Caribbean food has featured on this blog before and it probably will again, given we’re now less than four weeks from our trip to New Orleans and Creole cooking shares many of the same culinary touchstones. If you too are a fan of the spicy, flavoursome tastes of the Caribbean then I have some excellent news: Caribbean Food Week 2016 is fast approaching, and there’s no better excuse to get involved!
Established in 2012 by Grace Foods, the UK’s largest supplier of Caribbean food and drink, Caribbean Food Week is all about celebrating and showcasing the delicious tastes of this part of the world. This year, the brand will close its celebrations with a two-day Caribbean Food Festival in Brixton in London, complete with cooking demos, live music, a Caribbean market – and, of course, street food.
Ahead of this year’s celebrations, Grace Foods got in touch and asked me if I’d help them get in the spirit by cooking up a Caribbean-inspired street party spread at home. To help me in my quest, they promised a hamper full of some of their bestselling products – as well as some other street party essentials. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I readily accepted – and that was before I learned that there would be an inflatable palm tree in the box…
Of course, I live in Scotland – where the street party weather is rarely guaranteed (apart from on the day I’m sitting down to write this, naturally) – and I’m just back from a holiday, and haven’t really had time to invite people over. So my spread is a little less “street” party, a little more “Lis and Stringer in their kitchen” party…
One thing I quickly found myself loving about Grace is that they don’t just sell the products – they’re keen to help us culinary tourists get the most out of them too. Their website is packed with serving suggestions and recipes using the products from their various ranges – and so that was my first port of call when planning my menu.
As much as I love jerk chicken, it seemed like a bit of a cop-out to make it again – so, after scanning the freezer to see what meat we had, I ended up needing to find a recipe for pork chops. I asked, Grace delivered – the Perk Up Coriander and Lime pork chops, cooked in a marinade of lime juice, garlic and Dunns River Jamaican Jerk seasoning, are so simple to make and absolutely delicious.
Despite my continuing failure to get the rice-to-liquid proportions right, no Caribbean spread is complete without traditional rice and peas – and I found most of the staple ingredients in my hamper, including tins of Grace Foods-branded coconut milk and kidney beans/gungo peas. Despite adding a little less water and a little more rice than called for by the recipe on the side of the coconut milk tin, this was once again a wee bit too soggy for my tastes – although I really enjoyed the addition of the authentic beans and peas instead of yer bog-standard Tesco Basics can of kidney beans. The standard recipe, which uses up a whole can of coconut milk, is supposed to serve four – but we still have a big glass bowl of leftovers in the fridge, making it perfect for a street-party themed spread.
To make sure we had some properly “picky” party food on the table – and so that we were properly carb-loading – I thought I would whip up some simple chunky chips with spicy jerk ketchup along the lines of the recipe on the Grace Foods site. Of course, I only went and forgot to pick up ketchup when I went out for some additional supplies, so instead I sprinkled our chips with Dunns River tropical seasoning before they went in the oven and served up with a mixture of sauces from the hamper. This was an excellent call, which I can thoroughly recommend – I suspect the tub of tropical seasoning will be getting plenty of use!
(Yes, I used frozen chunky chips. Of course I could have made my own chips or wedges from scratch but LEAVE ME ALONE I HAVE A JOB.)
Of course, no Caribbean spread is complete without a tasty tropical drink – but there was only one can of ginger beer in the hamper and even though I’d been slaving in the kitchen all day it’s Stringer’s favourite drink and I am an excellent wife. Had this been a proper street party I would have picked up a bottle of the stuff and mixed it with dark rum and lime wedges for a delicious dark ‘n’ stormy – or made a pitcher of Jamaican Pimms, which is definitely happening at some point in the future.
Happy tummies all round here, and a few new ideas to add to my repertoire of recipes – which, come to think of it, is pretty much what Caribbean Food Week is all about.
Do you like Caribbean food? Has this post inspired you to try it for yourself at home?
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.