Using Fermented Sauce for Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas.
The trend for fermented foods is growing. A process which uses bacteria and yeast to break down sugars in food and sometimes enhance food preservation you may unwittingly have been enjoying foods which are fermented all your life. Bread of all sorts but particularly sourdough, any brined pickles, drinks like kombucha and kefir, yoghurt and creme fraiche and more. It’s now known that eating fermented foods can help boost the number of beneficial bacteria and probiotics that are found in your gut. The chefs behind Eaten Alive supply a host of renowned restaurants across the UK with their fermented foods. Their products are additive-free, completely raw, vegan and teeming with good bacteria, thought to support a healthy gut. And, you can buy them for yourself from the EatenAlive website or from Planet Organic, Whole Foods, Borough Market and independent delis.
I was sent a selection of sauces from the range to try and decided that making my own Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas would be a worthy showcase for one of the hot sauces and for the new Fermented Jerk Paste. It’s the sort of food I crave when I can’t travel and although my own version is unlikely to win any prizes for authenticity, a plateful of rice and peas is the sort of thing that makes me very happy indeed. Jerk Paste is the kind of ingredient that makes you seem to have been slaving in the kitchen for days – when actually you open the jar and pour it over your chicken pieces and leave the whole thing to marinate for 12 hours or so, turning once halfway through to make sure every part of the chicken gets covered. The rice and peas I made lacked spring onions or scallion but otherwise when I checked with a Jamaican friend he reassured me that I’d almost done exactly what he normally does. Though he also told me that I’d have got better results if I’d used dried kidney beans rather than those from a can (obviously soaking them overnight). Next time maybe! I also used a splash of one of the EatenAlive hot sauces in my rice and peas. Just a splash, because I didn’t have any fresh chillies.
Now, as I mentioned, the Jerk Paste from EatenAlive is fermented. They smoke the vegetables for the base of the sauce, add all the traditional spices including plenty of scotch bonnet chillies and then ferment it to add more depth of flavour. Although you’ll find Jerk Chicken all over the Caribbean, from Antigua to Barbados the origin of Jerk Sauce is from Jamaica. It’s believed that some of the African slaves who had been brought to Jamaica to provide labour for the plantations escaped. They hid up in the Blue Mountains and were known as the Maroons. Because they needed to preserve the meat from whatever they trapped or hunted, they learnt to use local spices, salt and peppers – the first Jerk spices. Today if you visit Jamaica you’ll find Jerk Huts scattered across the island each serving their own version of Jerk meats.
When I told my Jamaican friend that rice and peas seemed like real comfort food to me, he laughed and told me that was exactly it. Just like mashed potatoes to the average Brit according to him! The Jamaican dish is healthier though and it’s the perfect thing to serve with Jerk Chicken.
If you want to try at home here’s how to do it.
Healthy Jerk Chicken using Jerk Chicken paste from Eaten Alive with classic rice and peas
- 8 chicken pieces I tend to joint my own chicken, if not, use a mixture of chicken wings, legs and thighs on the bone
- 1 Jar Eaten Alive jerk sauce
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp lightly crushed allspice berries
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cloves garlic
- 200 g long-grained white rice
- 1 can kidney beans or 125g dried beans, soaked overnight, drained and then boiled and cooked according to the packet
- 2-3 salad onions or scallion Optional. Trimmed and carefully sliced
- 1 red chilli Optional. Deseeded and finely sliced
24 hours before you plan on eating the chicken, smother it with jerk sauce, cover and put in the fridge
Turn the chicken once during the day and make sure the sauce is spread all over the pieces
Pre-heat the oven to 175c - if you are using a griddle you may wish to preheat this too. Or light your charcoal grill. Lay your chicken pieces out on a baking tray or griddle if you are using one.
Put the chicken pieces in the oven and bake for at least 40 minutes till nicely charred, turning for the last 20 minutes. If you are using a grill, lightly brush the grates with oil, then place the chicken skin side down for 15 minutes over a medium high heat. Turn and cook for a further 20 minutes over a lower heat (or move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill).
Just before you've turned the chicken, put the rice in a medium pan with the water, allspice, coconut milk, 50 ml of water, the thyme and the garlic
Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
Cover and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for around 20 minutes till the rice is soft and the liquid has been absorbed. Add more water if necessary
If you like, remove the thyme and any large bits of garlic and discard. I didn't bother as I think they add extra flavour
Stir through the kidney beans, cover and let stand while you finish the chicken
Serve garnished with scallion and fresh red chilli if you are using it, with the chicken and a small salad
I halved the ingredients to make the right quantity for two and my photos reflect that!
A real favourite, the Eaten Alive Jerk Sauce made this a very healthy option for dinner!
There’s a whole range of other EatenAlive products now which I’m going to be experimenting with over the next month or two I love the sound and look of Preserved Lemon with Turmeric, Ginger and Garlic – it uses whole fermented lemons and I’m thinking it would be an excellent base for a tagine. And, I have a jar of Bread and Butter Pickles. Something I can make myself, but seldom get round to doing, these will be perfect for homemade burgers. Here’s the list of the whole range to choose from.
- Fermented Jerk Paste – The classic jerk flavours are enhanced by the fermentation process, we even smoke the vegetables that form its base for an added layer of depth, making this the ultimate marinade for grilled meats and roasted vegetables. With the characteristically ferocious spice from plenty of scotch bonnet chillies, it’s not for the faint-hearted though. 375g jar – £5.99
- Bread and Butter Pickles – The perfect everyday pickle for sandwiches, burgers and everything else. These are the secret ingredient to some of the capitals best burgers. Try Chopping up for tartar sauce or to top stroganoff. 375g jar – £4.99
- Brined Purple Carrots – Deliciously crunchy, fresh and colourful. These carrots make a perfect salad, snack, sandwich or taco topper! Try with avocado or smoked fish. 375g jar – £6.99
- Preserved Lemon – A paste of sliced fermented whole lemons with the magically fragrant yuzu fruit. This traditional Asian citrus will lift dressings and marinade to new heights, or try mixing with some mayo and chilli for an exotic dip. 200g jar – £2.99
- Preserved Lemon with Yuzu – A paste of fermented whole lemons that will impart a concentrated yet fresh hit of lemon flavour to dishes. Add a little to dressings, marinades, soups, stews and rice. 200g jar – £2.99
- Preserved Lemon with Fresh Turmeric, Ginger and Garlic – A smooth paste of whole fermented lemons blended with fresh turmeric, ginger and garlic. Especially good for fish curries or stir into rice or dhal to add intensity and freshness. 200g jar – £2.99
And of course, there are the original hot sauces. If you’d like to try for yourself or know someone else who’d like these, Eaten Alive has helpfully introduced a ‘Discovery Pack with four of their best selling fermented hot sauces. The pack includes the Smoked Sriracha, Chocolate BBQ, Scotch Bonnet and Preserved Lemon sauces and costs £14.99, available from Amazon, the Eaten Alive Website or Borough Market