(photo courtesy of Leonardo Aguiar . Originally uploaded to Flickr as Urucum (bixa orellana) seeds )
Rusty-red dried seed used primarily to colour cooking oil, also lend delicate flavour – no substitute.
It was January of ’07 when someone left a comment on this site asking what that odd fruit in the lower right hand corner of the Naparima Girls’ Cookbook was. Puzzled, and a little embarassed that I had never noticed it, I quickly got to work trying to find the answer. Fortunately, it was another reader who provided the answer .
Excerpt from the discussion that ensued:
The fruit that is Annato/ Achiote on the new Naparima Cookbook is also known by the common name of Okhcoo( hope I spelt it correctly). It is used to make/give the red colouring which many trini cooks of long ago could not make stewed fish without. And by my Mom always in her salted fish with ochroes and conrmeal dumplings steamed in coconut milk.
It is a big tree and usually when the pods are ready if they are not harvested on time there would be a red spotted carpet of dirt or grass under the tree.
Shortly after receiving this information I made a trip to the Port of Spain General Market and found a bottle of the stuff being sold by a local vendor who called it urucu (shown above). Excited I snatched it up and used it shortly after in a paella. Although it gave good colour, I could not discern any particular flavour that was imparted. To be fair the mixture was very liquidy and I wonder if maybe I literally got ‘watered down’ product. Annatto/achiote is such a fundamental base in Latin American cuisine that I find it hard to believe that this is what all the hype has been about. Especially, as I have very vivid memories of the vibrant flavours of the paellas in Venezuala. I think I may need to try another bottle of the stuff, this time purchased from a specialty store or something of the like. If anyone who is locally based knows a good source feel free to give me your recommendation  🙂
Hmm, I really should get around to posting that Market picture series though, I can’t believe it’s been almost two years! Oh well, at least on film food never rots 😆
Want to know more about achiote and its uses? Check out the following:
• Achiote  (Wikipedia)