I thought I’d try my hand at my first cookery blog post with some Caribbean dishes and the Creative section of the blog is probably the best place for it. If you know me, food has always been close to my heart (and my mouth) so hopefully it’s one of many to come.
Both my parents were born in England so in many ways I associate with English culture and tick that “Black British” box on forms. However, having four Jamaican grandparents, food from the Caribbean islands has been something that I’ve always loved and a huge part of my life. Going to their houses always fills me with joy and the smell of the food aromas wafting from the kitchen gets my taste buds going.
Some traditional dishes you can try in a Caribbean household include curry goat, jerk chicken with rice and peas or ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica) and saltfish. Seeing my grandma making dumplings in the kitchen is a memory I’ll always love, or going round for a massive portion of tasty chicken with rice and peas, a lovely soup with dumplings floating or fried plantain with a traditional fry up “full English” in the morning.
I also enjoy a good Caribbean takeaway (but not too often if my grandparents are reading). Things like Jamaican patties, rotis, chicken wings or mac and cheese are always a good shout for eating out or food on the go.
As well as enjoying eating Caribbean food, occasionally I’ll also dabble in the kitchen though – with varying levels of success.
I was challenged to make a menu for a street party feast by Grace Foods as part of their sixth Caribbean Food Week – #CFW2017 and this was the perfect chance to invite friends over and whip something up.
From the hamper of goodies I was able to create some recipes of my own and even had loads of bits left over that I can cook with again.
We invited our friends Becky and Stefan (who recently got engaged) around for the evening. They have hosted us loads of times for dinner or Sunday roasts so this was a good chance to return the favour.
We made sure we had a Spotify playlist of Reggae Hits on the go for when they arrived.
For our starter I decided on hot and spicy fried chicken bites with the Jerk BBQ Sauce as a dip, although it can be used to marinate meat too.
The main course just had to be the traditional jerk chicken with rice & peas, but I’d never made rice and peas myself so Liv was happy to take that on as a challenge. We had some salad and (shop-bought) coleslaw as the sides to accompany the dish and also cool down a bit of the spice.
How we prepared it
We bought some different cuts of chicken (you can’t really go wrong with some hearty chicken dishes) and some crisps as an extra snack to go with the Grace plantain chips in the hamper.
I cleaned all the chicken (important when cooking meat) with vinegar, lemon juice and water before seasoning with chicken seasoning.
For the bites I used boneless chicken thighs as I wanted something a bit more moist than chicken breast which can become quite dry even when frying.
I whisked up an egg and cut the thighs into bites. I had to get my hands dirty again dipping the bites into the egg and then shaking in a sandwich bag with the Dunn’s River Hot and Spicy Coating to get even coverage. (They also sell another coating that doesn’t have so much spice).
I then shallow fried in a pan with some olive oil and left to cool when they were done.
For the main dish, I seasoned the chicken and massaged in some Dunn’s River Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, slicing the skin for it to soak in and leaving it to sit and marinade. Usually this would be done overnight before covering in other sauces (or sometimes beer) and grilling in a hot metal drum. I stuck it all in the oven with a bit of water for moisture and covered with foil.
The rice was Liv’s domain and she combined coconut milk with the Dunn’s River tinned peas and beans, hot water, onions, some garlic, thyme and a bit of salt and pepper.
The final result
We were able to eat our starter and nibbles out on the balcony with a bit of sunshine and the playlist bringing some vibes. The chicken bites had a real kick to them but we finished them off.
The jerk chicken came out just to my liking and Liv’s rice and peas were so good she’ll be making it for many more years to come now! The sauces from the chicken acted like gravy and gave the rice a good flavour.
It’s safe to say we were all quite full after taking second helpings!
Our dessert wasn’t typically Caribbean but was one of our favourite cheesecakes from M&S so we were very grateful to the guys for bringing it round.
We then went to our local pub for the Sunday pub quiz. It was extremely difficult with barely any current affairs or general knowledge questions – but at least we didn’t come last!
If you fancy trying some of the food mentioned above, listening to some great music and hopefully enjoying some sunshine – pop down to Windrush Square in Brixton this weekend for the second Caribbean Food Week Festival (Friday 25th and Saturday 26th August) between 11am and 7pm.
Hopefully the weather and good vibes will be just the same at Notting Hill Carnival on this long-overdue Bank Holiday weekend.
Caribbean Food Week 2017 runs from Monday 21 to Monday 28 August 2017 and you can follow Grace Foods and Caribbean Food Week on the links below.