Tag Archives: spice

way to jerk!: Mama’s Jerk Station, Camden

We’re back in Camden Market, this time scouring the West Yard of the Lock Market for something tasty for lunch.

Enter: Mama’s Jerk Station. This family run company specialises in Carribean street food and does it damn well. The short but spicy menu consists of dumpling soup, jerk salad boxes or wraps, all of which are available in a vegetarian variety using jerk bean cakes. Fried plantain is a great side addition and if you’re a real meat-eater then try the sumptuous jerk pork sausage too!

Typical of the Carribean-style jerk spice, Mama’s make fantastic use of hot peppers (scotch bonnet variety), both in the spice-rub on their chicken but also in a fiery hot pepper sauce. If the jerk spices are enough then you can always opt for a dollop of the tropical mayo; an exotic and refreshing drizzle is just what you need to put the fire in your belly out. The chicken is also grilled traditionally, with the added smoky flavour that Carribean jerk food is known for compared to the Jamaican variety, by using charcoal in the grilling drum. The marinade itself is primarily pimento (or allspice) and Scotch Bonnet Peppers but also includes garlic, thyme, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, scallions and salt.

I opted for a jerk chicken salad box. Crisp iceberg lettuce was piled into my polystyrene box, followed by hearty scoops of diced tomato and cucumber; this was surprisingly fresh and with a great bite. Next came grated carrot in Mama’s own coleslaw; light, laid-back on the mayonnaise/cream and with a really defined texture. Finally, the star of the show. Slabs of chicken were pulled off the grill for me and hacked up with a cleaver’s knife. Chunks were then tossed into my box with a drizzle of the hot pepper sauce. The chicken was juicy, mouth-wateringly so, and the spices caught in the back of my throat before raging down my insides. Delicious! The whole box had a freshness and vibrancy that is so often missing from street food. My servers were both friendly, determined to get passers-by to try their food, and wonderfully efficient.

Imagine all the above mentioned stuffed into a pillowy tortilla and you have a fat, saucy wrap bursting with a dose of the Carribean.

Mama’s jerk recipe has passed through the generations, first created in Jamaica as an offshoot of the country’s classic marinade. You can find Mama’s Jerk Station at:

  • West Yard, Camden Lock Market, Camden
  • Vibe Bar, Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane
  • Portobello Road Market, Portobello Road (Saturdays only)

Get jerkin!

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Birmingham Balti to…Kentish Curry? Britain to turn up the heat

Indian and Pakistani cuisine, albeit a rather British version, is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, so much so that we spend £4 billion a year on it. From chicken curries to naan breads and spicy skewered meats to curried vegetables, we all know what our regular orders down the local takeaway consist of.

But did you know that the UK is entirely dependent on imported rice? Plus, the spices in your chicken tikka masala (usually paprika and turmeric) and other flavourings such as chillies, cardamon and fennel, are imported from Asia, South America and China. In a world increasingly aware of the impact of climate change, dishes that are so reliant on imported foodstuffs may well find their popularity changing. I can’t promise it’ll be going anywhere soon but rising populations combined with global warming mean an increasing strain on international food supplies by 2050.

So how to save Britain’s so-called favourite dish and satisfy our spice-seeking appetite? A report commissioned by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that it may be possible to grow herbs and spices in Kent and Lincolnshire. Other recommendations to make the food more sustainable included reducing meat, replacing rice with barley and increasing the use of home-grown ingredients like potatoes, rapeseed oil and, by growing more spices.

So, if you fancy making a curry from your own garden or even just getting a little bit green this summer, here’s a couple of ideas to get you started!

Growing your own Chickpeas:

Chickpeas are a great alternative to rice or other starchy carbohydrates; they are high in fibre and a great source of zinc as well as vegetarian protein. Chickpeas need soil that will be frost-free for at least 3 months to grow in. It is best to give the seedlings a good start by planting them indoors in pots or paper towels around two weeks before the last frost date of your area and transplant them when they are around 4 inches tall. Chickpeas should be planted in areas that can get full sunlight and in loose soil that is well-drained. Plant the seeds about an inch deep with about 2 inches between them. The chickpeas will be ready for harvest around 100 days after they are planted. They can be eaten fresh like sugarsnap beans by picking them when the pods are still green. They are often harvested when the leaves are already brown and the seeds are collected when the pods split after drying.

Paprika:

Paprika is most commonly used to colour dishes like goulashes or to add flavour to stews, rice and often, sausages. Paprika can be grown at home by grounding the pods of paprika peppers to form the powder. It is recommended that you sow the seeds 6-8 weeks before transplanting in a high quality mix in a shallow tray. The soil temperature must be kept above 80°F (27°C) if possible to encourage germination – remember these peppers are usually grown in hot countries like Hungary and Spain. One popular option is to use a heating cable or set the pots on a water heater. The seedlings will emerge in 7 to 15 days. Once germinated, move your plants to bright sunlight and keep the soil moist. Allow the peppers to turn red before drying for grinding. Cut them off the plant and hang them to dry in direct sun before using a coffee blender or grinder to crush them to form the powder.

These are just starting ideas – there are so many things you can grow in your house and garden!

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