Here’s a posting I’ve been wanting to publish for months. “Tom” and I went to Jamaica for Christmas 2011, had a wonderful time, then held a Jamaican inspired dinner party in February. This was the menu (warning – not vegan! in fact, not even vegetarian!):
Rice ‘n’ Beans
We chose to make this dish because when we were on a bus excursion in Jamaica, our bus driver pulled over to a roadside food stand where we bought jerk chicken and pepper shrimps. The shrimp were whole – heads, legs, feelers, everything – and had to be peeled before eating. They were very spicy and very tasty. I found a recipe for a marinade for pepper shrimps, bought live shrimp (I do not recommend doing this if you’re squeamish!), and threw it all together. Actually, there was no throwing, but rather lots of squealing over the flopping, moving shrimp, disgust over the preparation of the shrimp, the burning of fingertips over dicing up some hot chili peppers …
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup chopped scallion
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, halved and seeded
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 whole allspice
- 1 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per lb)
Combine all ingredients in a big bowl and let marinate for a bit – maybe half an hour or so.
Then, in a big heavy pot and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for a few minutes.
Remove pot from heat. Cool shrimp in liquid to room temperature, uncovered, about 1 hour. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and drizzle some of cooking liquid on top. Provide plenty of napkins for wiping fingers as this is the ultimate in finger food!
Jerk Chicken and Tofu
I bought a jar of jerk sauce at the airport in Montego Bay and that’s what I used for this recipe.
You can buy such jars or even jerk spice mixes in most grocery stores in Canada, or you can make your own. With the sauce from the jar, I only needed a little bit to lightly coat the chicken and tofu and there was no need to really marinade because the flavour is already so powerful, it doesn’t need to seep and soak into the raw food.
I baked the chicken and tofu, but I suppose it could be barbequed, especially over charcoal.
Callaloo is the Jamaican green. I ate it almost every morning for breakfast along with fresh fruit. People liken it to spinach, but it’s not nearly as delicate. I find it more like a Chinese green and, in fact, “Tom” and I use Gai Lan as our substitute for callaloo while in Canada. We prepare it by sauteeing up a bit of onion and garlic, then throwing in some chopped Gai Lan and steaming for a bit. Voila!
Rice ‘n’ Beans
This is a mainstay of the Jamaican diet. I ate this almost everyday in Jamaica as well. All it really is is rice, red beans (can use kidney beans), coconut milk, and garlic. You can add whatever spices and herbs you want – make it spicy with chili peppers, thyme is a common addition, a bay leaf, some chopped up onion, etc. Actually, I can’t find the exact recipe I used to make this dish for this dinner party, so it’s likely I just threw the ingredients together!
This treat is not cake at all! It’s more like peanut brittle, but with a ginger kick to it. I made it the day of the dinner party and when we ate the cakes, they were really, really hard! The next day, however, they had softened to a much more manageable biting and chewing texture.
- 2 cup roasted peanuts
- 5 tablespoons minced or shredded ginger
- 3 cups dark unprocessed sugar
- 1 cup water
Combine the peanuts and ginger.
Place in a deep pot with the sugar and water.
Put stove on high and boil.
Boil until water is gone and the sugar is like caramel and sticky.
Place a sheet of greased paper on a flat surface (kitchen counter) close by.
Stir the mixture in the pot with a large spoon to be sure it does not stick to the bottom.
Use the spoon to scoop out mixture to create 1-1/4-inch wide mounds on the greased paper.
Each 1-1/4-inch wide mound should be placed in a separate heap on the greased paper.
Let the drops cool and harden. Serve. Makes about 20 pieces.