Once an idea has wormed its way into my head and lodged itself in there, there really isn’t much more I can do about it except act on it as soon as circumstances allow. It’s how I end up baking cookies on a stiflingly hot day when really I should be reading in the garden, how I end up putting that tub of Ben and Jerry’s in my basket when I’d only popped in for milk and cat food, and how I ended up heavily pregnant in the midst of an uncharacteristically hot British summer. Of all the miserable, rainy, chilly summers that we’ve had over the last few years, and yet of course this year was the one I decided to get broody in. Once my mind is made up on something though, that’s it, it’s happening.
That bloody minded-ness is what led me to cook up a Jamaican classic, curry goat with rice and peas (admittedly, I didn’t go out of my way to find goat meat and settled for using up some lamb I had in the freezer). A colleague had been raving about some Jamaican food she had had from a local takeaway at the weekend, it sounded delicious and therefore I knew that I had to have some. At first I was determined to get this food to go from this haven of Jamaican deliciousness but then thought I should give making it a go myself. I’ve never been to Jamaica, have very little knowledge of the place and the closest I’ve ever come to eating the nations food before was from a Tesco jerk seasoning blend and a can of Lilt. Not exactly what you would call the most qualified of cooks to try and knock up some authentic Jamaican food, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
I trawled the internet for some decent looking recipes and decided to pair it with another Jamaican classic, rice and peas. Here’s how little I knew about the famous dish: I thought it was made with garden peas when in fact authentic versions use kidney beans. Luckily being the chilli addicts that we are there is always a tin of kidney beans in the cupboard. While on the subject of kidney beans (a thrilling subject!) am I stating the obvious when I say what is the point of buying any other tin of kidney bean than the supermarket value tin? I will admit I can be a terrible snob when it comes to food, and I’m fortunate enough in this world of food banks and benefit cuts to be able to afford to buy brand names and not walk around the shops with a calculator working out every penny spent, but if you can tell me how a ‘brand name’ kidney bean is in anyway shape or form better than a value bean I will give you a prize. It’s a bloody kidney bean. Cover up your value tin with a big fillet steak if it makes you feel any better. I’ll put my 50p saving towards a nice big tub of Haagen Dazs thank you very much.
The recipe itself is pretty simple to follow. I was a little taken aback at the amount of curry powder needed and only just had enough but if you give this a go yourself there is no need to be alarmed. The bulk of the heat in the dish comes from the scotch bonnet chillies, which I deseeded because I’m not a masochist. When I cut them open my eyes quickly started watering, I don’t think my eyes have ever recovered from their previous close encounters with chillies and the mere sight of a cut open scotch bonnet got them weeping. It took me a good few hours and several very thorough hand washes before I felt confident in taking my eye make up off, I can tell you that. The lamb needs a good couple of hours bubbling away in the curry before it’s ready to eat as you want the meat meltingly tender and falling apart when touched. Much like a Thai massamann curry, potatoes are added for the last half hour which bulks up the curry and helps to thicken the sauce with their starchiness. The rice and pea element of the dish is ridiculously simple, you just cook the rice in coconut milk, allspice, garlic and thyme and chuck in the kidney beans for the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Could not be simpler.
For a first time attempt at a Jamaican dish, I don’t think I did too badly. While the curry wasn’t particularly hot or complex it had a good flavour, if a little bit simple. It was creamy from the coconut with a little bit of spice, although next time I might add one more chilli to the mix just to give it that little bit more heat. The curry isn’t that dissimilar from an Indian curry, although a little bit more mellow and less fiery, surprising considering the inclusion of a scotch bonnet chilli. I had the leftovers for tea a couple of days later and like any decent curry the flavours had intensified. This would be really good to cook a couple of days before you actually wanted to eat it, if you’re more organised and efficient than I am, anyway.
I drowned the rice and peas in the curry sauce so unfortunately can’t really comment on them, next time I make them I’ll accompany them with a dry dish like jerk chicken so they aren’t swamped in curry flavours.
I’d imagine the curry goat at the local Jamaican takeaway puts my version to shame (or at least I hope so). I will have to give it a shot one day, perhaps passing off my takeaway splurge/greed as a ‘craving’. I’m definitely more interested in Jamaican food now, and with the weather being so pleasant recently it’s fun to cook up something with a Caribbean flavour so you can at least pretend you’re in the tropics and not in an English market town, keeping your fingers crossed that that dark grey cloud hovering over you passes without incident.
PS- you can find a lot of different versions of these dishes online, but these are the recipes that I tried: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/jamaican_goat_curry/