stir it up

We are on our last jar of jerk seasoning, and I’ve promised a friend a taste of the Caribbean. It has to be home made.

It’s handy when you’ve posted the recipe yourself! I check my blog in the greengrocer’s for the recipe, and pick up a batch of habañero and cassette chillis, just to mix things up.

Lemon thyme is on sale so I choose that over regular thyme.

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I’m not cooking with onion much these days so I pick up a bunch of Chinese leek flowers and some celery instead of the usual spring onions or scallions as we call them in Ireland.

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This is going to be the quickest batch ever, I tell myself. At home, I pull out the Allspice and nutmeg from the back of the cupboard and pulverise the little black peppers in my pestle and mortar.

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I get to chopping and soon I have the blender on the go.

I find some sage in the freezer and throw that in as well. Lemon thyme? Why not. We’re in Australia.

As usual, I use a mix of white vinegar and water to loosen things up when the blender struggles. I poke around with a chopstick in between times, and throw in a few spoonfuls of salt and brown sugar.

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The result is pretty pungent stuff, but even now I can smell the aromas mixing. It’s going to be a good batch, I hope.

Lastly, I squeeze a fresh lime into the mixture and stir it in. I like to leave the lime till last, as I find the blender changes the flavour.

That’ll sit in the fridge now for a day or so to settle, then I will pour into sterilised glass jars to keep for longer.

We’re in business!

 

 

 

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bax food co.

Bax Food Co.
83 Gamon Street, Yarraville
0402 751 108
https://www.facebook.com/baxfoodco
http://bossmanfood.com.au

It was opening night at Bax Food Co., the newest venture from Bossman Foods. Roderick is pretty well known by the small West Indian community in Melbourne for his Caribbean food wholesale business and his event catering, so a new Caribbean restaurant with his name behind it is of great interest.

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oistins fish fry

Because of our family connections here in Barbados I’ve always stayed within strolling distance of the small fishing town of Oistins, about 12km east of the capital Bridgetown. By day it’s just a busy little town, with traffic crawling down the main street past the fish market, the supermarket, the post office and a few fast food joints. On Friday nights, however, the place explodes into the best night out in Barbados as the fish market closes down and makes way for the fish fry.

Oistins Gardens hosts dozens of family run stalls, selling the freshest fish cooked to perfection. Locals jostle with hundreds of tourists who come by the busload from far-away Speightstown and the other posh west coast resorts, queuing at their favourite spot to pick up a huge plate of marlin, mahi mahi (known locally as dolphin fish), tuna, flying fish and more, all served with your choice of rice and peas, macaroni pie (a local speciality which is essentially macaroni cheese but served in a much more solid state like lasagne), fried plantain or breadfruit chips, salads and more. A plate of food will cost you B$25-30 depending on the fish you choose – around US$12-15.

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A strong rum punch will cost around B$5, but you will see most locals sticking with soft drinks and tourists will pick up a few Barbados beers to wash down the feast.

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Many of the families who own fishing boats also run the fish fry stalls, and they all have their secret recipes. Pat’s Place right on the main road always has queues waiting for their amazingly well marinated fish and huge portions. You pay at the counter and get your takeaway container with your sides, then stand patiently beside the barbecues until the fish fryer dumps an enormous lump of freshly grilled fish on top. Always ask for a takeaway container – you’ll get much bigger portions than if you order a plate.

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Angel’s, further into the market, also does great fish but their macaroni pie is one of the best in the market. In years gone by you used to be able to wander around buying your fish from one place, your macaroni pie from another and so on. You still can do this in theory, but the queues will mean a long wait for your dinner.

Entertainment, apart from people-watching, is laid on too. A huge stage hosts a procession of local talent, all dancing to their favourite tunes and maybe passing the hat around later for the crowd to show their appreciation. Every Friday night for years a local guy has donned a black fedora and red sequinned shirt to do a mean Michael Jackson impersonation, right down to a perfect moonwalk across the stage. He is followed by other amazing dancers – mostly men – and the occasional over-enthusiastic sunburnt tourist who can’t resist the urge to join in. Just remember if you are tempted: they are laughing at you, not with you.

Round the back at another bar, people are dancing to old-time music for proper dancers to enjoy. Local couples dress to impress and show off their salsa, waltzing, jive and other Strictly Come Dancing moves: the women in spangly dresses and silver shows, the men with smartly pressed trousers and old-fashioned manners. It’s a joy to watch and tempting to join in, the standard is high.

There are a few market stalls now, too. Jewellery, Barbados towels, hand-made dolls, summer dresses and polished conch shells line the edge of the fish fry, right down at the water’s edge. Groups of men sit at another stall playing a competitively fought game of dominoes whilst their mates watch on and shout encouragement.

Friday nights are not the only night to enjoy Oistins – in fact, Saturdays have a lot to offer without the hordes of tourists. The same fish fry stalls are open but tonight it’s karaoke night, with a small group always lined up along the huge stage to tell the DJ their song and belt it out for the crowd. One chap comes along every Saturday night and sings “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. He has every nuance of the ballad, and more passion than you can shake a stick at. Thing is, he’s tone-deaf, but his heartfelt rendition gets a standing ovation every week. This week we had a couple of great Luther Vandrosses and even a pretty decent Bette Midler doing “Wind Beneath My Wings”.

Actually, if you head down to Oistins any night of the week, quite a few of the fish fry shops will be open to accommodate the local crowd, so even if weekend nights are out it’s worth a trip down. Round off your evening’s entertainment by getting a ZR there and back. It might just be the ride of your life.

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at last… a homemade jerk seasoning recipe that works

For more than five years, we have been living in Australia, far away from the comfortingly-stocked shelves of our local Tesco in Brent Cross where the international food choices were staggering. With such a huge population in the area of West Indian descent, there was never any problem buying Orlando’s –and subsequently my – favourite West Indian foods and seasonings.

Ackee and saltfish was delicious, easy and cheap to make for dinner. If we needed more jerk seasoning or pepper sauce (a traditional Barbados favourite), we popped down the road either to Tesco or to any of our local groceries, and picked up a jar of Walkerswood or a bottle of Windmill.

Now we live in Australia, we have to remember to stock up if either one of us goes to London. Happily, our trip to Barbados afforded us the chance to send back some decent quantities of jerk seasoning, pepper sauce and tins of ackee.

But how to become more self-sufficient? A few of our West Indian acquaintances here in Australia make really decent home-made pepper sauce or jerk seasoning, but I have never been able to come close. Perhaps it was the fresh Bajan air, or the amazing assaults on my taste buds every evening at dinner, but upon my return this time I think I have cracked it.

The most important thing to get right is the fresh chillies. Australia-dwellers, this is important: you will not find the chillies you need in Safeway. What we really need are habanero chillies but they are not sold in this country. So you need to go down to the local market or your local Asian grocery and ask for the hottest fresh chillies you can find. I get mine from Bharat Traders here in West Footscray, tiny green ones that look like this (they are on a side plate if that gives you an idea of size). I used about 12 of these for one batch of seasoning (enough to season about 1 kg of meat) and to be honest I could have done with a bit more heat still. Deseed before you use if you wish – I didn’t bother.

The second important ingredient is all-spice. Many people think this is a mixture of spices used in baking, but that is mixed spices. All-spice is the fruit of the Jamaican pimiento tree and is a very specific ingredient. Happily, although you cannot get the pimiento berries themselves here in Australia, we can buy ground all-spice in most big supermarkets. It’s not the same but it does the job.

The third thing is the tool you use. You will need to get this mixture ground down as smooth as possible, so the best results will be obtained from a blender or from a pestle and mortar. I have only used a food processor so far, which chops very finely indeed but it is not enough to make the seasoning paste really sink into the meat.

So, here you go. Give it a try and roast your own jerk chicken for dinner this weekend.

Ingredients (enough to season about 1kg of chicken)
3-4 large scallions or spring onions
6-12 hot chillies
small bunch of fresh thyme
2-3 teaspoons of allspice powder
1-2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg or the freshly-ground equivalent
1-2 teaspoons sugar
juice of half a fresh lime
freshly-ground salt and black pepper

Other people add some ginger, or coriander. I am going to try and add some native Australian herbs and spices, like lemon myrtle or pepperberry, and see how that goes.

Method
De-seed the chillies if you wish. Chop up the scallions and chillies as finely as you can. You can use onion if you are stuck, but I find the onion rather overpowers the balance of flavours too much.
Remove the leaves of the thyme from their woody stems by stripping each stalk backwards. Don’t worry about being too finicky with this.
Throw all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until as smooth as you can get it. If you don’t have a blender, start by chopping everything as small as possible and then use a pestle and mortar to crush the onions, chillies and thyme into as smooth a paste as you can manage. Update: having now used a pestle and mortar, a food processor and a blender, I would have to say the blender gives you by far the best results.

This seasoning will keep in the fridge in a sterilised container for a week or two if you don’t use it all at once. If you add a little white vinegar to the mix at the end of the blend, this will help with longevity.Rub a small amount of the seasoning onto each joint of meat – I use no more than 2-3 teaspoons per chicken joint or breast. Make sure you get into every nook and cranny. Then cover and leave for as long as you can – overnight if possible, but at least an hour if you are in a hurry.

Roast slowly and enjoy the beautiful aromas coming from the kitchen!

Serve with rice and peas: soak 2-3 tablespoonfuls of black beans, black-eyed peas or similar overnight. Alternatively use azuki beans which are easily found in Asian markets, and don’t need soaking. Bring to the boil and cook slowly in plenty of water until cooked. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WATER. Add your white rice and a dash of salt to the cooked peas in the same water (this makes the rice turn a different colour and adds flavour). Stir occasionally until cooked through, then strain the last of the water away and serve up.