Rinaldo Walcott

The Courses

Sweet Heat Lamb Ribs
Oven-Roasted Halibut w/ Saltfsh Gravy & Steamed Okra
Chocolate Rum Cake w/ Pomegranate Sauce

Listen to “The Beautiful Terrible Meal: A Rumination” by Rinaldo Walcott, read by Kevin Adonis Browne or download it here.

Course 1

Sweet Heat Lamb Ribs

“This dance of mine is a wardance
—and a desperation…”


I grew up terrified of scotch bonnet peppers—their burn. I have become fascinated with the story of Black Belly Sheep in Barbados. This dish plays with lamb as a substitute for the Black Belly Sheep. Its sweet heat from the sugar cane syrup and the hot peppers return me to memories, flavours and histories of Barbados. But it also incorporates all that I have learned from my migration experience, too. It allows me to use grill techniques I did not grow up with in Barbados.

Element: Hot Pepper

Prep time: 8-24 hrs | Cooking Time: 3 hrs | Difficulty: Easy  | Serves: 2-4

1 tsp Mustard Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Hot Paprika
1 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 tsp Crushed Chillies
1 tsp Ground White Pepper
2 Scotch Bonnet peppers, finely chopped w/seeds
1 cup Sugar Cane Syrup
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 lbs Lamb Ribs


Peel the tough membrane that covers the underside of the ribs, clean and pat dry. Mix the first 8 ingredients together before pasting the dry rub all over the prepared lamb ribs with the olive oil and the syrup and allow to marinate for no more than 24hrs in the fridge. 

Preheat oven to 275°F

Place the marinated ribs on a baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil, wrap the ribs tightly in foil and roast on 275°F for about 2 ½ hrs or until cooked and tender. During the last 5-7 minutes of cooking time, increase the oven’s temperature to 400F and roast the ribs uncovered allowing a bit of caramelisation to occur and to char ever so lightly.

Serve on its own or with a salad of radicchio and endive tossed with lime juice.

Course 2

Oven-Roasted Halibut w/ Saltfsh Gravy and Steamed Okra

“I would probably say that I want to burn everything…”


This dish is pure nostalgia. The salt fish gravy recalls my grandmother’s house, where this gravy was eaten on Coucou or steamed white rice. The smell in the house is incredible as you make this gravy. I attempted to “elevate” the gravy for a pan seared halibut and steam okra. Of course, the okra recalls our West African heritage and is one of the key ingredients in Bajan style Coucou. The ginger, salt, fish and bell peppers are all combined to give multiple notes of flavour and the okra, cooked simply, is a beautiful light addition. I also adapted this dish to account for concerns of hypertension and diabetes among Black people.

Element: Ginger

Prep time: 8hrs | Cooking Time: 1hr 10mins | Difficulty: Intermediate | Serves: 4

[For the Salt Fish Gravy]
1/2lb of Salt Cod (soaked overnight, scalded and flaked)
1 medium Red, Green and Orange Bell Peppers, thinly sliced
1 medium knob of Ginger Root, grated
1 Scotch Bonnet Pepper (pierced)
1 White Onion, thinly sliced
6 Garlic cloves, minced
5 sprigs of Thyme
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 cups of Vegetable Stock
Salt and Black Pepper

[For the Oven Seared Halibut]
4 fillets of Halibut, 6-8oz each 
Salt and Black Pepper
Olive Oil 

[For the Steamed Okra]
12-15 medium Okra, whole
3 sprigs of Thyme
¼ cup Vegetable Stock
Olive Oil
½ Lime
Salt and Black Pepper


Preheat the oven to 375°F

On medium-high heat, melt unsalted butter in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Sweat the thyme, onions, scotch bonnet pepper (punctured with a toothpick or sharp knife) and grated ginger for 2-3mins. Add the prepared salt cod to the pot and allow to cook for an additional 2-3mins.  Stir the minced garlic and bell peppers in, then season with black pepper to taste. Continue to cook the vegetables and fish for another 3-5mins or until the vegetables become limp and fragrant. 

Add the stock to the pan, then bring to boil, cover the pan and allow it to simmer on low for 45-60mins. At 45mins, taste for seasoning, the liquid would have reduced leaving you with a slightly thickened fish gravy. Discard the thyme stems before serving.

Rinse the okra thoroughly in cold water and cut the tops off. Heat a large, heavy-bottom skillet over high heat. Add 2-3 Tbsp of enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and once hot, add the okra and sauté briefly. Add the fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add about ¼ cup of the vegetable stock and cook covered until the okra is tender for about 5-7 minutes. Squeeze lime juice to the cooked okra before serving.

Ensure the filets are dry before seasoning both sides liberally with salt and black pepper.

To a non-stick sauté pan add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan and over high heat, the pan should be almost smoking before adding the fish  skin side down to form its crispy skin. Cook on the stovetop for about 2-3mins before turning over exposing the flesh and placing in the oven to finish cooking, 5-10mins or until cooked.

Serve the seared halibut skin up on a generous amount of the salt fish gravy and the cooked okra.

Course 3

Chocolate Rum Cake with Pomegranate Sauce

“…surrounded by family…”


By adding the right amount of rum, this adaptation of Rob Feenie’s chocolate cake recipe brings together Africa and its diaspora. It certainly evokes the ongoing history of cocoa production, the white settler imagination with chocolate, and countless other elements of how the history of colonialism has produced both monstrous and pleasurable intimacies. With rum, sugar cane syrup, pomegranate, cocoa, this cake enacts the terrible beauty of our food.

Elements: Pomegranate, Cocoa/Cacao

Prep time: 1hr 20mins | Cooking Time: 12-15mins | Difficulty: Intermediate | Serves: 2-4

¼ lb of Unsalted Butter
4oz of Bittersweet Chocolate
2 large Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
¼ cup of Granulated Sugar
3 tsp All Purpose Flour, extra for dusting
3 oz of Rum, dark or golden 

[Pomegranate Sauce]
¼ cup Pomegranate Molasses
2 Tbsp of Sugarcane Syrup
1 Lime, juice and zest
3 oz of Rum, dark or golden 


Preheat the oven to 375°F

Butter and lightly flour a spring-form pan or 4, 6oz  ramekins. Tap out the excess flour. Set the pan or ramekins on a baking sheet. 

For the Pomegranate Sauce, whisk all ingredients together and set aside. 

In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate. In another medium bowl, beat the eggs with the egg yolks and sugar at high speed until thickened, a pale yellow and doubled in size.

Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour. Once incorporated, spoon the batter into the prepared pan or ramekins and place in the refrigerator for at least 1hr to become firm before baking for 12 minutes.  The sides of the cakes should be firm and the top should puff slightly, with a soft center. Let the cake cool for a minute, before releasing from the pan. Serve immediately with a liberal drizzle of the pomegranate sauce.

Enjoy family style if baked in a cake pan or eaten straight out of the ramekin.

*Cake adapted from Rob Feenie Cooks at Lumiere.

Rinaldo Walcott is Professor of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. He is a Full Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Institute and a member of the Graduate Program at the Institute of Cinema Studies.

See Rinaldo’s full bio here.