I got my first taste for Caribbean cooking when I quickly dashed into Bamboula‘s in Brixton for lunch before queuing for six hours in the cold to see D’Angelo at the Brixton Academy (worth it). Back in those days they did an ‘all you can eat’ offer….After one too many opportunistic South Londoners took advantage of the unlimited curry goat, they moved on to an a la carte menu.
I gave the recipe a try soon after. It’s easy to do but it does require patience. The list of ingredients looks long but you’re likely to have most or all of this in your cupboards and you’ll easily use the ingredients in other food. I promise you, it’s worth it. It’s fantastic for a BBQ (see notes at the end), dinner party or a Sunday family meal, especially with rice and peas and fried plantain. I tend to serve it with a generous dollop of coleslaw to combat the peppery heat. I’m never shy with the chilli.
That being said, the matter of the chillies is fairly academic and one which I could go on about for days but let me say this: almost all of the ingredients are scalable; experiment where you can. This is a good “base” jerk – plenty of gravy, a little fruity and plenty spicy. I’m sure you know yourself well enough to know when the chilli passes ‘a party in my mouth’ and dips straight into ‘I’ve made a mistake’. Also note that the added Dunns River Spices and the dash of rum are optional. When I’ve made this dish outside of my kitchen, I’ve done so without these ingredients and the dish has still been lovely. The use of the pre-mixed spices may seem like cheating but it really just makes the flavour more robust. I thoroughly recommend them anyway as they make everything they touch absolutely delicious.
I hope this recipe can become your labour of love too – I’ve made it more times than I can count and I’ve come to love it more and more.
Serves 4-5, depending on appetites…
1.5kg chicken pieces. I recommend a mix of drumsticks and thighs, with more of the former and less of the latter
350g white onions, roughly chopped
6 meaty cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
30g root ginger, coarsely chopped
Chilli medley: 3 scotch bonnets, with seeds; 2 thai green chillies, seeds removed; 1 medium red chilli, with seeds. All of these should remain whole
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes, zest of 1
10 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 heaped tsp of black peppercorns
100 ml of reduced sodium soy sauce
Splash of rum
1 tsp Dunns River Caribbean everyday seasoning
2 tsp Dunns River Jerk Seasoning
Rice and peas
Brown Rice for 4
1 can of coconut milk
1 can of kidney beans
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube dissolved in 200mls of hot water
1 scotch bonnet. Pierced
Four spring onions, finely sliced
2 plantains, peeled and sliced.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Pre heat your oven to 190 degrees, 180 with a fan assisted oven. Place all the chicken flat into a large casserole dish lined with grease proof paper.
- Add all of the jerk chicken ingredients into a bowl except for the chicken. Take a hand blender and blitz it all together. You can keep it chunky if you prefer but I blend mine until it’s totally smooth. Pour this onto the chicken and put the chicken into the middle of the oven.
- After an hour, take the dish out and scoop excess fat off the top of the gravy. Try not to take too much of the flavoursome jerk sauce, just the oily patches. Then decant two thirds to three quarters of the jerk sauce itself into a separate sauce pan. This allows the remaining sauce to reduce until it’s sweet and sticky and encourages the chicken skin to crisp up. Spend the next hour, to hour and a half turning the chicken every 20 mins or so. The time it takes will depends on your oven. Stay close and keep an eye on it or it will all have been for nothing! A deep brown crispy coating should form evenly over the chicken as you rotate it across the second part of the cooking period. The sauce should reduce until it’s the consistency of a thick chutney.Take care not to let it dry out.
- After you decant the sauce, start on your rice. This can also be done beforehand, to leave you free to tend to the chicken if you prefer. Tip the rice, kidney beans, coconut milk, pierced scotch bonnet and stock into a heavy bottomed pot, stir it and bring to a very gentle simmer with the lid on.Leave the rice undisturbed for 20 minutes. After this point, carefully check the water levels every few minutes with a spoon, taking care not to disrupt the contents too much.The rice is done when all of the water is absorbed and the rice is soft and fluffy.
- Let the surplus jerk sauce simmer gently for about 15 minutes. It will thicken up and reduce slightly. In a new pan, heat up the vegetable oil for the plantain. Season the slices lightly with salt. Fry these on a low heat in small batches for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Move the cooked plantain onto the kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Add more oil to the pan if necessary throughout the process.
- Serve the chicken on a bed of the rice and peas, taking care to remove the scotch bonnet from the rice (or keep it in, if you’re brave!). Add some plantain and coleslaw on the side then pour as much gravy as your dining companions will let you get away with. Wash down with some punch of your own devising.
If you’re fixing for some BBQ-ing, then barbecue the marinated chicken pieces just as you would any other chicken (if you can get some wood chips situation set up, even better), taking care to put the chicken on the cooler part of the grill for longer so the honey in the marinade doesn’t burn before the meat is cooked. Alternatively, (and this is my preference – my grilling experience is limited to crouching over a disposable grill in a windy park!) cook the chicken in the oven in the marinade for approximately 40 minutes until just cooked then finish on the grill to get the smokey flavour without the risk of food poisoning..!
I’ve submitted this recipe to the Spice Trail Challenge over at Vanesther’s blog, Bangers and Mash – It’s BBQ month….YUM.