Tastes of Jamaica

When I first met my husband-to-be, we talked of many things.  He spoke of a wonderful, seemingly magical place called Jamaica.  Of course, I’d heard of that popular vacation destination,  but had never been there.  He insisted that it is unlike any other in the world; the people there are genuinely kind and the whole attitude of the island tends toward relaxation, calm, peace, satisfaction, and love.

Sounds pretty good.

After several years of piquing my interest, we finally had an opportunity to go there together.  And although I was only there for 3 days, I indeed saw a tiny glimpse of what he described.  I also had an opportunity to taste some of the local flavors.  My favorite was Ackee with Saltfish for breakfast (yes, even I drank some of the famous Blue Mountain coffee with ‘sweet milk’).  Freshly squeezed orange juice was sold everywhere, sugar cane was to be chewed, and pineapple was to be munched.

And the sunsets….the white sand….the clear water….

Someday, I hope to go back.  And stay for a loooong time.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to be content with bringing some of those flavors to the dinner table.  The Jamaican Rice and Peas (which are not actually “peas” at all but red beans) is one of the simplest dishes I’ve ever made; it’s also inexpensive and healthful. You already know how I feel about beans

These and other recipes which I have not tried I found at this site.

Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe

3 cups of rice
1 can of tinned or 1 cup of fresh red peas (either kidney beans or pigeon peas) note: I use 2 or 2 1/2 c beans
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 uncut scotch bonnet pepper (1 jalapeno pepper may be used as a substitute)
3 Scallion (spring onions may be used as a substitute)
1 tin (or one cup) of coconut milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (2 teaspoons of dried thyme may be used as a substitute)

Soak beans overnight, rinse, then cook in 7 cups of water with the garlic until cooked through, about 45 mins. Add rice, coconut milk, scallions (crush them-don’t cut), salt, pepper, and thyme.  Simmer till all water is absorbed, about another 45 mins.  Remove hot pepper and scallions, serve, and enjoy!

Of course, you can do this in the crock pot.  Just allow more time, and be ready to add more water if needed.

I usually end up adding a little more salt, and if I want to be fancy-schmanzy, I squeeze on some lime juice, sprinkle some fresh cilantro, and accompany with some mango salsa(healthy) or fried sweet plantains (unhealthy).  Some fresh sliced cucumber goes nicely with it on the side.

And if I really want to go all out, I serve it with Jerk Chicken.  Fantastic combination.

Jerk Chicken

Here’s how to make the sauce:

NOTE: this recipe makes a HUGE amount of sauce. If you don’t mind having lots leftover to store in the fridge for another time, go for it. Otherwise, cut it in half and you’ll still have plenty for 3 or 4 pounds of chicken.

6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers (jalapenos may be used if scotch bonnet peppers are unavailable) NOTE: I’ve made this sauce twice, and have omitted the hot peppers both times with good results. I’ll add some heat after the fact if needed.
2 Tbsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. ground allspice
8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Medium onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tsp. ground black pepper

1 to 2 Tsp of the following (to taste)
-ground cinnamon
-nutmeg
-ginger

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white vinegar

Blend it all up, marinade meat overnight, and use some of the rest for basting, and the rest for dipping.  Cook chicken (in pieces) about 1/2 hr on each side.  Enjoy!

Here’s a funny thing: I mentioned Jerk sauce to a friend, and was reminded about the “Jerk Store”.  For all Seinfeld fans, this is for you: Watch this clip (unfortunately, embedding was disabled, or I would have put a player right on here.)

One Reply to “Tastes of Jamaica”

  1. WOW!
    That made me totally homesick 🙁
    I’m from Jamaica and moved to North Carolina last year when I got married.Your post was quite warm and descriptive, it was like walking down the street in my home town.
    I made curried chicken and fried rice for dinner tonight for me and hubby, and he now LOVES Jamaican curried chicken. He didn’t like curry before (the Indian or Thai versions).
    OH and you added the flag too, nice touch. Maybe i should go buy me an plane ticket.
    Where in Jamaica did you go? Ocho Rios?

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