‘Jerking’ is all about maximising flavour. The great thing about jerk cooking is that you can use either a dry rub or a wet marinade, which means that you can use the wonderful flavours in such a variety of dishes, from meat or fish, to vegetables or grains. Traditionally, the mix will include allspice and Scotch bonnet chillies, but the spices can be adapted to taste. Here’s my ultimate jerk marinade with spatchcocked chicken. If you prefer, you can use four chicken breasts with the skin on and cook on the barbecue for 15–20 minutes.
- 1 x 1.5kg chicken, backbone removed and spatchcocked (ask your butcher to do this)
- Mixed salad or coleslaw, to serve
- 225g onions, peeled and quartered
- 2 small Scotch bonnet chillies, halved and de-seeded
- 50g fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 3cm piece of fresh turmeric root, peeled and roughly chopped (or use 1 tbsp ground turmeric)
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 15g fresh thyme leaves
- 120ml white wine vinegar
- 120ml dark soy sauce
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, make the marinade. Place all the ingredients, except the seasoning, into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
Cut slashes into the smooth side of the spatchcocked chicken so that the marinade can penetrate the flesh and place the chicken in a shallow dish. Pour over the marinade and rub well into the meat. Cover and chill for at least 2–3 hours, or preferably overnight, turning every now and then.
Preheat a barbecue with a lid and take the chicken out of the fridge to come up to room temperature. [Foodies note: we tested this recipe using a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tin in a 200ºC oven and it also works well.]
Cook the chicken on the hot barbecue with the lid down for 40–50 minutes, turning occasionally and basting with any leftover marinade, until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a thin metal skewer.
Remove the chicken from the heat and rest for a few minutes, then serve with a simple mixed salad or a traditional crunchy coleslaw.
Extracted from Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen by Ainsley Harriott (Ebury Press, £26). Photography by Dan Jones