Last year, I was asked by the UK’s leading Caribbean food and drink company, Grace Foods, to come up with a Caribbean-style street party spread in time for their annual Caribbean Food Week celebrations. Well, I must have done something right because last week, another hamper of products from Grace Food brands showed up at my door ahead of Caribbean Food Week 2017!
Grace Foods has been importing Caribbean food and drink products to the UK from its Kingston, Jamaica headquarters since 1922 under its own name and a host of subsidiary brands, including Encona Sauces and Dunn’s River ingredients. Grace launched Caribbean Food Week in 2012 to help raise awareness of and celebrate Caribbean cuisine around the UK – and this year’s event, which runs from 21st – 28th August, will once again culminate in a two-day Caribbean street party at Windrush Square, Brixton in London.
Although my hamper contained the bits and pieces I needed to whip up some of my favourite tastes of the Caribbean – the spices and seasonings behind a decent jerk chicken, for example; and the tins of coconut milk and peas and beans that are the essential components of a traditional rice and peas – this year I thought I’d get a little bit more creative. So I adapted a recipe I’d had stuck to my fridge for some time, switching out Dunn’s River jerk chicken fry mix for the dried spice component, and served up some tasty fish tacos.
Now, this would have been way easier if my oven wasn’t Dante’s Inferno itself: my roasted red peppers were practically black before I hit time to add the seasoned cod to the oven. But I’ve learned for next time, and there’s enough of that powdered jerk fry mix to keep me going for a good few future attempts!
Stringer is a firm believer that anything tastes better in a tortilla, and I love picky dinners – so the fish tacos were a big hit! I used mini flour tortillas instead of taco shells, loaded with flaky cod, roasted peppers, red onion salsa, crisp lettuce and chopped coriander. If you’re feeling brave, finish off with a dash of Grace Foods hot pepper sauce – but be warned, Stringer tried this and had to practically down a can of ginger beer to tame the fire in his belly!
As a side, and in keeping with the street party theme of the Caribbean Food Week campaign, I served up a bowl of Grace Foods sweet plantain chips with a selection of sauces. Plantain is a starchy, low-sugar fruit, very similar to a banana, that is often used in place of potato in Caribbean and West African cooking. They can also be fried and sold as a packaged snack, which Grace Foods does along the same lines as crisps.
Now, I confess that my tame Western palette is not a huge fan of these – it’s not you, plantain, it’s me, as I hate every other type of so-called “healthy” vegetable crisps too. So I also bought a bag of bog-standard tortilla chips for scooping up the sweet, spicy hot sauces supplied in the hamper.
Of course, no good street party is complete without booze, and it just so happens that one of my favourite drinks makes liberal use of a good old-fashioned fiery Jamaican ginger beer. The dark n’ stormy actually originated in Bermuda and features two main ingredients: a good dark rum (the “dark”: it should, apparently, be Gosling’s as they own the trade mark on the drink but you try finding that in your neighbourhood Tesco); and a decent ginger beer (the “stormy”).
I make mine with loads of ice and lime wedges – you can add a dash of lime juice too, if you want, although then you’re technically getting away from the traditional recipe. You can even try ‘floating’ the rum on top of the ginger beer to make a layered dark n’ stormy if you want to get fancy.
If you fancy celebrating Caribbean Food Week, you can find loads of ideas and recipes on the Grace Foods website – the food is really easy to make, and the results are so worth it. Grace Foods products are stocked by all the major UK supermarket chains, and in some convenience stores too!
You can find out how Grace Foods and others are celebrating over on Twitter, under the hashtag #CFW2017.
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.