Tag: Jerk Chicken


Al’s, Peckham

October 29th, 2010 — 1:37pm

[Al's has sadly closed. I don't know why].

There is a group called Peckham Vision which is dedicated to improving Peckham town centre. One of the ways they propose to do this is by advising local shops on appearance – product arrangement, signs, layout etc. Walking into Peckham is like walking into a giant jumble sale; stock is stacked in precarious towers – yams on popcorn machines on washing baskets on yams on bags of rice on yams on yams, with a phone unlocking shop wedged in at the side. While I agree there is a lot traders could do to smarten up and make themselves more appealing to the masses, I want to plead that we keep the higgledy piggledy arrangement and delegation of space. You can find brilliant things in unlikely places and personally, I relish the adventure; the lady I buy most of my decorated plates from, for example, trades from an old garage; bars, artists’ studios and restaurants squeeze under railway arches and now there’s Al, selling his Caribbean food from a tiny cramped passageway.

Alvin and his partner Zeena opened their business just a couple of weeks ago and they could be easily missed amongst the bustle of Rye Lane but my jerk-dar is highly sensitive, and I was in there faster than you can say ‘curry goat with rice and peas, plantain and a side of ackee, please’.

It’s amazing what people can do with a little fire in their belly – into that space Al has arranged a gas ring, a grill, a prep table, a fridge and by the time he and Zeena are in there too, there’s room for a person to stand and place and order, or you can call ahead and he’ll have it ready. Signs are strung up over the front, because there’s no door or window to speak of.

At the moment you can buy jerk lamb, chicken, rice and peas and salad but soon Al will start making curry goat and other traditional dishes. Zeena makes gorgeous fresh fruit juices at the ‘juice station’ (a shelf in the corner) and soon she’ll be selling her cakes, too. They tell me they’ve decided to start small and build up slowly, but twice I went down there and they’d sold out of everything. A good sign.

Jerk chicken was moist and coated with a thick, well-spiced marinade rather than wet-glazed like that of nearby competitor Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre. My favourite thing about Al’s though, is the gravy. A rich, brown stewed onion mixture which he ladles over your rice and peas before topping it with the meat. It’s sweet and addictive, tasting of the bottom of roasting pans and caramelised things. My only criticism is that the jerk isn’t very spicy, but then not everyone wants it so; variety is good and there’s always hot sauce.

Al and Zeena are so welcoming, that you’ll go away feeling like you’ve made new friends. He greeted me with outstretched arms and a beaming smile last time I was there, asking after my boyfriend too, who wasn’t. Al’s sums up everything I love about Peckham: the randomness, the sense of fun, the food and more often than not, the people. There’s a raw energy in the air here, which comes from characters like Al and Zeena, who believe in the value of the area and work with its idiosyncrasies, not against them. Let’s keep the heart of Peckham pumping.

[Edit: Al's has now closed, I do not know why. I hope he has moved premises as he was doing so well and selling out daily].

Al’s Caribbean Food
Umm, well it’s about two doors down from Khan’s Bargain Ltd. on Rye Lane, near the station. If you come out of the station, turn right and cross over the road, you will find it.
I’ll update this with a phone number when I next see Al.

8 comments » | Caribbean Food, Food From The Rye, Peckham, Restaurant Reviews, Street Food

Jerk pork (Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre)

October 1st, 2010 — 4:39pm

[IMPORTANT EDIT DECEMBER 2011: Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre has now been taken over by new management and I'm sorry to say, is no longer worth visiting. They once served the best jerk in South East London but it's now dry, lacking in heat, flavour and all around love. I couldn't be more sad/angry!]

Just a little heads up. I’ve posted about Peckham’s new Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre before but at that point I’d only tried the chicken. The pork is out of this world.  It’s pure joy to work over every last piece, teasing meat from bone and nibbling on the fat perhaps a little more than necessary.

I’m loving their dry rub and glaze technique; it’s making me think about re-working my recipe. Again. A smokier, stickier jerk pork surely can’t be found in SE London? I’ll soon be finding out as I’m organising a Jerk Tour of the area. No rib or wing shall remain unturned.

In preparation, I’ve buggered off to Spain for a week for a bit of stomach-stretching. Adiós!

Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre
Station Arcade, Rye Lane
Peckham
(It’s in the alleyway that is the side entrance to the station)
Tel: 0207 358 8491

10 comments » | Caribbean Food, Food From The Rye, Meat, Peckham, Restaurant Reviews, Street Food

The Jerk Cook Out 2010

August 15th, 2010 — 9:58pm

I snubbed breakfast and arrived absolutely ravenous and half an hour an hour early for the Jerk Cook Out. I wanted to get the measure of the place, formulate a plan of attack and talk to some of the cooks. As the meat hit the grill and the smoke started twisting above the trees though, I got impatient and began repeatedly texting and calling my friends until one of them turned up; some pleasantries were exchanged (“how are you?” “yes yes fine whatever so let’s go to this place first then this then this…”) and we were off.

Tasty Jerk have won the competition two years running. I asked them if they fancied their chances but the answer came that they were just in it for kicks; if you win twice in a row then you have to take a year off. We got stuck right into some of their jerk pork belly. The fat was like eating the pork scratchings of my dreams. I like a touch more cloves in the mix but the allspice was prominent enough and I wonder if they put berries in the coals to infuse the smoke. As styles go it was more dry rub than sticky glaze but there was skill in the cooking and confidence in the spice.

There are different styles of jerk; there’s the all-in-one marinade and then the dry rub and glaze. I want to experiment with the latter. Some places seemed to be serving the meat with a sweeter sauce on the side. Last year’s runners up Jerk Lan took this approach, with disappointing results. Their sign urged us to ASK FOR SPECIAL SAUCE and so of course we did, which was a shame because it ruined the meat. I was thinking hot pepper paste with a kick to rival a donkey but instead we got saccharine gloop which seemed to be a mixture of the worst sweet and sour sauce of my life, sugar syrup and water. We could only judge the meat by licking the crusted remnants of chicken skin from the corners of our mouths, which, incidentally, were good and garlicky.

Over a swift pint of Meantime Pale Ale at The Florence it was time to re-group and digest before riding back on the second wind. My friend enjoyed our third portion better, although I can’t say I thought much of it. The real surprise came in the form of a spit roasted lamb, again from Tasty Jerk. Shards of crunchy skin and fat with a proper heat elevated to an out of body experience by the accompanying chilli sauce.

The lurid artificial hue of a drink is directly proportional to its level of efficacy in quenching the fire in your mouth. Everyone should know this. A couple of Slush Puppies the colour of 1980’s neon legwarmers brought us back from the endorphin super highway. Thought you’d turned your back on the SP at ten years of age? Think again.

The problem with an event getting bigger of course, is that quality becomes diluted. Our pork and lamb were great, although I did know of them and make a beeline. A later impulsive purchase of curry goat was watery and timidly spiced but there were so many places to choose from, it was hard to know where to start over-indulging. When considering this conundrum, it seemed that my only chink of light would come in the form of my judging the competition, so that I could visit each and every stall. I would systematically work the field, savouring each nugget of pork, fish and chicken like it was my last before slipping peacefully into a jerk coma.

And then I’d wake up.

The annual Jerk Cook Out Festival takes place in Brockwell Park (formerly Horniman Museum) in August. Dates vary so keep an eye out. This year’s event ran from 12-6pm.

If you like jerk check out my jerk recipe and my top tips for great jerk.

23 comments » | Barbecue, Caribbean Food, Cooking Competitions, Food From The Rye, Meat, Peckham, Street Food

Smokey Jerkey

September 30th, 2009 — 11:16pm

I live in the sometimes dirty, smelly and er, ‘lively’ area of the capital and I love it. Right now, I’m living in Peckham, and you’ll often hear me sticking up for it. The high number of African and Caribbean people living here means we get some damn good grub, which by its nature is heavy on spice. Many restaurants here lack the polish and presentation of more Northerly establishments, which to be honest, is part of their charm.

Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in Caribbean food, which started with a trip to the annual Jerk Cookout in the gardens of The Horniman Museum in 2007, on the off chance that it might be a nice day out. I would now never consider missing it. Holidays will be scheduled around it. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way and tried out my own recipes for jerk chicken and curry goat but as I’ve realised, these recipes are something which take a long time – years, generations even, to perfect. In the meantime I’ve dedicated my days to visiting as many Caribbean restaurants as possible and I’ve learned that you are on your own trying to work out the secrets of the good places – ask and they clam up completely; heads shake firmly and eyes widen in disbelief.

It’s not all good of course, there are always some howlers. When I was planning our recent Peckham restaurant crawl I planned to take everyone to a Caribbean place a few minutes from my doorstep: ‘God Bless Caribbean Restaurant’. Thank goodness I decided to check it out first. The jerk was incredibly bland, as was the curry goat (which was mostly bone anyway). Strangely, the rice and peas were the best I’ve ever had but not even that will make me return to sample their dry, tasteless, spiceless meat ever again. Shame, because it takes all of three minutes to get there. Lizzie on the other hand, is more fortunate. Literally a few minutes walk from her front door in New Cross stands the unassuming shack that is Smokey Jerkey. When she told me of the tantalising wafts of grill smoke she endures on a daily basis and the surly woman who turns out some of the best damn jerk she’s ever tasted, it was a done deal – I had to try it.

“Is it shut?” I asked as we approached, with more than a hint of desperation in my voice. It wasn’t – it just always looks like that. A padlocked grill covers the front and inside there are a couple of chairs and a counter where you order the food. That’s basically it. We ordered the jerk chicken with rice and peas (£3 lunch special), and scurried back to eat it.

The portion was generous and not too rice and pea heavy as can often be the case. The chicken was succulent and chopped  into hand manageable pieces in the way that Caribbean places always do. And the jerk seasoning? Brilliant. I found it pleasantly sweeter than other jerk I’ve had, sticky with caramelised crusty bits and infused with a smoky char. The flavour was fruity with scotch bonnet chillies and the heat started as a little numbing tingle on the lips and slowly built to good ‘n’ hot. We also doused on some hot sauce for good measure. The heady mix of spices was not too powerful and the extra sweetness prevented that dusty wallop that can happen when it’s a case of too much spice and not enough everything else.

All in all, this is some of the best jerk I’ve had in the South East and I highly recommend you try it if you are passing through the area.  By the way, if I’ve missed any SE London bloggers, then please do reveal yourselves – it’s always nice to find some more locals to share tips, drinks and maybe even restaurant crawls with. Also, I know I’m asking a lot of questions at the end of my posts right now but if you have some favourite jerk places anywhere in London then I’d love to hear about those too. I do venture North of the river occasionally you know…

Smokey Jerkey on Urbanspoon

158 New Cross Road, New Cross
London, SE14 5BA

41 comments » | Caribbean Food, Peckham, Restaurant Reviews

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