After Friday-night dances when I was a teenager in Jamaica, jerk chicken kept the party going late into the evening. Driving home after a night out, we'd stop at a place by the side of the road. Men had fashioned grills out of oil drums. They smothered the chicken with a spicy rub. My jerk chicken recipe is just the way we do it. Everyone does it differently. And every time you make it, it's unique. I like it spicy. But you can lay the rub on thick or use just a bit of it. It's a joyful, celebratory dish.
The garden is the foundation of my cooking. I grow lots of things: tomatoes, beans, rosemary and peppers. If you can grow it yourself, grow it yourself — it's very fresh, very natural. Growing something on your own helps you appreciate it more. For me, cooking is about independence and survival. As boys, we had to learn how to cook for ourselves, rather than depending on someone else. But I didn't learn just through trial and error. As a baby lion learns by watching the adult lions on a hunt, I observed. I had good teachers.
I would spend hours in the kitchen with my mother, my Great-Auntie Viola and Ms. Collins, a woman who helped us around the house. They didn't tell me how to cut an onion — there wasn't a lot of instruction. I just soaked it in.
I try not to eat with my eyes, though. If you eat with your eyes, you might eat too much, or you might eat a lot of processed foods that will make you lose mental clarity. You've got to eat with your brain. When you eat with your brain, you know exactly where your food comes from and how it will make your body feel. Food is medicine for us.
—As told to Alex Daniels
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeds removed*
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 garlic cloves
1½ teaspoons thyme, dried
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ cup scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 lemon, sliced into 4 to 6 pieces
1. Set aside chicken and lemon slices.
2. Using food processor, blend remaining ingredients into a paste.
3. Rub paste all over chicken.
4. Grill chicken over medium or medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until thoroughly cooked.
5 Serve with lemon slices.
* Caution: These are very hot. For milder rub, also remove pith and ribs.
Ziggy Marley, 48, is the author of the new Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook.
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