Most people think that Caribbean food means summer food. Let's face it, Caribbean food is the ultimate summer food! However, with an array of islands which produce some of the worlds most soul warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and many others, Caribbean food is also about comfort!
As the golden autumn morning breaks later each day and the cold evenings frequent us more, it is now the season of comfort food.
A classic stew has to be one of the best comfort foods at this of year and Brown stew chicken is the Caribbean equivalent. It's not at all spicy, it has a slight sweetness, it's rich and has a deep mahogany gravy which is just full of flavour with subtle spices shining through!
I've stepped away from tradition slightly and added both whole pimento and whole clove as well as my Caribbean Jerk Spice Mix
as I really want the comforting warmth which come from the spices to play their part.. plus, we don't just need to use the beautiful spices in my Jerk Spice Mix for the summer BBQ only! Those flavours are still there to be enjoyed.
The 'brown' in this browned stew chicken is created by making a caramel from scratch. This caramel is very important as it is responsible for both the lovely sweetness that this dish has as well as the colour of the sauce. If the caramel is made too light then the dish would be too sweet and too pale. If too dark, then the sauce would be bitter. The key is to get it the caramel to that dark brown point that is most definitely not black, but has no hint of light brown. Use a stainless steel pan so that you can see the colour accurately and be sure to use tongs to protect your hands from hot sugar splatters when you add the chicken into the caramel!
Tip: Make sure that you have your marinated chicken right next to you and ready to add to the pan as soon as your caramel is ready. If not then those extra few minutes of taking it out of the fridge and taking off the lid could be the amount of time needed for your caramel to go too dark!
The caramel making may sound a little long but honestly, once that bit is done its pretty much just left to simmer and is overall a pretty easy dish to make.
800g chicken thigh or drumsticks
1 tablespoon of green seasoning
2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of Myristica's Caribbean Jerk Spice Mix
1.5 tablespoons of all purpose seasoning
15 sprigs of thyme, picked
1/2 a red pepper, chopped or sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of whole pimento
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
300ml of water
50ml of vegetable oil
160g of brown sugar
1. Marinade the washed chicken in the green seasoning, cracked black pepper, paprika, salt, Myristica's Caribbean Jerk seasoning, all purpose seasoning and thyme ideally overnight.
2. In your pan (ideally a stainless steel one so that you can see the colour change) over a medium heat, add the brown sugar and oil until it makes a dark brown caramel. Stir with a wooden spoon.
3. When the caramel is ready immediately add your marinated chicken and begin turning the pieces so that they are coated in the caramel.
4. Once they have all been coated then continue to brown/seal the meat for about five minutes until it has a nice colour.
5. Add the rest of the ingredients except the water, stir, increase the heat slightly and then put the lid on for about five minutes.
6. You will notice that all the natural juices from the veg and meat will start to come out and make its own natural delicious gravy!
7. Remove the lid and reduce the liquid by about a third before adding the water.
8. Once the water has been added then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about thirty minutes with the lid partially on. If you need to top up the water during cooking then feel free to do so by adding about 100ml at a time. It's worth noting that the sauce does thicken up slightly after cooling down!
9. Serve with plantain, either plain rice or rice and peas. A side of thyme roasted butternut squash would also work very well with this!