Jamaican recipes have a distinct flavor that captures the essence of the island nation. Passed down from generation to generation and incorporating the unique ingredients from that corner of the Caribbean, Jamaican food features spicy, savory comfort foods that add a twist to the regular fare.
Here are some tips for making a Jamaican meal. To really keep things authentic, serve your Jamaican dishes along with Red Stripe beer, a Jamaican beer with a distinctive bottle.
Jamaican Jerk Marinade
(adapted from the Jamaican Jerk Sauce recipe on about.com)
A classic cornerstone of Jamaican cooking is Jamaican jerk seasoning. This seasoning can be used on chicken or pork:
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ground allspice
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves
- 5 to 8 Scotch bonnet peppers, depending on how spicy you want your dish
- 1 Tbsp. ground thyme
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 to 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- green onions, sliced
- Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
To get the most from this marinade, marinate your chicken or pork overnight and then grill the meat on a barbeque. Enjoy with fried plantains or rice and peas (see recipes below).
Ackee and Salt Fish
(adapted from the Ackee and Saltfish recipe on Jamaicans.com)
The national dish of Jamaica is ackee and salt fish, or cod. Ackee is a tropical, pepper-like fruit that you should be able to find in a specialty food store. Canned ackee may be substituted.
- 1/2 lb. cod fillets, bones removed
- 12 pitted and washed ackees
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 or 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, depending on your heat preference
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Boil the cod for approximately six minutes. Drain and then flake the fish using two forks.
- Boil the ackees until they are soft.
- Sautee the onion with the bell pepper, Scotch bonnets and thyme until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown.
- Add in cod and ackee and continue to saut for a minute or two to combine the flavors.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
(adapted from the Curried Goat recipe on JamaicanCooking.com)
Another traditional Jamaican entre is curried goat. You will likely be able to find goat (also called mutton) at a specialty butcher shop:
- 2 lbs. goat
- 4 cloves garlic, mined
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 1 green onion, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper
- chopped parsley, for garnish
- Create a rub by combining the garlic, yellow onion, green onion, Scotch bonnet pepper, curry powder and salt.
- Rub this on the goat and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a pan large enough to hold the goat. Brown the goat on all sides.
- Once the meat is browned on the outside, add the water and allow to simmer until the meat is cooked through and tender, approximately one hour.
- Place the goat on a serving platter and garnish with the parsley.
Jamaican Side Dishes
Two famous Jamaican side dishes are fried plantains and rice and peas. These starchy sides perfectly accompany the spicy proteins listed above and are also great Jamaican vegetarian options.
(adapted from Sweet Fried Plantains recipes on Jamaican-Recipes.com)
- 4 plantains (yellow or spotted brown)
- vegetable oil, for frying
- Take the plantains out of their sleeves and cut them at an angle into 1/4-inch chips.
- In a large pan, heat enough vegetable oil for frying over medium-high heat. The oil should reach at least 1/2 an inch up the side of the pan.
- Fry the plantains gently, allowing them to get golden brown on each side.
- Transfer the plantains to a plate with a paper towel to drain the grease.
- Serve hot.
Rice and Peas
(adapted from Jamaican Rice and Peas from Cooks.com)
- 1 can kidney beans, drained
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 1/4 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock can be substituted for a vegetarian version)
- 1 cup rice
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- two green onion, sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked.
Cooks.com (2007). Jamaican Rice and Peas. Retrieved October 9, 2007, from the cooks.com Web site: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1950,153174-230203,00.html.
JamaicaCooking.com (2007). Curried Goat. Retrieved October 9, 2007, from the JamaicaCooking.com Web site: http://www.jamaicacooking.com/recipes/CurriedGoat.htm.
Jamaicans.com (2007). Ackee and Saltfish. Retrieved October 9, 2007, from the Jamaicans.com Web site: http://www.jamaicans.com/cooking/traditional/ackee.shtml.
Jamaican-recipes.com (2007). Sweet fried plantains.
Retrieved October 9, 2007, from the Jamaican-recipes.com Web site: http://www.jamaican-recipes.com/friedplantains.html.
Morin, Christine (2007). Jamaican Jerk Sauce recipe. Retrieved October 9, 2007, from the about.com Web site: http://homecooking.about.com/od/condimentrecipes/r/blsauce13