Jamaican Cuisine: Red Stripe Beer Infused Oxtail Curry
May Walker, who was born in Montego Bay, a popular resort on Jamaica’s north coast, enjoyed great home-cooked food as a child, although her family also loved trying a new restaurant or revisiting a favorite every week. -end.
“The food scene where I grew up is very popular for its seafood,” says Walker. “It’s typical to walk into a restaurant, choose from the catch of the day and decide how you want to cook it: steamed, broiled or fried.”
The main meal was accompanied by side dishes such as coconut rice and something called ground foods, which are basically root vegetables like roasted pumpkin, boiled yam, and dumplings.
When they moved with their family to the UK in the early 90s, their tradition of dining out continued to evolve.
“Both of my parents love to try out different cuisines, but it is my Zambian-born mother, Josephine, who loves finding new ideas for playing in the kitchen the most. And with the UK being such a melting pot of cultures, we were always with the family, trying new flavors, ”Walker recalls.
She describes her mother Josephine as somewhat of a master when it comes to food flavors, a skill she developed out of necessity once she got married.
“When my parents first got married, mom would ask women how to make Jamaican food because she wanted to impress her husband,” says Walker. “But women notoriously kept their recipes and would never tell him or leave any ingredients out, so mom must have discovered the recipe by tasting it.”
Subsequently, this is how his mother Joséphine developed a strong palate to recognize the flavors of her family meals cooked at home. Over time, Walker also developed a sharp palate.
Learn to cook
“In fact, I didn’t realize how good my mother’s food was until she left for a month to visit my grandmother in Zambia, and an aunt came to help. dad to cook our meals, ”says Walker. “I must have been six or seven, and I vividly remember thinking back then, I can’t wait for mum to come home so I can start eating good meals again.”
During this time, Walker remembers that for the entire month, his Aunt Katherine cooked the same meal every day. The same tomato sauce with rice and only swapping the different proteins every third day.
“Desperate to eat her food again, as soon as mom came back I started asking her to teach me how to cook,” she says. “Corn [mum] always said: “I can’t teach you until you have learned how to clean”, and with hindsight, I can see what a trick it was to make me do household chores but also to maintain careful cooking – a quality that I am known today for my professional ability. However, I started helping her clean the house, and then she started teaching me how to cook. “
The first thing Walker learned from his mother was the importance of tasting when cooking. “I would finish my task as an assistant and ask, ‘What do you mean? She always replied, “Taste it and tell me.” From there, I learned to adjust and change the flavors. “
By the time she went to high school, she had developed her own taste for flavors and recipes so much that the compulsory cooking classes were a cinch.
At 13, she made her own homemade menu and took dinner orders for her family members. At 15 she was making family meals from scratch and when her school friends came for study sessions she would make homemade snacks for them like buttermilk fried chicken with ranch dressing, salmon quiche and with broccoli or salted fish fritters.
A tasty oxtail curry
Red Stripe Oxtail Curry with Coconut Rice and Peas is his ultimate comfort food. “It was a favorite dish for my mom during the winter at least every other Sunday,” says Walker. “A key part of the dish is that the meat is seasoned and left to marinate the night before with fresh herbs and spices. It has always been my job,” she adds.
“The next day it was slowly cooked for hours, filling the house with the scent of Jamaican spices such as nutmeg, allspice, thyme, chili and cinnamon.”
The Red Stripe, the national beer and the first choice of drink in Jamaica, is used as part of the stock to bring all the flavors together. “When the curry is cooked, the meat is chewy and soft with flavor and spice, so it would be blasphemous if you didn’t try to suck the spicy marrow off the bone.
“As a final touch, my mom would add dumplings, made with flour and whole milk, which slowly boiled in the curry and when you meet them in your serving dish, it was like tripping over gold.”
She perfected the art of preparing this dish once living in Australia and missed her mother’s cooking.
After graduating, Walker moved to Paris to study finance and to support herself, she started working in kitchens, but never considered becoming a chef at the time.
“I decided to become a chef a year after working full time in the corporate sector in London and Paris. When I saw my boss break down and lose his job, I made a list of all the things I loved to do and I made a commitment to myself that I would only make money from these activities. One of them was cooking. “
“When the curry is cooked, the meat is chewy and sweet with flavor and spice.”
Walker arrived in Australia in 2015, after living in France for five years to visit a friend and ended up staying after completing an apprenticeship to become a professional chef.
Five years ago, Walker started making his favorite oxtail curry recipe. “I cooked it the first time partly from memory and sending mom pictures of each step to guide me,” she says. “It was almost touching when I sat down to eat it, because being in Australia I could get close to her while cooking her food.
“The curry dish was also the first meal I cooked for my Aussie boyfriend trying to introduce him to Jamaican cuisine. There really is no better place to start. I absolutely love to cook this curry an Winter Sunday afternoon, because having my house full of these familiar smells makes a cold day even more enjoyable.
Find satisfaction as a private chef
After her last job as a senior sous chef at Butler in Sydney’s Potts Point, she decided to stop working for others and start her own business, My Chef May, to serve as a private chef.
“I am a passionate chef and working in the kitchen started to become a daunting experience,” she says. “I worked endless hours creating amazing dishes, tried and tested to perfection from a menu very close to you, but I never got to see the people I was cooking for. There was always a huge disconnect because I was taking so long and only really got back if there was a problem. “
When she became a private chef, that changed. Walker says she can now develop a close relationship with her customers, and the kitchen and work relationship is so much more satisfying.
“There is a legacy of creativity and passion in Jamaica and I like to think of my cuisine as an extension of that.”
“It has helped me reconnect with my love for cooking and I don’t have to cook meals from the same menu for three months anymore. I work with what is in season and serve different dishes to clients each time. the freedom to consistently create and use local produce in my favor, wherever I cook in the world for my private clients. “
Inspired by her mother’s cooking, Walker enjoys creating colorful dishes with strong, bold flavors that preserve the integrity of the natural flavors of each fresh product.
“I aim to add the color and vibrancy of Montego Bay to all my dishes. There is a legacy of creativity and passion in Jamaica and I like to think of my cuisine as an extension of that,” she says.
Do you like history? Follow the author here: Twitter @ellijac. Photos by May Walker.
For 5-6 people
- ¼ cup curry powder
- 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon whole chili
- 3 spicy cinnamon
- 6 whole star anise
- 6 cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 bottle red stripe
- 1 cube good beef broth
- 8 bulbs finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon sliced fresh ginger
- 1 bunch of coarsely chopped green onions
- 1 large red pepper cut into strips
- 3 large carrots peeled and cut horizontally
- 1-2 whole habanero peppers depending on your spice level
- 1 large spanish onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
1. Place 2 kg of oxtail in a container. Add the curry powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, allspice, cinnamon spices, star anise and cardamom.
2. Add the chopped garlic, ginger, spring onion, Spanish onion, carrots, bell pepper and 2 habanero peppers and fresh thyme.
3. Mix well with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt. Make sure all the meat is covered with spices. Cover the container well and marinate overnight.
4. In a large saucepan, add enough oil for shallow frying. Remove each piece of oxtail from the marinade and seal the meat so that each side of the oxtail is brown and add it to a separate dish.
5. Once done, scrape off any excess pieces that are stuck at the bottom of the pan. Add the brown sugar to the oil and mix well until dissolved (it should look like it’s caramelized), then add the rest of the marinade ingredients and mix well. Add the lid and let the vegetables soften.
6. When the vegetables are soft, add the pieces of sourced oxtail, a bottle of oxtail and the beef broth. Add enough water so that each piece of oxtail is partially covered.
7. Add the mixture to a slow cooker for 4-5 hours on low heat, or place the pan on very low heat for 4-5 hours.
8. The meat should fall off the soft bone.
- 1 ½ cups plain flour
- ¾ cup whole milk
1. Add the flour to the mixing bowl with the whole milk season with salt and mix well until a pasty texture forms. Leave to rest for an hour.
2. Roll the dough into sausage-shaped balls of about 15 g each. Add the curry balls to boil 30 minutes before serving.
Rice and peas with coconut
- 3 cups long grain rice
- 2 boxes coconut milk
- 3 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 6 finely chopped spring onion
- 2 Cans Red beans
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan
2. Gently sauté the garlic, spring onion and thyme until tender.
3. Add the rice, coconut milk and kidney beans including juice from the can and season with salt.
4. Place the mixture in a deep oven dish
5. There should be an inch of liquid covering the rice. Add water if needed.
6. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. When the rice is cooked, break it up with a fork.
Serve the rice and curry with a fresh salad of your choice.