African cuisine is very diverse, with many local culinary traditions, in terms of choice of ingredients and ethnic groups.
The same can be said for most of the Caribbean islands. We find a lot of food items indigenous to the African continent that have a huge influence all over the Caribbean.
One of Jamaica’s national dishes is ackee and saltfish. Ackee is native to West Africa. But it seems that the Island of Jamaica is the only country to have claimed the fruit and elevated it to a premier exotic dish. Jerk chicken is another dish that is now craved all over the world.
Most present-day Caribbean locals eat a diet that is reflective of the main ingredients of original early African dishes, that includes cassava, sweet potato, yams, plantain, bananas and cornmeal.
Curried goat; or goat curry depending on which Island you’re on, takes on the same importance as boer goat suya, native to South Africa (suya: African shish kebabs that consist of roasted meat coated with a spicy peanut rub , fiery and aromatic ). Take plantains for example. We love it fried, as chips or roasted. In Ghana its kelewele (spicy).
The Caribbean has rice and peas or peas and rice! Jollof rice is a mainstay throughout Africa. Every island has a callaloo dish. The same is true in many parts of Africa.
For a couple of years we did a gala event with a group in Toronto called “The Women of Promise”. Each year the event was billed as “A Taste of Africa”. The menu featured Kenyan ugali, Ethiopian injera, Nigerian jollof rice and chicken, West African oxtail and yam pepper soup and fufu to name a few of the dishes served. Only a descendant of the mother land, I was surprised to find how similar African and Caribbean food was connected.
It’s no wonder Caribbean cooking is so rich and creative with flavours of Africa, India and China along with Spanish, Danish, Portuguese, French and British influences. Food served in the Caribbean Islands have been influenced by the cultures of the World. The genius is each Island adds its own special flavour and cooking technique.
The next time you’re looking for an adventurous meal, why not seek out an African restaurant? You might just discover your geneses food is just spiced, cooked and presented differently.
Boneless Jerk Chicken
Jerk Chicken is traditionally quite spicy and hot, however, I’ll try to give your taste buds flavours that will make your mouth happy.
6 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
3 tbsp Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl, mix well and let marinate in fridge for 4hrs to 24hrs. Cook chicken in oven at 375 for 30 mins, turning once. Chicken can also be cooked on the grill with medium heat turning often until done. Serve chicken with rice and peas.
Suya are African shish kebabs that consist of roasted meat coated with a spicy peanut rub. Throughout West African, suya street vendors are a common sight in both the cities and villages. You can find them grilling skewered meat over open pits from late morning until after midnight. Beef is the most common suya, although chicken and veal are also popular.
Finely ground roasted peanuts
- Shell fresh peanuts and place them on a shallow baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes in a 350-degree F oven. Cool the peanuts between layers of paper towels to remove any excess oil.
- Grind the cooled roasted peanuts into a powder. Use a mortar and pestle, or place the peanuts in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin, or use a food processor.
- Squeeze the ground peanuts in a paper towel for one or two minutes to remove excess oil.
- Put the peanut powder in a mixing bowl. Add the other spices to taste. Add more cayenne pepper for a spicier suya. Leave out the cayenne pepper and add more paprika for a milder suya. Mix the spices thoroughly.
- Divide the spice mixture in half. Cut 1 to 2 lbs. of meat into bite-sized chunks. Roll the meat into the suya until it is coated on all sides. Let the coated meat rest for 30 minutes so that the spices can permeate it.
- Start the grill or preheat the broiler. Place the meat on skewers. Alternate with pieces of onion, green and red pepper and plum tomato. Cook the meat until done. Make sure that chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Serve the meat with the reserved half of the suya.