The Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe and originated in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their own cultures and traditions. It just so happens that the carnival coincided with Caribbean Food Week which is a celebration of all things food and drink from the islands of the Caribbean Sea.
The hamper included tradional spice mixes, jerk chicken seasoning, coconut milk, peas & beans, ackee, and a couple of drink items too in the form of coconut water and a mango flavoured aloe drink. I've been aware of the growing popularity of coconut water but never gotten round to trying it out, at least until now.
"Demand for Caribbean flavours is at an all-time-high as people are discovering how easy it can be to create Caribbean dishes with incredible flavours," says Ryan Mack, Managing Director of Grace Foods UK. "Caribbean Food Week is the perfect time to get into the Caribbean spirit – what better way to bring a taste of holiday to home – not even the British weather can impact that!"
Keen to put my hamper of tricks through their paces, I googled 'Caribbean food' and found an almost endless list of results for fried chicken dishes, or dishes involving rice and peas. I'm sure that Caribbean food involves much more than this but as we both like fried chicken, I decided that this would as good a starting point on the road to Caribbean cooking as anywhere else and set about preparing crispy jerk chicken with a spicy bean salsa.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 beaten egg
- Hot & Spicy Jerk chicken fry mix
- 5oml coconut milk
- 400g mixed peas & beans
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp oxtail seasoning
- 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
- Toss the sweet potato wedges in some olive oil, salt and pepper then spread on to a baking tray and put into a preheated oven 220C. The wedges will take about 40 minutes to cook giving you plenty of time to prepare and cook the rest of the dish.
- Dip the chicken breast in the beaten egg then coat with the jerk fry mix before setting aside until needed.
- Heat a couple of inches of oil in a shallow pan. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the chicken to the pan. Turn occasionally to make sure that the chicken cooks through. It will take about 15 minutes to cook thoroughly. Once the chicken is golden in colour, remove and drain on some kitchen roll. Wrap in Tim foil and keep warm in the oven.
- Heat some oil in a frying pan then soften the chilli, garlic and shallot before adding the tomato halves and oxtail seasoning and the tomato purée. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the peas and beans to the pan then add the coconut milk before cooking for a few more minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.
To serve, divide the the spicy coconut beans and peas between two plates with the crispy jerk chicken and sweet potato wedges.
I'll admit that this isn't the most attractive plate of food that I've served up but it did deliver huge flavour. The crispy jerk chicken was fantastic, the fry mix helped give the chicken a proper crispy coating that was packed with thyme, allspice and a good old fashioned kick of Caribbean heat.
When I think of the Caribbean, I immediately think of bright colours, vibrant music and people who live life to the max - so next time I make the crispy jerk chicken I will be doing my best to present the dish with a little more plate appeal and something that better represents the passion of the Caribbean.
For all things Caribbean food related, visit Grace Foods UK, or keep up to date on Facebook and Twitter.
Written by Gerry Haughian