Friday, March 03, 2006

Meal 11. Jamaican Rice 'n Peas and Jerk Tilapia

My sister Rivke and I frequently go to dancehall concerts and are often joined by our half Dutch, half Jamaican friend Azinta. Though she's lived in India, Indonesia, China and Jamaica part of her life, most of her high school years were spent in Heelsum, a village with 4000 inhabitants near Arnhem. And this is where Rivke and I arrive to enjoy a typical Jamaican meal, that Azinta's mother Marcia agreed to make for us. The whole village is blanketed in snow, and Azinta shows us Heelsum's main attractions; two restaurants, a bar, a pharmacy and a church. We sneak into Azinta's house by way of the backyard and meet Marcia for the first time. She is busy preparing pre-dinner snacks and summons Azinta to prepare us a drink. Above you can see her showing off a bottle of Appleton rum, one of Jamaica's favorite drinks, besides Red Stripe and Ting ("The Real Ting!").
The rum goes into the rumpunch, with sorrel and lime. Very refreshing! I had never heard of sorrel before; it's a red fruit that you can turn into syrup or jam.
While we sip our drinks, Marcia shows us all the different kinds of jerk seasoning (at left) she has bought in Jamaica. It's a fiery sauce that you can use to make jerk chicken, or to spice up fish, which it what we're having as a main dish tonight. At the supermarket nearby, they actually sell tilapia from a Jamaican producer. Marcia even knows him. It's a small world...
I ask how people say something is delicious in Jamaica. Marcia thinks for a while, and comes up with "It taste good!". Rivke contributes that a woman she knows well will say: "It allright...", or "It nah too bad," if she is really happy with something she has made.
While Marcia is preparing the tilapia, we enjoy the fried fish and tofu snacks she has made and talk about her plans for moving back to Jamaica. At the moment they are renovating a farm so that Azinta and her sister will also be able to visit when it's done. The only thing she's not really looking forward to is the quality of the roads. The rains this last year have only made them worse.
After the snacks it's time to start the "real meal" with spicy pumpkin soup. The secret ingredients are star anise and spring onions.
And then the main meal arrives. It's a true feast consisting of rice 'n peas (a Jamaican classic), jerk tilapia, salad, spinach, festival ( sweet fried bread) and avocado.
I always wonder how rice 'n peas taste so much better than you would expect of a dish that's just rice and beans. The answer is that most cooks add coconut milk, onions, garlic or other spices like thyme. I'm not sure what Marcia added, but it is really good. It nah too bad!
To arrive at home on time, we should actually have taken the ten to ten bus...but Marcia persuades us to stay a little later. How did she manage to convince us? The magic words "Homemade", "Banana" and "Ice cream".
Served with caramelized slices of pineapple. Mmmm. Too bad we don't have time for some coffee. Jamaica's Blue Mountain coffee is one of the best coffees in the world, and one of the most expensive. The rains mentioned above supposedly ruined much of last year's crops, raising the prices even more. Rivke and I imported some from an organic coffee farmer, Oliver, preferring this Jamaican product to the more stereotypical ganja...

1 comment:

Alison said...

Just had 3 weeks in Jamaica. Tried all the foods mentioned. Having Jerk Chicken tonight and was looking up a recipie for Rice 'n Peas. A rastafarian cooked us a whole meal without the jerk as they dont generally eat meat though sometimes do eat the salted fish with ackee. There was Callaloo, Festival, Ackee (Jamaica's National Fuit) Sorrel etc. A bountiful feast.