Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Jamaican Holiday in the Kitchen

Hello there!

It was a fairly miserable Spring this year, cold and damp and gross. So, how is one to brighten up their season of rebirth when it's a holding pattern? Well, if you don't have the option of taking a trip to the tropics, you can always bring the tropics home to you! Granted, if you're a locavore, you might want to stop reading now.

Caribbean (specifically Jamaican) cooking is a fairly overlooked cuisine outside of its homelands and emigre communities, except the somewhat famous "jerk" sauce/flavouring/whatever you want to call it. And yet, almost everything about it is delicious! Jamaican food is spicy, flavourful and somewhat easy to make.

A few years back I picked up a cookbook on Caribbean cooking (it was 5 bucks) and made a few items in it that were tasty, but it was one night at Grace food market that I had a revelation: they sell goat meat. I'd heard stories of Curried Goat (apparently one of the national dish of Jamaica) but never had the guts to try it until that day.

It was super-tasty and I'd been itching to try it again, but this time with a full compliment of Jamaican favourites. Specifically, Red Beans and Rice and Fried Plantain.

Now, this is one of those meals that requires a bit of make-ahead, generally the night before. Goat meat is pretty darned tough, so it needs to marinate. Also, if you're using dried beans, and I recommend you do, they too need an overnight or more to soak.

A note on goat meat: I’ve made Curried Goat a couple of times, and the way it’s sold is either pre-cubed, or in large slices from the leg. The problem with using the cubed stuff is that it has the bone still on, meaning a lot of it will be chunks of bone with a little bit of meat on it. So, it’s maybe a better idea to get a couple of pounds of the bone-on slices of leg meat and cube it yourself.

So here we go!

Curried Goat

Meat and Marinade

- 1 1/2 - 2 lbs goat meat, cubed
- 1-2 onions, chopped
- 2 tbsp minced ginger
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- 3-4 lime leaves
- 3-4 sprigs thyme
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- juice of 1 lime
- 4 tbsp Jamaican curry
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp rum
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 cups stock (or water)
- 1 can coconut milk (about 2 cups)


-Mix together all ingredients, except coconut milk, stock and butter, in a mixing bowl.
- Cube goat meat if it isn’t already, making sure you keep the bones (as a general rule: marrow adds a whack of flavor to anything).
-Coat the meat with the marinade and allow it to marinate overnight.
-To make the stew, heat stock pot on medium, melt butter and add marinated meat. Cook for about 5 minutes.
-Stir in stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.
-Simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cook for another 10 minutes.
-Serve on Red Beans and Rice


GOAT! marinatin'

Red Beans and Rice
- 1 cup dried red beans (or red kidney beans)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4-5 garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 whole dried ancho chili
- 3-4 sprigs thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can coconut milk (about 2 cups)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups uncooked rice

- Place beans in bowl covered with cold water and leave overnight.
- To prepare beans once soaked, bring 2-3 cups water to a boil and add beans. Boil for about 20-30 minutes until beans are tender. Drain and cool beans.
- In a saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat and sauté onion, garlic and ginger.
- Stir in rest of ingredients except rice and bring to a boil.
- Stir in rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 25-30 minutes until rice is tender and liquid has evaporated. Remove chili from rice and discard (or mince and use for some other evil purpose).

Red Beans and Rice, right before getting covered to cook

And voila!

Fried Plantain

-2 semi-ripe plantains
-vegetable oil for frying


-Peel and slice plantain into ½ centimetre thick slices. This thickness leads to a nice crispy outside/chewy inside texture. If you want you plantain to be more like potato chips, slice about a millimeter thick using a mandolin or samurai-level blade handling skills.
-Heat oil to medium high heat. Once hot enough for frying (drop a drop of water in the oil – if it sizzles, it’s ready), carefully place the plantain in the oil using a slotted spoon.
-Fry plantain until crispy on the outside. It’ll be a little darker than the standard “golden brown”, but it’s totally worth “overcooking” the plantain to ensure they’re crispy.
-Remove plantain from oil with tongs or slotted spoon and place on paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Serve with Mango Dip.

Mango Dip for Fried Plantain

-½ cup mayonnaise
-juice of 1 lime
-½ tsp Sriracha
-2 tbsp mango juice
-Salt and pepper to taste

-Stir all ingredients together until well blended (consistency will be thinner than commercial dips)

Plantain - sliced and ready to fry!

Plantain - fried and ready for dipping!

This was a meal that would warm the cockles of anyone during any season. Of course now that I’m finally done writing about it, it’s nearly 30 degrees and sunny. It does beg the question: How does someplace that’s already so hot come up with such warming comfort food? Who knows… All I know is that I’m glad I’ve learned about this cuisine because man it’s a whole lotta tasty!

The finished product!