Jamaican curry – celebrating the Scotch bonnet chilli
Today, we’re heading to the Caribbean to pinch a traditional recipe typically made with chicken – Jamaican curry! There are many recipes for this, and you can make it your own, but almost all have the same basic ingredients and that’s what we’re going to work with.
Jamaican curry is a wonderful aromatic dish, using spices from the bitter, nutty and sweet range of the spice palette. In this recipe, you’ll find the homely flavours of ginger, allspice (cloves/cinnamon/nutmeg flavours) and cumin, and the punch of Scotch Bonnet chillis.
You can, of course, use any chilli you want – if you don’t like your curries firy, then use a milder chilli
I’ll let you know how you can spice it up to your individual taste as we go along! That’s the beauty of working with spices, you can adapt and make the recipe yours and yours alone!
Almost all Jamaican chicken curries will feature the classic white potato, and so we’re not going to veer from that! Hey, we’re taking out the chicken, so let’s allow this recipe to keep some of its traditions.
Most Jamaicans wouldn’t probably spend time roasting and grinding the spices like I’m going to show you today. And you know, you don’t have to either if you can find Jamaican curry spice in your local supermarket, but for the sake of this blog – and the fact that you’re reading this from all corners of the planet, I’ll assume you cannot get your hands on it – so we’re making our own!
And let’s face it, you’re here because you’re a spice-lover and the best way to enjoy spices is freshly ground! Not sitting in a cupboard for months on end!
There are variations of this curry made with coconut milk, fresh ginger and lime juice, which for me is a distinctly south Asian style of making curry so I’ve not included it here – but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try this version out!
And if you come from a Jamaican background and want to reduce meat in your diet – I invite, no implore, you to comment below and tell us how you adapt your curry to make it your own!
- 1 medium red pepper cored and cubed
- 1 medium green pepper cored and cubed
- 1 large potato Cut into chunks
- handful green beans topped and tailed
- 400 g chickpeas (US: Garbanzo beans) - about 1 tin
- 1 Scotch bonnet chilli or 2 if you love heat!
- 1 large onion chopped (use onion powder if you wish)
- 3 cloves garlic minced (use garlic powder if you wish)
- 1 sprig thyme use dried thyme if you wish
- 3-4 spring onions (US: scallions) chopped
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1.5 tsp Coriander seeds
- 0.75 tsp Cumin seeds
- 0.75 tsp Anise seeds you can substitute with fennel seeds, but the flavour will be more subtle
- 0.75 tsp Yellow mustard seeds
- 0.25 tsp Fenugreek seeds
- 0.25 tsp Allspice Buying as a whole spice, this is usually sold as Pimento berries
- 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
- 0.25 tsp Ground ginger
The beauty of making your own curry powder is that you can adapt it to your own taste. I've given you the rough approximations for the ratio of spices to make one pot of curry. If you like the flavour of any of the spices, then play with adding a touch more to dial up that flavour! Then heat a pan and place all the whole spices into in and fry until aromatic and toasted - around 3-5 minutes should do it. Be careful not to burn them though, as they'll turn bitter. I tend to heat the pan and then turn down the flame once I've added the spices and keep them moving. Once toasted, allow to cool and then pound them to a powder with a pestal and mortar or you can blitz them in a coffee grinder if you've got one reserved just for spices! Then add the ready-powdered spices such as the turmeric, ginger and allspice.
Pour about 1.5 tbsp of vegetable oil into a pan and heat - fry the onion and spring onion,stirring until just turning translucent.
Add the garlic, chilli, the curry powder, peppers and cubed potatoes and give a good stir. If the contents are too dry, add a small amount of stock to loosen. Do this for about 4-5 minutes
Add the stock, potatoes, sprigs of thyme and chickpeas and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender. You will want to start tasting the curry and adjust for ground cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (if a little more heat is required). Add the green beans when around 5 minutes left to go.
You can serve with plain rice or, if you want to go Jamaican style, rice and peas. Alternatively, look back to the East and serve with flat breads.
If you can get Jamaican curry spice, and you prefer to use that, then you'll need about 2-4 tbsp - but taste and adjust as you're cooking.
Seb is a nutritionist registered with the Association for Nutrition and a writer specialising in plant-based nutrition and men’s health. He graduated from Chester University with a masters degree in human nutrition and loves discovering new and vibrant plant-based recipes.