Inspired by the time I spent in Jamaica last year, I recently made my own jerk chicken with rice and peas and callaloo.
Here are the recipes I used:
Since I visited Jamaica last year, I’ve really missed the taste of authentic jerk chicken. After a couple of attempts to make it ‘from scratch’ myself and an encounter with M&S’s new jerk chicken offering, I still haven’t found anything quite the same as the real thing over here in the UK (click here to read about my first attempt at making jerk chicken with rice and peas).
So, when Encona Sauces offered to send me some of their Jamaican jerk marinade (£1.99 for 180g) to try out, I was excited yet apprehensive; could this jar of marinade really hold the key to the irresistible taste of traditional jerk?
Unfortunately, no it couldn’t. As soon as I opened the marinade, I noticed that it didn’t smell like the jerk marinade I’ve experienced before. It smelt and tasted rich and fruity, just like Heinz’s HP Fruity sauce (a mild and tangy brown sauce made from a variety of fruits with spices).
When I cooked the chicken after letting it marinate overnight, the jerk marinade had soaked right into it and I just kept getting that HP Fruity sauce-taste. It tasted nothing like the jerk chicken I’ve eaten before in Jamaica or the jerk chicken I’ve made fresh at home or bought from M&S.
If you want to make your own jerk chicken, I recommend putting in the effort to make your own marinade. It’s probably a little more expensive than a jar of marinade and preparing the ingredients is a little time consuming, but it’s completely worth it!
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1 small chicken
1 jar Encona Jamaican jerk marinade
1. Cover the chicken in the jerk marinade and leave to marinate for at least 2 hours, but ideally overnight.
2. Cook the chicken in the oven according to the package instructions; 30 minutes on 200° (or 180° if using a fan-assisted oven) is usually long enough to cook a a small-medium chicken. Baste the chicken with the roasting juices throughout to crisp up the skin.
3. Leave the chicken to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving.
Rice and peas (recipe from CookLikeAJamaican.com)
This was my third attempt at making rice and peas and I was really impressed with my effort. Using wild rice in place of long-grain definitely seemed to introduce a new, grainy texture to the dish.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 can (19oz) kidney beans, including liquid
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
Water (approx 1-2/3 cups)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion or 2 stalks scallion, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1½ to 2 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups long-grain, rinsed and drained (I used wild rice – a mixture of brown and white)
1. Drain the liquid from the can of beans into a measuring cup and
add the can of coconut milk and enough water to make four cups of liquid
2. Add liquid, beans, garlic, chopped onion and thyme to large pot
3. Add salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil.
4. Add rice and boil on High for 2 minutes.
5. Turn heat to Low, and cook covered until all water is absorbed (about 15 to 20 min).
6. Fluff with fork before serving.
Similar to spinach, callaloo is another name for the amaranth plant that grows in Jamaica and most of the Caribbean.
When I ate callaloo in Jamaica it was fresh and sold in bunches, but I’ve only managed to find it canned here.
There are many different ways to prepare callaloo dependent on where it’s grown; Trinidad and Tobago use coconut milk and okra to prepare a dish with a unique taste and texture.
Canned callaloo is partially cooked, so you just need to saute it in a little butter for a while along with your preferred seasonings.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a small side portion; 2 as part of a larger meal)
1 tin canned callaloo (available in Caribbean food stores)
1 salad tomato, diced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, finely sliced (remove seeds first)
1 tsp fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
1. Melt the butter until it starts to foam, then reduce the heat and add the tomato, spring onions, onion, scotch bonnet pepper and thyme.
2. Cook over a medium to high heat for 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables have softened.
3. Stir the callaloo and salt into the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes, until warmed through.
Encona Sauces sent me a complimentary jar of Jamaican jerk marinade for the purpose of this review; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.