when i think "tropical paradise", i think the caribbean. it's a place that's evaded me for too long, but one i've always wanted to visit - likely since i saw cool runnings, but can't be sure. it's not a place you'll ever find on my travel bucket lists though, and i think that comes down to the fact i like my bucket lists to be achievable; they're places i know i can a) afford b) be bothered to travel to c) not take too much time off work for. the caribbean just seems... far. and expensive. and really bloody hot.
but, when the lovely folk at kuoni offered to send over a hamper-full of caribbean goodies to cook myself up a west-indian feast and told me about this fab competition they're running at the moment, where one lucky person (assuming it'll be me; i totally deserve it) could win a trip for two to aruba during the "eat local week", i could barely catch a breath before i instantly replied with a massive "thankyooooooou!"
mainly, i love caribbean food. mainly. also, i could really do with a holiday. so when the hamper arrived and i discovered all the tasty spices and rubs and sauces within, my mouth started to salivate and my brain started ticking over. i'm not a follow-a-recipe kind of girl, i like to go with my gut. i also know that i like what i like, and so with that in mind, my menu was decided: jerk chicken served with rice and peas, corn on the cob with hot sauce, with a dessert of key lime cheesecake, and caribbean larger (of course).
once i started prepping the food, i realised a few key things: i dont have a can opener, which ruled out the peas portion of the rice and peas, and i didn't buy enough cream cheese for the cheesecake, but was prepared to wing and make it work. i also don't have a lot of utensils in the new flat yet, so there was a lot of washing bowls in between prepping certain things, so bowls and spoons could be reused.
i started by prepping the chicken. because of the lack of bowls, i left the drumsticks in the plastic container they came in, and just added the jerk seasoning. i scored the meat and rubbed the seasoning in as best i could, then popped some tin foil on the top and left them in the fridge until they were ready for cooking. then, it was a matter of popping them in the oven for twenty minutes with the corn until brown.
the cheesecake was the messy bit, and fiddly to boot. i used my time-honoured cheesecake recipe, but gave it a bit of a caribbean twist. i used two small packets of shirley biscuits for the base, adding four pinches of the speculaas spice mix to give it that added kick (caribbean cooking takes a lot of influence from the netherlands, which i never knew!) and a bit more flavour. i had intended to also crush up some stroopwaffle for the base too, but the caramel was so thick and gooey that it just wouldn't break up! i quickly gave up on that and ate those instead. i also bought too much cream and not enough cheese, but... if you're interested in how i made it, here's how:
for the base: crush up about twenty shirley biscuits (or blend if you didn't totally burn out the motor in your blender), mix with 125g of melted butter and then pat into the base of an oiled cake pan. pop this in the fridge to chill for about twenty minutes to set.
for the mixture: whip up 180ml of double cream (i used 200ml) then add 200g of light cream cheese (i used 180g) and one cup of icing sugar (i used caster sugar, because i'm an animal), and blend well. i then added a big squeeze of fresh lime juice and about a tablespoon of lime zest. pour the mixture over the chilled base and sprinkle again with more lime zest for presentation. pop that in the fridge until ready (will need at least an hour).
when it came time to cook, the chicken and corn basically cooked themselves, and all i had to do was whip up some rice! because there were supposed to be peas but there wasn't, i added a bit more of the lime zest to the boil-in-the-bag rice (i can't cook rice... at all) to give it a bit of a kick, then served it all up on a big old plate with a spoonful of hotttt sauce (ouch) and bbq jerk sauce for dipping. it was a right old feast, and easily washed down with a banks lager, and some old jamaican cream soda - yum!
i was concerned the cheesecake wouldn't pull together as hoped because of the dodgy measurements in the "development", but actually... it was super tasty! a lot creamier than usual, but it totally set better than any of the other versions i have made, and the topping wasn't as heavy as it can be with more cheese and less cream; plus, the lime really gave it a nice kick! truthfully, i will definitely make this version again, but probably add more lime because it was really zesty and refreshing, and i am a big old fan of that! my caribbean feast was nothing short of delicious, and i was rather proud of myself for getting the old tea towels out and getting back in the kitchen again after a brief hiatus.
a massive thank you to kuoni for the hamper of goodies that's had me dreaming of aruba since it arrived. i've entered their comp, and i should encourage you to as well, except... well, i'd quite like to win.
*the hamper was sent from the brand; all thoughts are my own*