Recipe: Jerk Conch + Other Non-Traditional Jamaican Jerk Dishes

conch shell beachA cherished pastime of my dad’s is fishing. I recall many times he came back boasting about his catch, while some trips brought home nothing but disappointment. Nonetheless, one of my fondest memories is standing around our home-made jerk pan with packets of foil paper housing the most delicious (and spiciest) jerk conch, while tearing off chunks of hard dough bread to sop up the juices.

Conch meat is revered worldwide for its unique taste and aphrodisiac properties. The meat is extracted from its shell, pounded to tenderize, and marinated in jerk seasoning. The little bits of succulence usually get wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill, and is ready for eating in about 30 minutes. What you get is sweet, tender chunks of conch swimming in its own spicy juices from the jerk marinade. Deliciousness!

conch meat
Recipe: Jamaican Jerk Conch (My dad’s recipe)

Tips before cooking conch:

  1. Scrape conch lightly with a sharp knife to clean.
  2. Gut it and use a heavy object, e.g. a hammer to pound it – that will tenderize the conch. You can also pressure it to soften it.
  • 3 lbs. of conch, cleaned, pounded to tenderize
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 stalks escallion
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small scotch bonnet pepper
  • 2 tbsp. jerk seasoning blend (dad makes his own)
  • Butter (about a stick)
  • 1 pack vegetable soup mix noodles
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Clean conch and cut into small 1” pieces. Using a pressure cooker, cook the conch in salted water for 20 minutes and strain.
  2. Dice onion, escallion, thyme, garlic and pepper and mix with jerk seasoning and the pack of soup mix noodles. (If jerk seasoning is already salty, separate noodles from the soup mix before combining.)
  3. Combine conch pieces and seasonings and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Put small portions into foil, and seal properly, and place on a grill and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Serve with festival or hard dough bread.

Check out these other non-traditional jerk recipes:

     1. Jerk Lobster (adapted from Jamaicans.com)

Ingredients

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 tsp. Jerk Seasoning
  • ½ cup Butter
  • 2 whole scallions
  • 2 tsps. lemon/lime juice
  • ½ tsp. of Jamaica Pickapeppa sauce or 3 drops of Jamaican hot pepper sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Thinly slice the scallions.
  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet.
  3. Lightly sauté the scallions until golden.
  4. Add the 3 teaspoons of lemon juice.
  5. Add ½ teaspoon of Jamaica Pickapeppa sauce or 3 drops of Jamaican hot pepper sauce optional depending on your taste).
  6. Let it simmer for about 1 min. then set aside.
  7. Remove the membrane from the lobster tails.
  8. Use a sharp knife to split the lobster tail in half (length).
  9. Use a brush to put the butter sauce on each tail.
  10. Using the same brush spread the Jerk sauce over the tails especially on the exposed meat. Put your oven setting to broil.
  11. Put the lobster tails in oven on the meat side for 4 minutes, turn and then cook the shell side for 2 minutes.
  12. If you want a more smoked taste, you should cook the lobster tails for 2 minutes on each side in the oven, then place on a barbeque grill for 3 minutes. You may need to add more Jerk sauce if you put it on the barbeque grill.

Serve with Jamaican Festival and/or Bammy. You can also serve with Jamaican hardo bread.

Servings: 4

Read more about jerk lobster and where it can be found here.

2. Jerk Lamb (adapted from: goodwillfarms.com)

Ingredients:

  • /3 cup allspice
  • 3 Scotch bonnet peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 scallions chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • A touch of soy sauce can be added to moisten the mixture.

Instructions:

  1. Blend ingredients until smooth.
  2. Rub the lamb with the blended seasoning.
  3. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  4. Grill over a low fire until done

Read more about jerk lamb and where it can be found here

3.  Jerk Rabbit (Found at: http://prairibbeancookbook.blogspot.com/2010/09/jerk-rabbit-with-wild-rice-n-peas.html)

Serves 4-6.

  • 3-4 lb rabbit, cut up into pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 6-10 chopped green onions
  • 1.5 c soy sauce
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 0.5 c vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, and allspice

Method

  1. Place rabbit parts in a bowl.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender for about 15 seconds.
  3. Pour mixture over rabbit and coat evenly.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to broil and place rack at the top.
  6. Broil about 20 minutes, turning meat 2-3 times until browned and crispy on all sides.

Read more about jerk rabbit and where it can be found here.

pan chicken jerk

4. Jerk Pig’s Tail with Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Glaze (By Executive Chef George Matthews – found at www.popupgourmetjamaica.com)

  • PREP TIME: 1 Hour
  • DIFFICULTY:  Easy
  • YIELD:  2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. pig’s tail
  • 1/2 jerk marinade (your favourite brand)
  • 1/2 cup strong Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Prepare pig’s tail. Wash and cut at joints
  2. Boil for 45 minutes and drain
  3. Season with jerk marinade.
  4. Grill the pig’s tail for 2 minutes on each side, best done on an outdoor grill, otherwise preheat your grill pan.
  5. Boil Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and honey until reduced by half and syrupy
  6. Pour sauce over pig’s tail. Serve

Read more about jerk pigstail and where it can be found here.

     5. Jerked Goat Ribs

Recipe provided by aspiring Jamaican chef Brittany Blackwood.

Tip: The younger the billy, the sweeter the meat.

  • 2lbs goat ribs
  • 2oz Salt
  • 3oz black pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2oz sugar
  • 2oz vegetable oil
  • 2-4oz fresh mint leaves

Method

Oven cooking:

  1. Depending on the size of the rib, cut into smaller pieces. Cover with 2-3cups of water and cook pressure cooker for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
  2. After you’ve removed it from the pressure cooker, season with salt and pepper and transfer immediately to a grill/jerkpan/griddle/oven dish. (see below for grill/jerk pan method).
  3. Add mint leaves to the remaining liquid in the pot and allow to steep.
  4. Baste the garlic with oil and add to roasting pan/oven dish. Add goat ribs to pan, cover fully with foil and allow to roast for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes remove garlic from oven and remove cloves from trash. Continue cooking goat uncovered in the oven.
  6. Blend garlic w/ goat mint stock until smooth. Strain.
  7. Reduce the liquid for 5-10 minutes.
  8. While the sauce is being made, the goat should be caramelizing in the oven. If not add a little a bit of sugar to the top.
  9. Leave goat rib in the oven for a next 30 minutes. Begin to baste after 30 minutes with reduced mint liquid and continue to do so for a next 15.
  10. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  11. Enjoy

Grill/jerk pan cooking:

  1. After removing goat rib from oven (step 4 aboe), place on hot grill surface, turning the goat rib every 20 minutes.
  2. After one hour on the grill, move to a medium low heat side of the grill and periodically baste the goat rib with mint liquid until done. (2hrs)
  3. Goat rib should be soft and caramelized.

Other possibilities:

Other notable jerk dishes – usually found at specialized eateries or at one of the many Jerk Festivals held throughout the year – include: jerked tofu; reindeer (yes); saltfish; and crab. Oh yea, and JERKED ICE CREAM.

Read more about these and other non-traditional ways to enjoy Jamaican jerk in this recently published article by F1rst Media and download their all-new and exciting mobile app to search, discover, connect, and share local places in the Caribbean.

One love,
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FREE Smoothies + Grand Opening of Toss & Roll Salad Bar New Location

A few months ago I published a post on my experience at Toss and Roll, one of Kingston’s hottest and most recently opened salad bars. Since then I’ve received a number of great reviews from friends and colleagues who have eaten there, but the main concern was the location; it didn’t offer much seating capacity, and the limited al fresco set-up meant it only allowed for casual lunch meet ups. But that’s all about to change.

As was expected, things kicked off and the demand for more space, longer opening hours, and a more central location became pertinent. Just under nine months in, Toss and Roll will be relocating to 75 Hope Road (beside the recently opened Opa! Greek Restaurant) and will extend their hours to 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The redesigned menu will feature a variety of new dishes including a breakfast fare, assorted teas and smoothies, along with long-standing crowd favourites. 

Toss and Roll New Location2 Toss and Roll New Location3

Of course, fitness junkies and owners Keisha and Jermaine Bailey have managed to keep the menu quite clean and lean with fresh fruits and veggies, whole wheat offerings, and lean meats.

Come and check out their grand opening tomorrow Saturday, January 25 and enjoy discounts and free smoothies.

Toss and Roll Grand Opening

Eat right, live better.

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The Secret to True Jamaican Jerk (Nearshore Americas article)

By virtue of my job, I was recently approached to write an article on Scotchies Jerk Centre for Nearshore Americas, a media company that covers outsourcing related news in the Americas. (Their Off Hours feature highlight the culture and lifestyles of each location.)

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This was a great opportunity as it allowed me to exercise my food blogging skills while showcasing one of Jamaica’s most renowned cuisines. In my line of work I am constantly looking for new and intriguing ways to promote Jamaica as an ideal location to do business, and food is always a great way to advertise our culture and lure prospective investors to the island. 

Jamaica. The name instantly evokes an image of pristine waters embraced by immaculate sandy shores, with a year-round welcoming sun and hospitable people. But there’s much more to this humble island of 2.8 million inhabitants. An innate creativity and abundance of natural resources allow for an extensive selection of exquisite and remarkably unique products such as Jamaican jerk. Read more on Nearshore Americas’ website here:  http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/secret-true-jamaican-jerk/

One love,

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Stephen’s Cream Cheese and Smoked Marlin Spread

Recently my workplace celebrated its 25th anniversary, and boy was it fancy! The lobby that usually welcomes eager staff members and corporate heavyweights alike, along with the adjoining business auditorium that hosted many an event were now transformed into Kingston’s newest nightclub. Well, at least that’s what it felt like.

Anywho, I somehow got involved in the planning process. It started when I was consulted on the alcohol line-up for the night’s proceedings. And no, I am not an alcoholic, but I was pretty adamant that there needed to be a bar, with a seating area, and white rum, and red wine. Again, I am NOT an alcoholic. In all of the excitement, the idea for a cheese station transcended my thoughts and landed on the ears of the planning committee. Suddenly it became a thing – my thing. Thanks Bev! I found myself negotiating cheese prices with a distributor, setting foot in strangers’ (yes, more than one) houses to source cheeseboards and fancy crockery, and coming up with a lavish but practical way to present all that was happening in my head.

Stephen's smoked marlin cream cheese spread 2

In addition to a cheese plate (I ended up using white cheddar, pepperjack and muenster) I had an idea for a cheese dip of sorts. I’ve never attempted this before but I figured it couldn’t be that hard. And thankfully it wasn’t.  Here’s how I did it.

You’ll need:

  • Three 8oz blocks of cream cheese
  • Two 4oz packs of smoked marlin
  • 4oz sour cream
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice from 2 limes
  • handful of fresh parsley (flat leaf), stems removed, roughly chopped
  • fresh dill, roughly chopped, about 2 tbsp
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Accompaniments: pepper jelly, pesto, (flavoured) honey

Cheese plate

Method:

  1. Ensure cream cheese and smoked marlin have come to room temperature so it’s easier to work with.
  2. In a food processor, add room temperature cream cheese, sour cream, onion, garlic, lime juice, parsley and dill and process well.
  3. Add smoked marlin and pulse to combine. Ensure not to over process.
  4. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and allow to chill for at least 8 hours in order for flavours to develop.

Cheese station - accompaniments

This will yield quite an amount, so you can adjust the portions accordingly. I find this goes best with plain crackers, and the suggested accompaniments (pepper jelly, pesto and flavoured honey) make a good pairing. The spread improves on taste over time, so make it a day ahead. You can substitute your favourite fresh herbs, but the dill really elevated this recipe.

Stephen's smoked marlin cream cheese spread 1

This recipe was a huge hit and makes for an impressive appetizer for any occasion! I’m still receiving compliments and recipe requests.

Oh yea, we had a GREAT time. Let’s leave that there.

Staff party

One love,

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Maintaining Healthy Habits During the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, you may (should?) be worrying about maintaining the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to develop during the year. Never-ending Christmas dinner parties and free booze make it rather challenging to stay focused on low-carb diets and high-cardio regimes. For me, and possibly everyone else, Christmas is the time families are united over a dinner spread fit for a (ravenous) king. Moreover, who wants to be that guy who refuses the fruitcake and wine? Psshhh.

The holidays will throw every bit of temptation in your face, and sure as hell it’ll be delicious, but you can still stay winning. Here are a few tips how:

1. Be True To Yourself

If you’re planning to lose pounds during the holidays, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, try to maintain your current weight and fitness level. You’re not off the hook so easily; you have to make time for some amount of exercise. It may not be your ideal 40-60 minutes uphill sprint, but a quick 20 minutes maintenance run should do the trick in burning that extra glass of Merlot you managed to gulp down while saying your goodbyes. (C’mon, I know I’m not the only one who does this. Right?)

2. Pre-game Before Heading Out

No, I don’t mean to gulp down booze, (actually, you may want to skip this), but actually to snack on something light and healthy (some veggies, a pack of nuts, fruit) before storming out to that Christmas dinner. This will avoid being too hungry to think when you’ve arrived and not caring about what makes its way to your mouth, and ultimately to your thighs (or in my case, everywhere but).

3. Portion Control 

Portion control should be part of your regular yearlong regime, and it’s no different during the holidays. In fact, it’s even more important now that calories abound, masked by delicious and free. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until you can’t feel your ribs. Take a stroll around the buffet before you start loading your plate with every item. Choose wisely. I usually skip carbs and head straight for meats and veggies. But be careful, those too can pack a caloric punch. If you overeat at one meal, go light on the next. Portion control should also be extended to beverages, both alcoholic and not. A glass of your favourite drink can pack more calories than a dinner plate.

4. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is probably the simplest (not necessarily easiest) strategy here. And there are a few reasons why this is important. Firstly, the body often-times confuses hunger with thirst as the symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) are pretty much the same. Also, for people like myself whose inhibitions for booze consumption is rather minuscule during this period, staying hydrated is really vital. As a rule of thumb, to avoid dehydration for every cocktail you consume, drink a glass of water.

5. Get some Zzz’s

With all the festivities and frolic, it’s very easy to lose track of the hours and a good night’s rest. The good thing is that being the holidays, you are able to sleep in late. Nonetheless, don’t make this a habit. Your body needs a good, undisturbed 7-8 hours of sleep in order to rebuild cells and maintain a healthy immune system. Lack of proper sleep is a main cause for a host of ailments, including weight gain.

Christmas is a time for fun, family, and certainly food. But it doesn’t have to mean regret and frustration come January. Neither should it mean denying yourself your favourite holiday foods. Just be smart about it.

Happy holidays,

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New Restaurant – Opa! Greek Restaurant and Lounge

Opa! logoThere’s a new restaurant in town, and being one of two Greek restaurants on the island (the other being Mykonos Greek Bar and Grill in Ocho Rios) and certainly the only one in Kingston, I am pretty eager to check it out. Owned and operated by Alexx Antaeus – the same guy who brought us Isle Chix (Jamaican Cornish-style hens) – Opa! Greek Restaurant and Lounge promises to focus on fresh interpretations of traditional Greek cuisine, with a Jamaican flair, where patrons can delight in the unique and healthful benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Patrons will also be able to experience  premium Greek wine and spirits from the restaurant’s signature bar lounge.

Alexx Antaeus, proprietor of Opa!

Alexx Antaeus, proprietor of Opa! [Photo credit: Skkan Media Entertainment]

Authentic Greek cuisine

As an experienced restaurateur with strong food service and entertainment backgrounds, Opa!’s principal proprietor Alexx Antaeus, who is also a music producer with a recording studio in Manhattan, New York,  brings a fresh approach to the dining and bar experience. Opa!’s design will feature a modern and relaxing atmosphere with both indoor and alfresco dining and bar options. Targeting business professionals and diplomats, Opa! sits in between fine dining and elegantly casual, and also accommodates persons wishing to chill after dinner before heading out to the city’s night-life. Full menu will be available up to midnight. Antaeus has committed to sourcing ingredients from local and regional suppliers where possible, with a preference for organically grown products. To ensure authenticity and quality, master Greek chef Giannis Tobas, and Greek celebrity chef Maria Loi have been brought in to collaborate on menu development and overall restaurant operations.

Celebrity Chef Maria Loi and Master Greek Chef Yannis Tobas.

Celebrity Chef Maria Loi and Master Greek Chef Yannis Tobas.

I have always admired how the Greeks celebrate food and wine as quintessential ingredients for a good time. The very-fitting “Opa!” is a word Greeks use as a pronouncement of celebration; the celebration of life itself.

Opa! Greek Restaurant and Lounge flyerOpa! is located at 75 Hope Road (a block up from Citibank) and will kick open its doors on Wednesday 20 November with a special event honouring US Ambassador Bridgewater for the completion of her three-year service to Jamaica. The Ambassador will host her private guests, but patrons can make reservations for any time between the hours of 5PM and 12AM. I’ll be sure to share my experience in a subsequent post.

For more information, visit their facebook and twitter pages.

Opa!

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Foodie Fraud: 7 Signs You In Fact Only Like to Eat

“Foodies” have been springing up everywhere these days; it seems the term inadvertently gets self-ascribed to anyone who enjoys a meal. But no, sir, opting for extra large fries at Burger King then proceeding to make a mayonnaise-ketchup concoction, or having an insatiable desire to eat (out) doesn’t actually you a foodie make. In fact, that may be a simple case of greed. Good ole gluttony, which by the way is one of the seven deadly sins…according to the christianfolk at least. But that’s a whole different blog post, possibly for another blogger.

(Unnecessary) controversy

So who exactly is a foodie? Well, best believe that there’s lurking controversy whenever one attempts to explain this. This is in part because the term bears different connotations to different people. For some it’s a compliment, an authentication of sorts for a passionate interest in food. Meanwhile others – including top food connoisseurs and culinarians – cringe at the thought of ever being identified as a “foodie”, probably because they consider the term belittling and frivolous. After all is said and done, such a pejorative and hostile attitude towards the term is nothing short of pompous and petty.

Gourmet vs. gourmand

A foodie is a gourmet (yes – the term also applies to the individual), or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food, and not just its preparation or the consumption thereof. Typical foodie interests and activities include, inter alia: gastronomy (food science); wineries and wine tasting; breweries and beer sampling; following restaurant openings and closings; food distribution; food fads; health and nutrition; cooking classes; culinary tourism; and restaurant management.

On the other hand, a gourmand, in simplest of terms, is one who takes great pleasure in (eating) food; one who enjoys food in great quantities. There really isn’t a genuine interest to understand food beyond its presence on a plate. Sure, a gourmand may delight in trying new foods – just as a foodie or gourmet would – but the difference here is for the sole purpose of satisfying the appetite, not to discover a  the perfect crunch or acid factor in a dish.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some signs you may be in fact just love to eat:

1. You’re quick to order a chicken sandwich, every time

Ain’t nothing wrong with satisfying your craving for that juicy chicken sub, but for heaven’s sakes try something else. There’s a whole world out there beyond chicken between slices of bread cloaked in wilted lettuce. Change it up, live (on the edge) a little. Allow your palate the treat of something new ever so often.

2. You’ve landed at your dream vacation spot, but still opt to dine at McDonald’s

Now let’s be real here. There’s no way you are a true foodie if you don’t have the slightest urge (for me it’s more like a burning desire; a higher calling…MY calling) to go out and explore the street food of some of the greatest cities in the world. In fact, foodies are known to plan their trips around their desired eateries, taking into consideration factors such as opening hours, top-selling dishes, exoticness and review ratings.

3. You eat out of convenience

Once convenience-eating is the modus operandi of your food intake, then it’s time to take a vacation…from life. Yup, something is wrong, really wrong, and it needs to be addressed with utmost urgency. Foodies put much thought into the next meal, sometimes leading to confusion (read obsession) about what to have when, where, and with whom. Truth be told, even the most hardcore of foodies fall into this trap of convenience-eating for a number of reasons, mostly due to sudden lifestyle changes or circumstances beyond their control. But best believe it won’t be long till they’re back on their feet sniffing out average meals masked by cheap and convenient and heading face-on into the most scrumptious of dishes.

4. You might as well be eating chicken out of a can, and this doesn’t bother you.

This level of complacency and nonchalance (and plain sadness) is by no means okay. The value of eating fresh bears much emphasis for any passionate lover of food and so does the never-ending desire to understand food beyond its presence on a plate, or in a can. The point here is that no self-respecting foodie would even consider eating chicken from a can. And yes, such an atrocity does exist.  In general canned goods are a last resort when convenience is your only saving grace.

canned chicken

WTF? Yup, that’s what I thought.

5. You automatically go for the cheapest meal on the menu, portion-to-price considered

No one is saying that you should order a side of sturgeon caviar to go a top a saffron-infused fillet of blue-fin tuna, but if your eyes instantly wander to that $1.29 sandwich just because it’s the lowest figure on the menu or that mega portion of pasta that could feed an army then you’ve lost even more foodie points that you thought. Foodies understand they may need to dish more dime for the care and complexity put in to create a worthwhile dish.

6. You need the waiter to explain your meal 

A foodie on a bad day knows more about the dish they are about to order than madam waitress herself, even if he/she is having said dish for the first time. On a good day you can find even the humblest of foodies cordially correcting ill-trained restaurant staff and suggesting how improvements can be made.

7. The most prized possession in your pantry is that pepper grinder you got, on sale

Sorry if I crush any dreams but there really isn’t anything too glorious about that pepper grinder you whip out in an attempt to impress your friends when they come over. Nor is that pack of smoked marlin any more of a star item. If you aren’t on a constant journey to source some of the most unique ingredients you’ve identified during deconstructing your favourite restaurant meals then you’re really just a regular Joe, who just loves to eat.

So  from this point forward I’d like us to be a bit more prudent in identifying oneself as a foodie. It’s a bit (a whole lot) more than just one who loves eating food.

Stay hungry,

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