On thinking about summer BBQ menus, I go back to my roots and turn to my experiences of working in the West Indies and time spent in the Caribbean. I have drawn great influences from this distinctive cuisine and have included an authentic recipe from my friend, celebrated chef and author of EAT Caribbean, Virginia Burke.
To tempt you…picture the numerous varieties of the ripest mangos – juice running down your chin. Warm and soft bananas straight from the plantation, limes made into an iced drink and coconuts picked from the palm, heavy with milk. Imagine fragrant spices from the vibrant markets and the refreshing sweet smell of water melon lingering in the humid air.
To set the scene my grandparents lived in Jamaica for more than 20 years and my father was born and schooled in Kingston. My uncle runs a guest house and museum in Ocho Rios and my father’s cousin was also involved with Walkerswood Caribbean Foods, famous for bottle sauces, spices and condiments, particularly the recipe for jerk. We spent holidays in Jamaica as a family and I later visited the Antillies, Virgin islands, Leeward and Windward Islands working as a chef on a private yacht some 11 years ago.
Memories etched for life would include a wonderful jelly made from the native Gauva fruit, a small yellow skinned fruit with pink flesh and hard seeds. Also chewing chunks of freshly cut sugar cane in order to extract the sweet nectar. This abundant giant grass produces sugar, mollasses and dark rum.
Being the world’s main supplier of spices to include ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon means that you also know exactally how to use these ingredients. I was often intrigued to find both savoury and sweet foods seasoned generously with spices. Nutmeg is one of my favourites and works beautifully with milky cocktails!
The West Indies cuisine is strongly influenced by Africa, known as ‘Creole’ but also worldly cooking styles and recipes – these cultural fusions are very apparent in the local food. The region is also well known for conch, wahoo, palm hearts, saltfish, dumplings, breadfruit, plantain, scotch bonnet, corn, goat, ackee, papaya and so much more.
If you are interested in sampling a taste of Jamaica visit a restaurant called Bamboula in Brixton. You wont be disappointed. Alternatively, join our Summer Kitchen, week 2 for a Caribbean BBQ and summer-time main courses.
The images in this blog remain the property of Simon & Schuster (UK) Ltd 2005. (The above photo is cornmeal known as polenta).