Feeling hot, hot, hot?

Whatever the weather, cooking a Caribbean feast is guaranteed to bring sunshine – and heat – to your kitchen. Here are the essential ingredients you'll need that form the basis of many popular island dishes.

Feeling hot, hot, hot?

Although referred to as one cuisine, the food cooked in the Caribbean differs from island to island. Broadly, it’s a hotchpotch of African, Indian, Chinese, British and European cooking. But one thing you can guarantee is that whatever you choose – be it famous Jamaican jerk or rice and peas or curry goat and roti – Caribbean dishes are full of flavour and spice.

Other useful ingredients are thyme, lime, spring onions (also known as scallions), black-eyed beans, kidney beans and rice.


Allspice (pimento)

This is the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant, although it's often mistaken for being a combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper, due to its multi-layered flavour. Very popular in Jamaican cooking (it is a main ingredient in jerk seasoning – see below), it's also used in other Caribbean dishes such as curries and stews. Allspice is readily available amongst the herbs and spices in the supermarket.

Fresh rosemary and fennel jerked pork

Fresh rosemary and fennel jerked pork

Marinate this pork to give a lovely taste, and then throw it on the barbie with rosemary and fennel. Delicious!

 


Coconut

This is the base for many curries, soups and stews, so always have coconut milk in your store cupboard. You can now also buy chunks of fresh coconut from some supermarkets such as Waitrose.

Rice and peas

Rice and peas

Rice and peas is a very well-known Jamaican recipe. In Jamaica, ‘peas’ is used to describe red kidney beans.

Coconut crème brûlée

Coconut crème brûlée

You can make this in ramekins or shallow brûlée dishes for a stylish pudding. It will make you feel like you’re at the end of a long lunch in the sun, with a lazy afternoon ahead.

 


Coriander

Shado beni is a leafy green herb used a lot in Caribbean cooking, and is tough to find in the UK, although you may find it in specialist stores. The flavour is very similar to coriander, which is a fine substitute.

Sunny vegetable patties

Sunny vegetable patties

Patties are the Jamaican answer to fast food. This vegetarian, Rasta-style patty uses bright, healthy veg and spiced yellow Jamaican pastry.

Caribbean chicken with rice and black beans

Caribbean chicken with rice and black beans

A moreish taste of the Caribbean, and for less than £1.50 a head.

 


Ginger

This is a popular spice in the Caribbean, and is also used to make the Christmas Caribbean drink, sorrel (made with sorrel flowers), as well as ginger beer.

Jerk pork fillet with spicy pineapple relish

Jerk pork fillet with spicy pineapple relish

A totally tropical and very healthy pork recipe – perfect for the BBQ.

 


Green seasoning

Green seasoning is a base in many Caribbean dishes. It's a herb paste that's used to marinate meat or fish and is very popular in Trinidad, although other islands have their own variations. It can include shado beni (coriander), chives, flatleaf parsley, thyme, oregano, Scotch bonnets and spring onions. Simply chop or blitz all the ingredients into a paste and add some water or lime juice. It should keep in an air-tight container for a few days, or you can freeze in ice cube containers for several months.

 


Jerk seasoning

Native to Jamaica, jerk seasoning is rubbed onto meat (usually pork or chicken) prior to cooking over charcoal. Jerk seasoning is made up of allspice and Scotch bonnets, cloves, cinnamon, spring onions, thyme, garlic and nutmeg. It’s readily available in supermarkets.

Easy jerk chicken

Easy jerk chicken

This is a quick and easy version of a classic Jamaican dish

Jamaican spiced potato wedges

Jamaican spiced potato wedges

Once you've tried this tasty snack recipe, you'll be serving it at any given opportunity, from summer barbecues to parties.

 


Scotch bonnet chillies

These wonderful chillies are a staple of Caribbean cooking. Similar to habaneros, they have an incredible fruity flavour but are fiery hot – most have a heat rating of 150,000-325,000 Scovilles, compared to jalapenos, which have a rating of 2,500-8,000. So-called because of its resemblance to the Scottish tam o’shanter hat, Scotch Bonnets can be chopped up (with or without seeds depending on how brave you are!) or kept whole to give flavour and some heat, without blowing your head off. They also form the basis of a very hot pepper sauce, a condiment eaten with most dishes, however spicy those dishes already are. Handily, Scotch Bonnets are now available in most supermarkets, even if they sometimes originate from Holland and not the sunny islands!

Jamaican spiced corn soup

Jamaican spiced corn soup

This Jamaican flavoured soup is hot and spicy, but the creamy coconut milk tempers the fiery heat of the Scotch bonnet chilli. This is great to store in the freezer.

 


Tamarind

This tropical fruit has a sweet-sour flavour that can be an acquired taste. It helps to tenderise meat and adds extra depth to dishes, including curries and stews. In Trinidad and Tobago, it's used to make sweets. Some Caribbean stores will sell fresh pods; tamarind paste is readily available in the supermarket.

Easy coconut and tamarind chutney

Easy coconut and tamarind chutney

Try this quick and easy-to-make taste of the exotic.

 


More Caribbean recipes

Caribbean recipes

Caribbean recipes

Want to bring some sunshine into your world but can't afford the time or the air fare? Let the light in with food – our Caribbean recipes are the very spice of life.

 


Caribbean cookbook

Food for Friends by Levi Roots

Food for Friends by Levi Roots

Made famous by his sauces on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, Levi Roots is the king of Caribbean cooking. His latest book shows brings sunshine and spice to entertaining.

 

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