By Kari Heron
My house, though nestled in the sandy dunes of Arabia, has the smell of a tropical Jamaican Christmas and New Year wafting through the air. As a child of the tropics and Jamaican expatriate, food is my home away from home. In an instant, a smell, a taste, a sighting of a traditional ingredient or any combination of the above transforms my little Middle Eastern Villa into an idyllic tropical getaway.
These three recipes – Jamaican Sorrel Sangria, Tropical Holiday Salad and Jamaican Roast Chicken – will sweep you off to a foodie holiday with me, to my little paradise island. These are quick, practical recipes and made with ingredients that are readily available in the region. As a rule, I favour recipes that make for efficient use of energy and resources. In other words, less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the company of your family and friends!
Traditionally, every Jamaican home has a roast of sorts, a sangria cocktail we call “Sorrel” and coconut in some recipe (usually in Rice and Peas). Here is my take on the representation of those three flavours – the sorrel, the coconut and the roast. Not surprisingly, ‘Allspice’, a spice native to Jamaica, features prominently in two of these recipes. No surprise here for this is the queen of all spices and no Jamaican home is ever without it. In fact, a Jamaican home without allspice is like a sailboat without sails!
Festive Jamaican Roast Chicken
- 1.4-1.5gms/3lbs whole fresh chicken
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp coarse cracked black pepper, freshly cracked
- 2 tsp coarse cracked allspice, freshly cracked
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 7 sprigs thyme
- 1⁄2 scotch bonnet pepper (substitute with habanero or extra tsp black pepper)
- 2 tsp cane vinegar
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 stalks scallion/green onions
- Wash and pat dry the chicken.
- Finely chop scotch bonnet/habanero, discarding the seeds.
- Finely dice the garlic and strip thyme leaves from stems and combine with black pepper, allspice, scotch bonnet/habanero, salt, oil, vinegar and mix in a small bowl.
- Thinly slice the green parts of the stems of the green onions and set aside.
- Rub the spice paste all over chicken, getting into every nook and cranny and the cavities as well as the neck area. Gently ease skin away from chicken in the breast and back areas and rub marinade underneath.
- Tuck the sliced green onions under the skin as well.
- Place the white stems of the green onions along with the stems of the thyme inside the cavity. Truss the legs together with kitchen twine. Tuck the wing tips underneath the back of the chicken so that the chicken will present nicely on the table when done.
- Marinate for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.
- Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 180ºC.
- Bring butter to room temperature, diving into two portions and stuff underneath the skin of each breast.
- Roast chicken for an hour, then crank up the oven to 220ºC for another 5-minutes to brown.
- Allow chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
There is always roast on the Jamaican holiday table. Whether it is roast beef, pork or chicken, there is something very festive about a whole piece of meat or poultry oozing with the spicy aromatic flavours that our cuisine is known for. The secret here is using only fresh herbs and freshly grinding your spices for the most sensational flavours. This is a great recipe to adorn your table and please everyone’s palate. Present it whole at the table and carve tableside for extra fanfare!
[This story is exclusive to FoodeMag dxb]