WELCOME TO SPICE MONTH!
I’ve had a great response over the past few weeks to the ‘what the hell do I put that in’ spice month idea. Thanks to all who threw in their choice. The #1 request was ALLSPICE also known as Jamaican Pepper or Pimenta. The smell & taste of ground allspice is really aromatic and flavourful and is almost like a mix of spices like cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, though it’s not a mix at all. Rather, it is the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant.
You may know allspice from hot spiced cider or pumpkin pie but what about in savory cooking? Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine and Jamaican Jerk has become one of my favourite dishes to date. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (called “pimento” in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers, the hottest peppers on the planet. (Don’t use them and then go to the bathroom, believe me it’s no fun…….I’ve heard.) I remember the first time the Missus made this for me, very vividly in fact–I was convinced she was trying to blow my head off. Being from Ireland, we’re not exactly renowned for our spicy palates so needless to say this was an experience for me. I looked like I was sunburned with my big red head and the river of sweat running down my face. Not pretty. That’s what I call the curse of the habanero. Since then, we’ve scaled it back and have mastered the recipe so both the savory and sweet sides marry with a gentle little kick of spice.
As you can see, this recipe has several spices involved which makes it a champion on the health brigade. Allspice is an effective digestive aid so the consumption of allspice with meals can result in stronger digestion, can reduce gas and bloating, and can ease nausea. Thyme is rich in germ-killing compounds. Cinnamon is a metabolism booster that also helps ease diarrhea and drys up the sniffles. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which interferes with pain transmission and can increase metabolism and fat-burning ability by up to 25%. Can’t beat that for health in a meal!
My favourite Jerk dish to eat uses Seitan, though traditionally in the Caribbean, Jerk was meant for pork or goat. Since I haven’t come across too many goats here in Venice, I’ve made the seitan and pork for you along with chicken.
2 lbs Organic grass-fed Chicken (portioned, ie. breasts, thighs, drumsticks)/Pork Loin
or 2 lbs Seitan
JERK SAUCE RECIPE:
1 tbsp + 1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp cayenne (or more if you can handle the heat)
1 1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp + 1 tsp agave
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (or use a whole one or even a habanero if you’re feeling daring)
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 large lime – juiced
1 large white or yellow onion – chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce (I like San-J’s organic wheat free tamari)
1/3 cup olive oil
Before you get nervous of all the ingredients, trust me when I say it’s worth it. Besides, the rest of the prep & cooking is easy peasy.
TIP: Whether you’re using a jalapeno or a habanero, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after handling or wear gloves. Also, if you’re nervous about the heat, start by using 1/2 of my recommendation. You can always add in more along the way but you can never go back.
I use pre-packaged Seitan I get from Wholefoods market though I’m going to give it a go myself one of these days. I like both kinds so I used both (2 boxes of each). Take the seitan out of the package and cut it into chunks/slices and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add all remaining ingredients in a blender and blitz until well combined. Taste and adjust heat to your desired taste. NOTE: Can be made a day ahead but keep in mind that the heat graduates over time.
Pour jerk sauce over seitan and marinate for at least an hour. Refrigerate ’till needed.
When ready to cook add sauce and Seitan in large saucepan and simmer over medium low heat for 30-40 minutes, until sauce thickens. The Seitan is already ‘cooked’ so you’re really only cooking the sauce and letting the seitan absorb the jerk seasonings. If you’ve never tried seitan, don’t judge it on it’s looks, it’s damn tasty and this is an excellent way to introduce yourself to the ‘wheat meat.’
Follow the Jerk sauce directions as above. Place all chicken pieces in large casserole dish and pour jerk sauce over to marinate. Refrigerate from between 2 and 4 hours.
Remove from fridge 30 minutes before cooking to let return to room temp. Save some of the Jerk sauce for basting while grilling,
You have two options here to cook the dish.
1. Put chicken and sauce in large deep skillet and cook on medium heat covered until meat falls off the bone. Basically the same method as the Seitan for approx 1 1/4 hours.
2. Grill ’em up (as I did). Fire up the barbecue and sear each side ’til golden and cooked through. Keep basting chicken pieces with marinade while grilling. If you feel the outside of the chicken is getting too charred, move the chicken directly away from the heat to where the flame isn’t as high. Cook for between 20 – 25 minutes. The dark meat will take longer to cook.
Marinate refrigerated from 4-6 hours. Because of the lime juice, don’t marinate it overnight. The citrus will start to cook the meat and you don’t want that.
Remove pork from fridge 1 hour before cooking to let the meat return to room temp.
Preheat oven to 420°F.
Preheat grill or large grill pan if cooking indoors. Season pork on all sides with S&P and sear on high heat for 3 minutes each side or until nicely browned. Save some of the marinade for basting.
Place on a foiled oven tray and add 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth. Baste the seared pork with more of the jerk sauce before putting in the oven. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, approx or until internal temp 160F. Baste again after 10 minutes. I add the broth to help keep the pork moist by creating steam in the oven. I use this method on lean proteins like pork, chicken and turkey as they are lower in fat so tend to dry out easier while cooking.
Remove and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. This enables the juices to redistribute back into the meat.
Spice Week recipe 1…….Done. Make sure you let me know how whatever recipe you try works out.
All recipes are made with the finest quality farmers market whole foods, natural and non-processed ingredients as much as possible.