Andi Oliver, restauranteur and Great British Menu host, was born in Kent and has lived in East London for 25 years.
Oliver was taught to cook by her mother, who was born on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts (her father hails from Antigua – the pair met in Leicester).
An ode to Caribbean cookery, as well as detailing essential eats, the book also chronicles three months Oliver spent in Antigua – a trip which started at Christmas 2019 and had to be extended (“the best luck in the world”) when lockdown began.
How would the chef – known for her colourful outfits and infectious grin – describe the region’s cuisine to the uninitiated?
“The legacy in each island is very different,” she says. “But there are basic things like rice and peas, curry chicken and fried plantain, curry goat or goat water [a type of stew], fried fish.
“One of the things I really hope [with this book] is that people start to think about that difference and celebrate it.”
Tea-brined spiced barbecue chicken
6 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
6 chicken drumsticks, skin on and bone in
1 lemon, halved
For the brine:
3 Earl Grey tea bags
Peeled skin from 2 clementines
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
2½tsp sugar of your choice
13⁄4tbsp table salt
1 litre boiling water
For the seasoning paste:
6 spring onions, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1½tbsp rapeseed oil
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the final glaze:
1tbsp tamarind concentrate
1tsp sugar of your choice
100ml chicken stock
1. First, make your tea brine. Put the Earl Grey tea bags, clementine peel, thyme, sugar, and salt in a pot that is large enough to hold your chicken. Cover with the boiling water, stir a little to help dissolve the sugar and salt and allow to cool. Take the two lemon halves and rub them all over the chicken.
2. Now, put the chicken into the brine mixture, making sure it’s covered by the liquid. Place in the fridge and leave for a minimum of four hours, or even better, overnight. In the morning (or after four hours), blitz together all the ingredients for the seasoning paste in a food processor to make a thick paste.
3. Remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry and add to a large bowl with the seasoning paste. Give the chicken a good rub all over with the paste, making sure it’s completely coated. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, ideally three hours or even a bit longer if you have time.
4. Heat the barbecue to a high heat. When it’s hot, sear the chicken all over to give it a nice bit of colour, then reduce the heat if using a gas barbecue, or move over indirect heat for charcoal. Cook the chicken low and slow for about 40 minutes with the lid closed, turning occasionally, and brushing the meat with more of the spice paste as you go. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the final glaze together in a saucepan. Set over a medium heat and bubble until thickened.
5. Brush the glaze over the chicken for the final 10 minutes of cooking, turning the chicken over often and making sure the glaze covers every part. When the juices of the chicken run clear, the chicken is cooked. Brush one last time with the glaze, remove from the heat and rest for about 20 minutes.
Aromatic shrimp curry
450g king prawns, peeled and deveined
For the green seasoning marinade:
2 jalapeños, or other chillies of your choice, finely chopped
2tbsp chopped chives
1tbsp green seasoning (see below)
Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the curry sauce:
1tbsp rapeseed oil
2 onions, very thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 red chilli, chopped
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground coriander
2tsp ground turmeric
2tbsp Caribbean curry powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp tamarind chutney (see below)
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
Chopped coriander and/or fresh chilli, to serve
For the green seasoning:
2 sprigs of thyme
10g fresh bay leaves
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1 small bunch of coriander
4 spring onions
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli or 1 Scotch bonnet, depending on how much heat you like
6 little Caribbean seasoning peppers (about 20g), or a mix of red, yellow, and/or green mini sweet peppers
½ white onion
400ml cold pressed rapeseed oil or any neutral oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tamarind chutney:
4tbsp tamarind paste
2tbsp sugar (demerara or dark soft brown sugar work best)
2tsp coriander seeds
2tsp ground allspice
2tbsp green seasoning
Airtight jar or container
1. To make the green seasoning, add all the ingredients to a food processor and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whizz to the consistency of a salsa verde and keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to two to three weeks.
2. To make the tamarind chutney, put all the ingredients into a small saucepan with 80 millilitres of water. Set over a medium–low heat and warm through, stirring now and again, until everything is melted and combined. Leave to cool, then transfer to a sealed jar or container and store in the fridge to use as needed. The chutney should keep well for three to four weeks.
2. Put the prawns in a medium bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Mix well and rub the marinade into the prawns with your hands so that all the prawns are well coated. Refrigerate and leave to marinate for about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, to make the curry sauce, get a medium, high sided frying pan over a low–medium heat and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook down for 10–15 minutes until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further three minutes.
4. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and cinnamon to the pan and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the tamarind chutney, chopped tomato, coconut milk and 350 millilitres of water. Bring to a steady simmer for five minutes.
5. Heat a griddle pan or a heavy-based frying pan until red hot, then chuck on the marinated prawns, cooking on each side for around two minutes until nicely charred all over. Transfer the prawns to the curry sauce and simmer for around four minutes to bring it all together. Finish the curry with a sprinkling of some freshly chopped coriander and/or chillies. Serve with roti or plain or coconut rice.
Coconut and lime cheesecake
For the base:
100g gingernut biscuits
100g oat biscuits, such as Hobnobs
50g desiccated coconut
120g melted unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
280g full-fat cream cheese
4tbsp coconut condensed milk
200ml coconut milk
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
100g white chocolate, melted
For the topping:
1 fresh coconut
1tbsp maple syrup
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 fresh mango, peeled, cored, and diced
22–24cm fluted tart tin, base lined with baking parchment
1. Put all the biscuits in a sealable food bag and bash them up to fine crumbs using a rolling pin or similar. Tip the crumbs into a bowl and mix with the toasted coconut, melted butter, and salt. Press into the bottom and sides of the tart tin and chill in the fridge for one hour or until set.
2. Combine all the filling ingredients, apart from the chocolate, in a large mixing bowl. Beat together using an electric hand whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Mix through the melted white chocolate. Spoon the filling on top of the set base and chill for a couple of hours in the fridge until set (do note that this cheesecake has quite a soft-set finish).
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
4. Crack open the fresh coconut and peel off flakes of the flesh using a vegetable peeler. You want about two handfuls in total. Toss the flakes in the maple syrup and half of the lime zest on a baking tray, then toast in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes until crisp. Leave to cool, then top the cheesecake with the toasted coconut.
5. Mix together the diced mango and remaining lime zest and serve a little spoon of this alongside slices of cheesecake, or pile it on top of the cheesecake as well.
The Pepperpot Diaries: Stories From My Caribbean Table by Andi Oliver is published by DK