I've been running the kitchen gauntlet today, putting myself through my paces and trying a few things I've never done before. Now my track record with new recipes isn't good. I do tend to get a bit over-excited and mess up the first time by not reading things properly and missing some crucial step or thinking that my culinary instincts are so sharp that I can replace one missing ingredient with something I actually have in the cupboard, usually based around the fact that they kind of look similar or even that they start with the same letter (I do not recommend this method). Anyway, you may remember me mentioning eating some Jerk Chicken earlier in the week. It was from a stall in the market and I've been having to stop myself going back everyday for lunch, it was damn good and I woke up this morning determined to figure out how the boys down there were making it and to cook some up of my own.
The boys in the market were only too happy when I asked them what I needed to make my own. As long as you understand that by only too happy, I mean they were only too happy to laugh in my face and proceed to take the mickey for about 10 minutes. Hmm. My own fault for expecting those boys to give up the trade secrets.
So, digging about on the web and in some stolen minutes of research in the bookshop I found a couple of different recipes and tried to distill what I thought were pretty much the basic ingredients. I condensed it down to a mix of ground allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, chili, garlic, thyme, sage, vinegar, juice of an orange, sugar, shallots, olive oil and soy sauce (that bit didn't sound very authentic, but hey). I marinated some filleted chicken thighs in this mix and left em to soak up the good stuff. I prefer thighs for marinated chicken, it has more flavour and soaks up more marinade and stays moist even if I screw things up.
In my wanderings I'd bought some lovely looking saffron so decided to see if a saffron pilaf would work not being that keen on the kidney beans that usually accompany the rice with this dish.
Anyway, in the mean time I'd set myself the task of making one of my favourite puddings and one that I'd never attempted to make before, panna cotta. Frankly, I'm not hopeful. I've cooked up the cream with nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and cardamom but I think I may have had it all at the wrong temperature when I mixed in the gelatin. Time will tell and keep your fingers crossed for the rest of this post that they set.
Back to the chicken. After a couple of hours in the marinade I reckoned we were good to go. I cooked them on a really high heat on the hot plate (a flame grill would have been way better but I live in the UK and on the 3rd floor, weather and my balcony would not allow). I allowed the marinade to reduce away quickly and then to catch and caramelise.
Ok, so I'm not quite there yet, I was pretty impressed with my first go as was the girlfriend, having been watching with some bemusement most of the day). It needs some tinkering with ingredients and ratios of some flavours to others. If anyone has any hints I'd love some help with this one.
Now, I just have to stop myself checking those damn panna cotta every 10 minutes. Here's hoping.