Duck Coocootinis with Hibiscus Relish

Photo by Dr. Winnette McIntosh Ambrose

Issue 3, 2017

Duck Coocootinis with Hibiscus Relish

Coocoo is to the West Indies, what polenta is to Italy and grits to the southern U.S. It’s richly studded with sautéed okra and onions and sometimes flavoured with coconut milk. It’s sliced into wedges, which become miniature rafts used as a base for a crostini-type presentation, hence the name coocootinis. Topped with seared duck breast and finished with a hibiscus relish, the dish is a global mix of flavours and textures inspired by the Caribbean, Italy and France.

Seared Duck

  • 4 6-oz. duck breasts
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter


  • 2 med. onions, diced
  • 2 cups fine, yellow cornmeal
  • 1 med. red pepper, finely diced
  • ½ lb. okras, cut into ¼ inch- thick rounds
  • 2 cups fine cornmeal
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tsp salt

 Hibiscus (Sorrel) Relish

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 med. shallot, chopped
  • 2 cups freshly brewed hibiscus (sorrel) tea
  • ½ cup agave nectar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh or rehydrated hibiscus petals, chopped finely
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Minced chives for garnishing

Yield: 40 coocootinis

Prepare Hibiscus Relish

(Can be made one day ahead)

  1. Heat the olive oil over med.-high heat, shallots, cooking until translucent.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients (except lemon juice) and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and the volume is reduced by half. About 20 mins. Stir in lemon juice, cool.

Prepare Duck Breast

  1. Using a sharp knife, score skin in a 1-inch diamond pattern, taking care not to cut into the flesh.
  2. Sprinkle the duck on both sides with the cumin, salt and pepper. Melt 1tbsp butter in a heavy skillet over med.-high heat. Add the duck, skin side down to the skillet and cook until the skin is browned and crisp, about 5 mins.
  3. Turn the breasts over, reduce the heat to med. and cook until med. rare. Remove from pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Prepare coocoo ‘crostini’

  1. Generously butter a half sheet baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil over med. heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.
  3. Add the red bell peppers and okra. Cook until tender. Add coconut milk, broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gradually pour in the cornmeal, stirring constantly so that lumps do not form.  When the mixture takes on the consistency of a thick paste, remove from heat.
  4. Using a flexible spatula, spread the cornmeal/coocoo mixture into the buttered half sheet pan and set aside to firm, about 1 hour. Once firm, use a sharp knife and slice into 1-inch thick by 3- inch long batons. Just prior to assembly, broil the coocoo batons under high heat, until toasted, about 2 mins.


Slice the duck breast into ¼ - ½ inch slices. Place a slice of duck atop each toasted coocoo slice. Spread about a teaspoon of relish onto the duck and garnish with the chive. Serve immediately.

-By Dr. Winnette McIntosh Ambrose

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