Among my favourite Bahamian comfort foods is a dish called Fire Engine, also known as the Stede Bonnet breakfast.
The Stede Bonnet was a freight boat that transported mail, cargo and passengers between Nassau and Abaco for nearly 30 years. It’s said that this dish was prepared each morning to feed passengers on the vessel.
When it comes to the origin of the name Fire Engine, I’ve yet to receive a definitive explanation. The most commonly cited theory is that some Bahamian cooks add so much pepper to the dish that it feels like your mouth is on fire. If anyone knows for sure, please drop me a note.
However it got its name, I’ve been looking for a Fire Engine recipe for ages, so I was happy to find one in Healthier Bahamian Cuisine. Thanks to the book’s authors, Marguerite Sawyer Mendelson and Marie Sawyer Ochs for allowing me to share it with you.
Stede Bonnet Breakfast (Fire Engine)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cans (12 ounces each) corned beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a large frying pan and cook over medium-low heat 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Yield: 6 servings.
Though traditionally served over grits, Fire Engine can also be served over white or brown rice.
The above recipe yields a milder-flavoured dish, which I prefer. If, on the other hand, you like more heat, add diced hot pepper or hot sauce to taste while cooking. And if you’re trying to limit your salt intake, it’s worth checking labels, since sodium levels vary between corned beef brands.