Jamaican Jerk Fish, Creole sauce and….

…Rice n Peas

IMG_5566I love Jamaica. Though I’ve never been, I’ve felt kinship with people from the Caribbean most of my life.

IMG_5552Good thing that will be remedied soon….with a trip…..

IMG_5565… there….via my food offering this week!

This week, we’re in Jamaica on our Culinary Tour 2010, hosted by Joan of Foodalogue. On the menu? A traditional Jamaican meal: Jerk fish, Rice n Peas and Creole sauce.

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It’s no surprise to me that Nigerians and Jamaicans share similar tastes and cooking styles….as do most tropical countries. The fact as well, that both countries have some coastal stretches places seafood prominently on the menus.

In Nigeria, Tilapia is one of the more common fish, along with snapper and catfish. It is always sold whole and fresh in the markets – fish mongers are not common in the sense we know them in the West. Women, mothers, grandmothers sit about in the open markets, huge basins by their side – full of water, and fish. Fresh fish. Just caught.

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Fish fillets don’t feature at these stalls. For that you’ll need to head to the ‘western’ supermarkets, where you’ll get frozen equivalents which may have travelled miles! Which is how come I learnt way back in Nigeria, via Google, to fillet my own fish.

But not these ones I’m cooking today though. Those came from a pack. From Sligro!

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This week’s recipes are Traditional, according to the descriptions Joan gave about the type of dish being cooked:

  • Traditional – recreate the country’s national dish or any other traditional dish.
  • Contemporary – use a traditional recipe and make it Nuevo Latino (contemporize it).
  • Algo Nuevo (something new) – create something totally ‘your own’ by using the flavors and techniques of the destination.
  • Published Chef – follow the recipe of a published chef/author specializing in that cuisine.

Now, the theories of what ‘Jerk’ means are numerous. Some say it is a variation on the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English.

Another possible origin links it to the act of jerking strips of meat from an animal carcass, since whole hogs were originally used in the process. On this note, there is another slight variation to this definition: during grilling, the meat or seafood is turned over and over again (jerked over and over again) until it is fully cooked.

IMG_5538Generally, the key to great jerk is seasoning the meat with some jerk paste/rub and marinating it to let the flavours sink in. Obviously, the type of meat will dictate how long the marinating should last.

For me, it was simple. Seafood – a quarter of an hour did it!

IMG_5525In Jamaica, the meat is then slowly cooked over an open fire pit made from allspice wood (Pimento wood) which gives the meat a natural smoky taste, though of course, home cooking dictates a regular oven.

In my Nigerian kitchen in the Netherlands, I am blessed to have some Cedar wood! See, I DO NOT believe in coincidences. I am a strong believer in inter-connectedness of life and God knowing my heart’s deepest needs.

IMG_5393{It never fails to comfort, humble and amaze me when I think a thought, one which others may consider trivial or discard swiftly. When I think a thought and then it comes to pass……in a miraculous way. Wow.}

See 5 years ago in Nigeria, I bought a book on making flavoured oils by Michael Chiarello.

On Page 87, he has a recipe for Cedar-planked roasted salmon. I’ve kept that one…close to my heart. Never forgotten.

Fast forward to 2009 and one day, I’m ill, home and off work. To nurse myself back to health, I start browsing through the book again….. and longing stirred up in my heart.

I put it down, sighing for….I know, it is a hopeless cause. I’ll never find my cedarwood, except maybe at Primark!

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That same evening, we get our weekly ‘junkmail’ from the shops, which I scour for offers. As I flip through, my heart stops….almost dead, in its tracks. What do I see on offer?

Yes. Cedar planks for sale. Needless to say, I bought 2 packs (not the same evening though, the next day) of two pieces each. And I’ve been saving them for a special occasion, having being talked out of making the exact recipe on Page 87 …as the hubby is no longer into salmon! Thank you Lord.

So, instead of pimento wood, I lovingly placed my tilapia fillets on this cedar plank…..and roasted it to perfection!

{Note, while there are chilli peppers involved in some of the recipes, my word on this is, if you don’t like it…..skip it! The fish and sauce will not at all be harmed by this! So, go on…..give it a try!}

All recipes were adapted from ‘Too many cooks – live Challenge 99’,a compilation of recipes from hotels and restaurants

I hate Celery….mostly. The only time I enjoy it is grated and mixed with coarse sea salt, to make fresh celery salt. Then I only sense its presence and am not put off by its taste!

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#1: Jerk Tilapia fillets

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients

3 – 4 Tilapia fillets
Jerk paste (recipe below)
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Jerk paste

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • I tablespoon coarsely grated celery, mixed with a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs (I used a mixture of savory, oregano and thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (Optional)
  • Salt

How to

Make the jerk paste/blending by mixing all the ingredients together.

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Rub this jerk paste on both sides of the fish fillets and leave to marinade for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to and place on a lightly greased oven tray/cedar plank. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes.

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Bring out tray/plank and use that as the serving dish…… I love from oven to table meals!

IMG_5488The fish was fantastic. Soft, tender, moist, spicy, sweet…and smoky, all the same!  In place of the regular lemon wedge, a nice squeeze of lime freshens it up!

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BTW, the planks are reuseable and they formed the perfect bed for a roast chicken tonight. Tell you about it soon!

#2: Jamaican rice and peas

We eat a lot of rice at home (in Nigeria) and I’m always in search of ways to jazz it up. So far, my tastiest rice recipes involve…coconut milk and this recipe is no exception. Rice, kidney beans and fragrant lemon thyme – a warming meal on any night of the week. We also have rice and brown-eyed beans a lot in Nigeria, mixed together or separate. Often, we serve this with bananas or plantains.

The bananas tend to cool things off, with the chilli milling about. 

Now Jamaicans say rice n peas….where peas and beans are interchangeable! I think that this contributes a little….however small to my Ten in 10, which I’ve been working on, albeit slowly!

Serves 8 – 12 ( I made loads because leftover rice in my house never goes to waste). Adjust as necessary.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 400g kidney beans (from a tin), rinsed and drained
  • 2 sprigs of (lemon) thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme (flavour will be different)
  • 3 – 4 cups of rice (I used basmati, which I soaked for 15 minutes)
  • 3 – 4 cups of coconut milk
  • Salt, to taste

How to

Put butter in a large pan on medium heat till melted.

Add onions and garlic and fry till soft (3 – 5 minutes).

Add rinsed kidney beans to the pan, along with the coconut milk and thyme sprigs. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

IMG_5125Add the rice, season with salt and let simmer with the lid on (15 – 20 minutes), till the rice is cooked.

IMG_5189The rice was as expected. Tasty. Fragrant. Delicious.

#3: Creole sauce

And now that we have the carbs and protein sorted, here’s a sauce to accompany both. It reminds me very much of a Nigerian stew, which essentially has more or less (mango) the same ingredients! In Nigeria, fruit rarely makes its way into savoury cooking. It stays fruit….

I love this sauce as it is easy to make, has a chunky texture, is full of veggies and tastes good!

Serves 3 – 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 1 tin, plum tomatoes
  • 1 large paprika, deseeded and chopped roughly (or a mixture)
  • 150ml stock (chicken or vegetable, fresh or from a cube)
  • Pulp from 1 ripe mango or from a small tin (100g) (I’ve also subbed with grated green kiwis)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs (I use a combo of dried thyme, oregano and savoury)
  • 1 squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

How to

Fry the onions, tomatoes and peppers in the oil on medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes)
Add the stock, and sugar (if using) and cook for another 5 minutes

IMG_4950{It is easy to get the pulp off a ripe mango. Just peel the skin back and scoop the soft flesh out with a spoon. Don’t worry about the ‘technique’ of mango cheeks and how to avoid the stone, just yet!}

IMG_4965 I try to mash up the flesh so as to loosen the pulp a bit but….it doesn’t reallw matter, once it gets in the sauce, it will disintegrate a bit.

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Add the mango pulp to the tomato, onion and pepper mixture and cook for yet another 5 minutes.

IMG_4985Finish off by adding the mixed herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Let heat through. Turn off heat and serve with Jamaican rice n Peas.

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The overall verdict on the meal: Husband ♥d it. Note he is my true taste tester. More often than not, I cook to please him. Except when I cook to please me. Or the children.

He said the only thing missing was a Coke! I enjoyed it too. The fish was incredibly tender and moist with a sweet and spicy flavour.  Some describe it as a carnival of flavors that come together in your mouth.

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Next week, we’re in Haiti: please join me for some Tasot Cabrit, aka Fried goatmeat.

And here’s a recap of where we’ve been so far and what I made:

  • January 11, Mexico: Make-up session coming soon – Hot chocolate a la Mexicana!
  • January 18, El Salvador: Platanos fritos tortillas – Breakfast/Main
  • January 25, Nicaragua: Horchata, a type of…. – Drink
  • February 1, Argentina: Empanadas – Snack
  • February 8, Brazil: Acaraje – Snack/Meal
  • February 15, Colombia: Pan de Banano – Breakfast/Snack
  • February 22, Jamaica: Jerk Fish with creole sauce – this post
  • March 1, Haiti: Fried Goatmeat (Tasot Cabrit)
  • March 8, Cuba: Cuban strawberries with Meringue ice cream – Dessert
  • March 15, Puerto Rico: not yet decided

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Stay well and blessed. Lots of ♥.

44 Comments

  1. I saw sligro and jumped for joy! I will definitely be trying this. I’m a Nigerian in the Netherlands as well. I will follow up with an update on how it goes!

  2. […] today. I bolted out of there at 4:30, desperate for some fresh air. Tonight, Ryan and I made some Jerk Tilapia Filets (turned out delish) and garlic veggies – it was a perfect little healthy dinner. Now […]

  3. Wow! jerk fish
    looks so yummy and delicious. I love the flavor, this recipe is so spicy,i can try make to myself. And i hope my family is enjoy it.Thanks!

  4. I am intrigued by the idea of cooking the fish on a plank – makes perfect sense when you think abotu it though. Love everythign abotu this dish – I was just thinking about jerk chicken spices last night in fact – now I have a recipe for jerk paste! Love the mango in the sauce – inspired 🙂

  5. I’m loving the look of this Tiliapa recipe. I live close to a whole bunch of Afro-Caribbean shops and markets in East London and have been wondering how to make best use of all the interesting food they have on sale. So this recipe will be perfect. I might struggle to find the Cedar plank, but will have to do my best because it sounds like it imparts a distinctive flavour.

    And i really, really like your photos too.

  6. I love your pictures. So wonderful, so crisp, I feel like I’m experiencing your dish! And I love rice and peas – of course, coconut milk is a winner with me as well. Yum. I can’t wait until your Haiti post!

  7. A wonderful posting, from start to finish! As usual.
    The only thing is I thought you were about to tell us you were going to Jamaica on vacation!
    Oh well, cooking Jamaican is close enough for now, right?

  8. you are a gifted photographer Oz..not to mention cook and baker.. i love the fading colours of the fabric u used and teh fish and the sauce looks simply delicious.. !

  9. Oh my, you’ve created a feast for all the senses, unfortunately, only one of mine is satisfied. I can only imagine how heavenly it smelled and tasted. Thanks for putting together such an incredible post.

  10. Ozoz, You are always brilliant in the presentation even in the details. I adore your way of cooking the rice and the whole meal for sure, whether it comes with or without a coke : ).

  11. Ozoz, just this week I was having a conversation with my Jamacian co-worker about Caribbean food, specifically Jamaica. Growing-up ( and to this day) my best friend was a native Jamacian. I can remember almost daily standing in her mother’s kitchen and lifting lids on the pots taking in the aromas of the meal. Forgive me, I am digressing… After I made the Nigerian Chicken Stew, I was struck with how Carribean food has remained close to it’s African roots. African Americans had a more difficult time maintining their traditional foods. As a result, have created a new cuisine that relies heavily on the South’s food sources.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Ozoz,
    I love how you compare the culture of your food travel country to your Nigerian culture. It’s a double dose of culture. Awesome photos and recipes.
    Mimi

  13. Ahh, I’ve been curious about the wooden plank cooking ‘thing’ after seeing it on menus and even eating it a few times (well, eating the end product, not the plank.. my stomach is good but not quite that good) so I’m glad to see it in action.

    The meal looks amazing, especially that fish, but I have to say I’m loving those plates!

  14. I like Jamaican food as well. I especially love their Beef Patties and coco bread. Your jerk fish, rice & peas, and sauce look very appetizing.

  15. This looks fantastic, what a lot of hard work you’ve put in. I’ve no idea where I would find a cedar plank from and I would be afraid of burning it in the oven!!

    I really want to get more familar with Caribbean food, I see lots of ingredients in the world foods aisle at Sainsburys but never know how to put them together.

    • You’ll probably find in the BBQ section of Home and Garden or those type of shops. And I forgot to say that I did soak the plank for 20 minutes before…kind of like you do with skewers!

  16. ooh … that looks so yummy. Look your props and your photos …needless to say I’m very curious about your cedar plank 🙂 Does it gives out a fragrant? I know it’s a stupid question but I’m just curious since I don’t know anything about wooden planks except my wooden chopping board that I don’t put in my oven. 🙂

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