Living in Brixton, jerk chicken has become a staple of my culinary life. The word ‘jerk’ refers to the seasoning on the meat and to the style of cooking. Allspice is essential to both. It’s rubbed into the meat to marinate it and the wood of the allspice tree is used on the drum to create lots of smoke that infuses the meat with a wonderful flavour.
This jerk chicken is very easy to make, but the Scotch bonnet peppers are essential to add their unique fruity flavour and lip-tingling heat. Many major supermarkets stock them and they freeze brilliantly, so keep some in the freezer ready to make this time and time again.
The slow cooker can’t add smoke, but something amazing happens when you slow cook the jerk rub — you end up with juicy chicken with a wonderful, almost charred outer skin, that brings a splash of summer at any time of the year.
- 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 tbsp ground allspice (honestly! It’s not a typo)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground mace
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 500g chicken thighs or drumsticks, skin on and bone in
1. Put the spring onion and garlic in a blender. Take the stalk off the Scotch bonnet and put it in whole. This fiery little pepper will make your hands or eyes tingle if you get the juice on your hands, so this is safest.
2. Add the rest of the herbs and spices. Squeeze the lime juice in and add the sugar, treacle and soy. Season well and blitz it all in the blender until it is a rough paste. It should be liquid enough to drop from a spoon. Add the juice of another lime or about a tablespoon of water if it’s too dry. This is your jerk marinade.
3. Make two to three cuts in the skin of each chicken thigh. If your slow-cooker crock fits in the fridge, place them directly in the slow-cooker crock skin side up. Pour about two-thirds of the jerk marinade over them all and, using gloved hands or a spatula, toss them to coat well with the marinade. If your crock doesn’t fit, use a freezer bag or Tupperware. Marinate the chicken overnight in the fridge. Reserve the remaining marinade.
4. Next day, add the remaining marinade to the chicken in the slow-cooker crock so that it covers the chicken skin well. This helps form a lovely crust on the meat that gives a barbecued effect. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook the chicken on high for 8–9 hours. This will make the sugar and treacle caramelise on the skin and the meat become incredibly tender. Serve the jerk chicken with rice and some crunchy coleslaw.