A taste of the Caribbean
As the popularity of food kits continues to rise, Libbie Hammond decided to get on board and thanks to Great Food 2U, she tested a delicious box of Caribbean flavours from White Men Can’t Jerk
Coronavirus has changed a great many things in our lives, not least of which is how we shop, cook and eat. As restaurants closed their doors and the takeaway became a distant dream, some innovative restaurant owners got to work on creating DIY meal kits that customers could order online and then recreate their favourite dishes in the comfort of their own homes.
With new options appearing all the time, one service that caught my eye was Great Food 2U, which I found interesting because it is cross-brand, with meal options from a range of recognised and popular operators.
The service, which complements the re-opening of the sector from 4th July, is designed to help operators and their suppliers get back on their feet after this period of unprecedented hardship. The business was founded on the back of a collaborative effort by a group of industry entrepreneurs and experts, and as Sue Guilfoyle, a senior partner at Sorsco and part of the team behind Great Food 2U, explained, almost every industry has had to readjust during this period, none more so than hospitality which has been completely floored. “Entrepreneurship is at the foundation of our industry, and because of this some incredible initiatives have been set up, seemingly overnight in most cases, and we really hope that Great Food 2U can be held in the same high regard as some of these,” she said.
“One positive that has come from all of this has been the rise in people cooking from scratch in their own kitchens, but we know that everyone is still missing their favourite restaurants. We know that not everybody is going to feel comfortable visiting a restaurant straight away, so we wanted to find a solution that would enable people to easily recreate restaurant quality food at home, whilst working with suppliers and operators to get them back on their feet. We’re serving the public in a totally new way, but with all the enthusiasm and passion as before.”
What makes the kits so convenient is that they are ready for delivery, direct to your door, and the choice from Great Food 2U means that even the pickiest customer should find something to tickle their fancy, whether they are a couple, family or groups of friends, and prices are set by the brands dependent on the ingredients used and the preparation process.
The recipe kits available at the launch of Great Food 2U included Bleecker’s ‘National Burger Awards 2020’ prize winning Double Cheeseburger, Mother Clucker’s D-I-FRY fried chicken kits, Sunday roasts from The Secret Pub Company and Benito’s slow cooked pork shoulder tacos and beef barbacoa burritos, but the choice of foods is ever-growing. In fact, in August a new vegan addition was made to what was a pretty meat-heavy offering, when plant-based curry brand Spice Box went live on Friday 7th August.
This Walthamstow-based brand’s Vegan Korma Box and Vegan Tikka Masala Box are now on the site, with each kit containing an easy to follow recipe card, quality vegan ingredients, a pack of organic Basmati rice, four Spice Box samosas, two naans, tarka dhal and the brand’s signature date and tamarind chutney.
The choice of dishes available from Great Food 2U made the decision of what to order quite the challenge and in the end, I opted for something very new to me in the form of Jerk Chicken from White Men Can’t Jerk (WMCJ). I don’t mind a bit of spice and can tolerate some medium heat and with the relentless nature of lockdown and the same rotation of meals getting boring at home, I hoped this fiery option would get my senses tingling and make a change to what I am used to.
Advertising itself as ‘seriously good jerk chicken and Caribbean fusion food in a party environment’, White Men Can’t Jerk began life as a monthly party and cook-out in 2013, as an excuse for the founders to get friends and family together, play some records and eat food they loved in their local East End boozer. Since then, the business has grown to become a successful streetfood scene regular at Street Feast markets across London, including Shoreditch’s Dinerama.
The long-term kitchen residences south of the river – The Prince of Peckham and Brixton’s The Duke of Edinburgh – serve up WMCJ favourites alongside special summer menus and weekend roasts inspired by flavours of the Caribbean.
I tried the meal box for two people, at a cost of £25. In the box that arrived very conveniently to my front door and kept nicely cool with ice packs and wool insulation were two WMCJ Jerk Marinated Chicken Legs, Rice & Peas, Coleslaw Mix, WMCJ Mustard Mayo, WMCJ Jerk BBQ Sauce, WMCJ Pineapple & Scotch Bonnet Jam, WMCJ Hot Sauce, Lime, Maldon Salt, Flat Parsley, Coriander and Spring Onion.
A recipe card gave clear, step-by-step instructions on how to go about creating this Jerk Chicken masterpiece and with minimal chopping and mixing and a bit of roasting (I opted for the oven over the BBQ) my partner and I were ready to dive in.
There was a bit of nervousness with the first bite – exactly how hot was this going to be! – and there was an unmistakeable chilli kick but it wasn’t the sort of heat that overtakes the meal and makes eating painful. I was very pleased that the sauces were served separately to the chicken legs so I could decide exactly how hot I wanted to go. The marinade itself had a very good level of heat, but the sauces – in particular the Jerk BBQ Sauce – were, to me at least, extremely hot! A dab here and there was enough, but with the deliciously sweet coconut creaminess of the rice and peas (which I could have happily eaten on their own – seriously good comfort food) the hot sauces really brought a whole array of flavours to the dish. The cooling coleslaw added a lovely crunch and bite, as well as colour, and the lime a fresh zinginess to the finished dish. I included the coriander but sadly I am one of those people that really find the taste of it overpowering and soapy – my partner on the other hand, loved it and found it one of the best complements to the chicken and rice. We both had a full plate and there was rice left over, so the portion sizes were generous and the chicken legs were large.
As a total newbie to Jerk Chicken I really enjoyed my WMCJ meal kit. I loved that I could adjust the heat to suit my own palate and I kept the little bottle of WMCJ hot sauce as I think some amazing chicken wings could be created with it in the near future – sending it in a cute little bottle instead of a sachet was a brilliant touch.
I might even consider myself converted to Jerk Chicken, which is not something I would ever have thought possible! WMCJ have opened my eyes to the range of flavours available and I’d like to try some more of what the Caribbean has to offer. It has also made me keen to try some more of the options from Great Food 2U, as the meal kit was so easy and convenient, both to order and prepare. The burgers, burritos and chicken all look amazing but having so enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone with WMCJ, I am now thinking perhaps its time to be a bit more adventurous and take another culinary adventure!