I’m back! Apologies for the long hiatus. I had a two-week holiday, then needed another week to get over my jet lag. As they say, you often need a holiday to recover from your holiday.
It’s the weekend and I’m in the mood for something a little more exotic for dinner. That’s when I reach for my spice cabinet.
The evening’s concoction consisted of both sweet and savoury flavours, a common pairing in Jamaican cooking. This particular mixture of spices is known as jerk, although I claim no authenticity or accuracy. It just tastes good to my uninformed taste buds.
I pair the chicken with some spiced rice, which is exactly what it says on the tin, plain white rice jazzed up with a couple of spices.
For the jerk marinade:
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes (add more to turn up the heat)
1 small onion, roughly sliced
1/2 tsp rum essence (opt, or replace with 2 tbsp actual rum)
4 chicken drumlets/2 drumsticks/2 chicken breasts
1 carrot, cut into batons
1 stalk celery, cut into batons
1/2 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into batons
Salt and pepper
Step 1: Add all the jerk marinade ingredients together and mix.
Pour the jerk marinade into a resealable plastic bag and add your chicken pieces. (If you’re using thicker cuts of chicken, add a few slashes to the meat to help the marinade soak through.) Seal the bag and allow the chicken to marinate for at least an hour, overnight in the refrigerator would be best.
Step 2: When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Add the cut carrots, celery and peppers to a baking dish, rub with a little oil, salt and pepper. Put the vegetables into the hot oven for 20 minutes to give them a head start with the cooking.
Step 3: After 20 minutes, remove the baking dish and add in the chicken and all of the marinade. Arrange the ingredients evenly in the dish and return to the oven for another 30-35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables softened.
Step 4: At this juncture you could make the spiced rice. In a pot, sautée 2 cardamom pods (bashed so that they’re open) and 1/2 tsp cumin in a little vegetable oil for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant.
Then add 1 cup of uncooked white rice and stir in the hot spiced oil for a couple of minutes. Then add 2 cups of water, 1 chicken stock cube, and a little salt. Bring everything to a boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer until all the water has cooked off and the rice is fluffy. (Should take no more than 15 minutes.) Put on a lid to keep the rice warm.
Step 5: Serve everything hot with a sprinkling of roughly-chopped coriander for garnish.
This dish is spicy and sweet. The chicken should be moist and bursting with flavour. The veggies should retain a little of their crunch as well (this isn’t a stew). To up the piquancy, don’t be afraid to throw in more dried chili flakes or even mince in some fresh chilies.