Throughout the Bahamas this is most requested soup. It’s served with a side of sherry-pepper vinegar, and you should anticipate the senses being awakened with the aroma of this delectable legendary conch chowder. It’s fully loaded with tender morsels of conch, vegetables, herbs and spices, and—for the finale—a warm slice of buttery light and fluffy Johnny cake.
1. To prepare the sherry pepper vinegar, in a small 1.5-quart (1.5 L) saucepan, heat vinegar, Scotch bonnet pepper and thyme sprigs over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes.
2. Strain vinegar and discard pepper and thyme. Let cool and store in a sterilized jar.
3. To prepare the conchs, place on a cutting board and, with your hand flat on top, use a sharp knife to slice the meat
horizontally at its thickest part, then open it to resemble a butterfly.
4. Place conchs in a large enough pot with water to cover. Add baking soda and simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until
conchs are tender.
5. Reserve the stock. Let conchs cool. Cover with plastic wrap and beat with a mallet on both sides to about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick.
6. Dice conchs and season with seasoned salt. Set aside.
7. In an 8-quart (8 L) pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and thyme and cook for 3 minutes.
8. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes more.
9. Add reserved stock and bring to a boil. Add lime leaves, potato, carrots and conch. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
10. Add Worcestershire sauce, basil and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes more. Serve with sherry vinegar and a slice of Johnny cake.
VARIATION: Place conchs in a pressure cooker filled two-thirds with water (or follow instructions on the pressure cooker) and cook for about 20 minutes reserving the flavourful stock.
TIP: It’s imperative to bring the conchs to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. If the heat is too high the pot will overflow.