All Spice (or Allspice to be correct)… is not to confused with Five Spice… You see Five Spice just has five of the spices while Allspice is laying claim to them ALL!! Also don’t confuse Allspice with the Spice Girls as they are very different things. One is a very entertaining combination of ‘spices’ the other a very overrated UK girl group! Just saying!
So why allspice. The name comes from the fact that it smells (and tastes) like a combination of several spices – think cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger …that kind of thing. Allspice is often called pimento in some places around the world because the Spanish mistook the fruit for black pepper, which the Spanish called pimienta. There you go! And indeed it is that combination of flavours in the one unripe dried berry of the Pimenta dioica tree that makes it a delight to use and a lovely addition to the store cupboard.
I like to have them whole and grind them myself. It’s just the way I roll. In my head it makes it fresher – like grinding coffee beans rather than buying them pre ground. I first discovered allspice after finding out that it was in the jerk seasoning of Jamaica. I had a great first experience of jerk chicken when in Ocho Rios. I was welcomed into a corrugated iron construction by some Jamaicans who asked if I’d tried it before. I hadn’t – I said. And they were insistent in a very pleasant way while taking only a small few dollars out of my hand for the experience. The ‘shed’ was dark when walking in out of the blazing sun but the smell was immense. The cook was in the middle of the shed with a huge fire burning and a piece of corrugated iron – the same as the shed was made from – suspended across the flames. They served me some of the meat absolutely soaked in the spicy mix in some sort of flatbread. It was an absolute delight and then…. incredibly hot! I emerged into the outside mouth on fire from the spices feeling my taste buds born again! My bowels knew all about that spice by the end of the day! Phew!
And then you come home and you buy a jar of jerk seasoning from the supermarket and you try to recreate it and it’s just not the same! Experiences are often time and place specific and maybe should stay that way. I must go back and try it in the land of it’s origin.
But, anyway, that led me to start playing with allspice! See we get there in the end!?!
So earlier in the week I thought lets try something with chicken and fruit. I know! Stay with me. I started by grinding the allspice ‘seeds’ (well that’s what they look like) with some garlic and cumin seeds and some of my home grown and dried chilli flakes (probably a tbsp of allspice, half a tbsp of cumin and a couple of cloves of garlic and a dash of chilli flakes to tastes). Once ground I added some oil to make a paste. I then took my chicken breasts and scored the top all the way along the flesh and then rubbed in the gorgeously aromatic paste.
And here’s the other great bit. I sliced some citrus fruit (orange, lime, and lemon) in about quarter inch slices and arranged them on a baking tray and then laid the chicken on top. I then squeezed the juice from the end bits of the fruit across the top of the chicken and banged it in the oven at about 160c.
Next, I chopped some vegetables into small cubes – the way I like to – and sautéed them in a frying pan adding in some ginger to pull that flavour out of the allspice. And to top the chicken off at the point of serving I mixed some greek yoghurt with cinnamon and honey to pull the cinnamon note out of the all spice on the chicken as well! Genius! The aromatic spicy hit with the garlic and ginger notes is lovely and the fruit is a delightful little fresh addition in your mouth when you add a little to a forkful of the chicken and vegetables.
Go on give it a go and let me know what you think!