One person who knows just how well Caribbean flavours go down with the UK crowd is Martin Orbons, general manager at Cottons Caribbean restaurant and rum shack in London’s Notting Hill.
Caribbean food is something different to the norm – it’s a change from your average pizza, pasta or burger,” he explains. And he’s not wrong. Even the restaurant’s exterior – a sweep of sky-blue paint – stands out from the crowd on an otherwise drab stretch of pavement. And it’s a similar story inside, with beach-inspired murals on the walls and a whopping 300 types of rum behind the newly-opened bar.
So, what else can we do to avoid a case of sausage and burger-induced barbecue burnout by the end of the summer? Martin – and Cottons Caribbean executive chef Freddie Rampazzo – have this advice.
... we've got six tips to make sure you have the barbecue of the summer.
It’s not hard to find variations on standard barbecue dishes, as long as you give yourself a little bit of time to plan. Plantain, for example, is a classic ingredient that’s available in most supermarkets and can be cooked straight on the grill. Just slice it in half and that’s it – instant Caribbean colour. Ribs are another feature on lots of Caribbean menus, and seafood also plays a starring role. “The seafood platter is our signature dish and would be my top choice on the menu,” says chef Freddie. “With scallops, clams, king prawns, squid, monkfish tails and lobster it brings together flavours from all the different islands.”
You know when a recipe asks you to marinate your meat for a couple of hours? Double it. Then triple it, and double it again – your taste buds will thank you for it. “If you’re having a barbecue on Sunday, start doing your prep on Friday,” says Freddie. “You can’t do it properly in a day – you need to plan ahead, because it’s all about the marinade. The basic ingredients you’ll need are ginger, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and scotch bonnets. Caribbean food is all about the spice.”
If you’re a fan of cooking on gas, look away now. “We use lots of different cooking methods for the dishes on our menu. The lamb, for example, is cooked in a water bath to make it really tender. But if you’re barbecuing at home, use a coal barbecue if you can – you’ll get the best flavour.”
“Originally, people cooking on the Caribbean islands wouldn’t have had a fridge, so to make the food last longer they would use a lot of chilies and cook the meat for a long time to kill all the bacteria,” Freddie explains. “Nowadays of course we don’t have to do that, so we try to combine the original Caribbean flavours with modern European methods. And that definitely means not over-cooking everything.”
If you’re cooking a Caribbean feast, you’re going to want to stock up on rum. And according to expert Martin, it’s a very specific type of rum you want. “We use overproof rum, which is anything over 40% proof,” he explains. “And we’re not afraid to put a new spin on an old classic when it comes to cocktails. For example, the thing I hate about a pina colada is that it’s blended with ice, so the flavour goes to waste. That’s why we’ve created Under The Coconut Tree, which uses egg white instead of ice so you get a nice fluffy consistency. It’s also really light, which is important as Caribbean food is very heavy.”
For the ultimate party-friendly drinks, it’s got to be a punch. “A classic rum punch is any kind of white rum, pineapple juice, orange juice and a little bit of lime. From there, you can make a lot of varieties. Another thing you can easily make at home is grenadine. People are always scared of making it but it’s a simple syrup, which is equal parts sugar to equal parts water, and then you add pomegranate juice. It’s far cheaper to make it yourself and quality-wise it’s so much better.”
Author: Katie Gregory
If your back garden just won’t cut it and you fancy the real thing...
Try the Hideaway at Royalton Negril. This adults-only hotel is new for summer 2017, and it’s right on the sand of Seven Mile Beach.
Stay at BodyHoliday. This place has five restaurants and has won awards for it’s innovative menus, so it’s great for foodies.
Try the in the Bay of Maimon in the Dominican Republic. It’s in a really secluded tropical setting, so you can sip your rum cocktails uninterrupted.
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