his first mongoose.

Dog in St. John's Antigua
At pavement level in St. John’s Antigua
Dog by the sea
King of the Castle, Berkeley Point, Antigua
Dog swimming in English Harbour
Taking a dip in English Harbour
Dog looking at cat
Cats always know when a dog is on it’s lead – grrrr

I have a cookbook that I have owned for a number of years. The zesty combinations of ingredients and flavours come to life when the weather is warm, so the recipes are perfect for Antigua. Bills’s Sydney Food includes a stunning selection of breakfast ideas from sweet to savoury. I could also not be without his perfectly gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies or tantalizing Thai Beef Salad.

This week I decided to make Coconut Bread. It is somewhere between a cake and a loaf of bread. It is sweet like a cake, but you can slice and toast it which brings out it’s very best. Bill suggests serving it with lime marmalade and I can attest to that being the very best combination. However I had a pineapple waiting in the wings and opted to make a personal creation Pineapple and Basil Jam. Although sweeter and lacking the pique of limes, the addition of basil makes the pineapple jam really go pop. Try it for yourselves and let me know what you think.

I have to add a special note about the wonderful Raw Coconut that I used in the recipe. This is a product created locally in Antigua by an incredible small business: Raw Island Products. I hope to visit their base sometime to find out more, but you can’t go wrong with a locally grown and prepared, healthy product like this. I have also got Raw Coconut Oil and Raw Organic Coconut Wedges, yum.

Ingredients for Bill Granger's Coconut Bread
Ingredients for Bill Granger’s Coconut Bread
Little helping hands
Little Helping hands
Mixing the cake
My assistant mixing the cake

COCONUT BREAD, from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food

2 eggs

300ml milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

2.5 cups flour (I used rice flour and white flour, which made it a little more dense than normal)

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup sugar (I used soft brown sugar)

150g shredded coconut (I used Raw Organic Shredded Coconut produced in Antigua)

75g butter, melted

2 limes, zested (this is not in Bill’s original recipe, but I couldn’t resist adding it here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) and prepare the loaf tin.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla essence and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the melted butter.

Pour into the loaf tin and bake for one hour. Test with a skewer. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then on a wire rack. Serve sliced in thick wedges, toasted, with jam.

Coconut Bread
Coconut Bread with Pineapple and Basil Jam
The first slice
The first slice
Served with Pineapple and Basil Jam
Served with Pineapple and Basil Jam
Cake by the pool
Cake by the pool

PINEAPPLE AND BASIL JAM

1 pineapple, peeled and diced.

Equal amount of sugar

A handful of basil, sliced thinly

Add the pineapple and sugar to the pan and bring to a boil stirring frequently. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the basil.

Test for set regularly and when it is ready, pour into a sterilised jar and seal (or enjoy immediately with toasted coconut bread).

Pineapple and Basil Jam
Pineapple and Basil Jam

Hope you are enjoying reading about island life in the Caribbean.

‘Big Up’ from Antigua. x


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