Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Caribbean Feast

"...make no mistake, this wasn't going to be value chicken breasts with some Reggae Reggae sauce, I was planning jerk chicken, rice and peas, callaloo, a jerk salsa verde and pineapple and mint sugar for dessert"

Ladies, I'm going to let you in on a secret. Among a particular type of neanderthal bloke there is a certain day of the year which marks the start of summer. Not the first time they see a swallow swoop, munch on a strawberry, or even the day the clocks go forward. No, the official start of summer is said to be 'Tit Monday', the day when young ladies throw off the coats and scarves of winter, in favour of of the floaty, diaphanous, see-through skirts of summer. Any man can call it, but must be aware that one hardy northerner in a short skirt, does not a summer make!

Evidently I'm not the type of unreconstructed male who would indulge in this type of thing, because for me, the official start of summer is the first day of the first test of the cricket season. It is a sign of better things to come: the crack of leather on willow; Aggers, Blowers, Tuffers and Sir Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special; and another set of antipodeans being sent packing after a series loss.

Usually this would also mean I was taking to the field for my own cricket team; however, an unfortunately timed shoulder injury means I'm out for a month. This has put me in a stinking mood - what else am I supposed to do at the weekend? Go shopping? Lounge around in the park?

This summer the season has started with a three match test series against the West Indies: inspired therefore by our Caribbean visitors I thought a Caribbean feast in order. But make no mistake, this wasn't going to be value chicken breasts with some Reggae Reggae sauce, I was planning jerk chicken, rice and peas, callaloo (which is a dish of leafy greens, cooked with coconut in a lightly spiced sauce), a jerk salsa verde and pineapple and mint sugar for dessert.

I'm not sure I have the patience to write down a recipe for every single thing, but the jerk chicken and the jerk salsa were both very good (actually it was all very good), and so deserve a wider audience. Especially the salsa, which was something I put together on the hoof and worked pretty well.

Just a quick note here, jerk chicken is obviously meant to be cooked over charcoal or wood and under the hot Caribbean sun, but even if, like me, you can only manage the oven it is still well worth the effort.

Jerk Chicken

serves 6

12 pieces of bone-in chicken, i.e. thigh or drumstick

The marinade

Couple sprigs of thyme
2tsp allspice
3-4 scotch bonnet chillis, seeds in if you like it spicy
Handful parsley
Thumb sized piece of ginger (a large thumb)
2 garlic cloves
4 spring onions
1 tbsp runny honey
sunflower / light olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. This really is simplicity itself. Whizz up all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor, adding enough oil to get a fairly smooth, but certainly not too runny mixture.
  2. Place the chicken in a large dish, so that the pieces are in one layer, and make a couple slashes in the surface of the skin of each piece, which will allow some of the marinade to penetrate the meat. Pour the jerk marinade over the meat, give it all a good massage, cover and leave in the fridge for at least a couple of hours and ideally overnight.
  3. When you're ready to cook the chicken, lift it out of the marinade, place in a roasting tin and cook in an oven preheated to 200c for 45-50 minutes. Use the rest of the marinade to baste the chicken a couple of times while it is cooking. 
  4. Of course if you're grilling on the barbie it's a whole different game of cricket. But I'm sure you won't need detailed instructions on that, except don't do the usual thing of burning the outside and leaving the chicken nice and pink in the middle!
  5. Serve alongside some rice and peas, callaloo and the jerk salsa verde, for which there is a recipe below.
Jerk salsa verde

Handful each parsley, coriander and thyme - just the thyme leaves, no woody stalk
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 scotch bonnet chilli - I'd remove the seeds, but leaving them in will make it spicier
1 tsp honey
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
  1. Dust down that food processor because this is another one where you stick everything in a blender or food processor and whizz it up, adding enough oil so that you end up with a glossy, green mixture.
  2. Taste and add more chilli, lime, salt, pepper etc. as required.  

All to be washed down with plenty of rum or red stripe lager...

p.s. sorry for the crap photos, but I used my phone and had a table of hungry guests to feed so didn't pay the usual care and attention!


  1. 'tit Monday'? Classy lad. Like the sound of the chicken - of you could drop some round for my dinner that would be lovely thank you.

    1. I never said I endorsed 'Tit Monday'. Don't shoot the messenger...