Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Double Ska Jamaican Chicken burgers with pineapple salsa

While looking for ideas for recipes to try, I chanced upon one for Reggae Reggae burgers. The Reggae Reggae brand originated on Dragon's Den in the UK when Levi Roots strummed a guitar in his pitch and got some rich fucker to buy his sauce (ooer, sounds a bit rude). The brand is now a corporate behemoth incorporating not just the original sauce, but various other table sauces, spice mixes and other products up to and including pasties and even soft drinks. I'm sure Levi Roots did start off with family recipes, but sold out faster than a Tory MP with a... Actually, no need to qualify that, he sold out faster than a Tory MP because that's what they fucking do. Then again, Dragon's Den is, by its very nature, all about selling out, so good on him.

He used the unique selling point, or USP, of his Jamaican culinary heritage and home-cooked, family recipes to create his brand. It's not as if he's an American who's voice is the auditory equivalent of having your head pushed into a bucket of wallpaper paste, nor is he some wanky, angry TV chef who's face is plastered across a range ready-made sauces which they wouldn't actually touch with a bargepole topped with a Michelin star. Of course, not all USPs are created equal. Take mine for example. I'd probably go on Dragon's Den, force-feed the dragons a bowlful of chilli that would have them shitting napalm for the next week and I'd probably end up going home empty handed having subsequently called them a bunch of twats.

I've done a recipe for burgers previously, of the beef variety, which is the origin of the hamburger. You can get chicken burgers at your local corporate fastfood joint, but they do tend to be breadcrumbed and deep-fried so, in my humble but profane fucking opinion, aren't actually "burgers". Burgers, for me, should be made of minced or ground meat. Flavour them how you like, but they need to be, for all intents and purposes, a reconstituted steak 

So, I wanted to do something that had a Caribbean feel, I love burgers (as I've made clear before) and thought chicken burgers just don't get enough coverage. Now, chicken is basically pretty bland on its own so you need to give it lots of flavour. A bit of ginger, lime juice and chilli add just enough tropical character to justify me ripping off Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae brand to call mine Double Ska. And because of that, why not have a bit of ska before we start (like you need a reason to play a great bit of Prince Buster)?

One step beyond.
RIP Prince Buster
Preparation: 60 minutes (including roasting the pepper and leaving it to cool)
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Pineapple salsa
1 small yellow pepper
Half a small, fresh pineapple, cored, peeled and the flesh diced
3 or 4 spring onions, trimmed, cleaned and finely sliced
Juice of  ½ a lime
1 tbsp rum
½ tsp ground allspice

Half a medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium to large garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g skinless chicken thighs, boned (or bought boneless)
half a thumb's size of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
Juice of ½ a lime
pinch of dried thyme
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Basic green salad or a few washed lettuce leaves, shredded.
Bread buns

For the salsa
Wash the pepper and place in an oven at 200°C for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place in a plastic bag and seal until cool.

Remove the pepper and peel off the skin.

Core and dice the pepper.

Mix the chopped pepper with the pineapple and spring onion in a bowl.

Add the allspice, rum, and lime juice.

Mix well and chill until you need it.

Pineapple salsa

For the burgers
Heat the oil in a pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is soft and near-transparent.

Add the ginger and carry on gently frying for another 5 minutes.

Allow to cool.

Trim any stringy, white bits from the chicken and cut it into smallish chunks.

Throw the chicken, the cooled onion, garlic and ginger, plus the other ingredients into a food processor and blend for a minute or so, occasionally stopping to scrape any larger pieces of the mixture back into the bowl.

Form the chicken mix into patties. This amount of mixture will make around 4 and (as I stated in my post for hamburgers earlier) I use a burger press to make evenly sized patties, but I'm one of those people.

Cook in a little oil in a frying pan of griddle pan. They take around 5-7 minutes per side. Ensure they are cooked through.

 Urban griller
Chicken burgers. They are difficult to keep in shape

Serve in a toasted bun with salad and a dollop of the salsa and a side order of chips/wedges (sweet potato wedges work especially well).

I do call these Double Ska burgers and I realise that I've only posted one ska track, so here's the second one, a little more recent. Listen to this as you read the rest of this post.

Skank while you cookPrince Buster and Suggs on Jools Holland doing Madness and Enjoy Yourself

The burgers can be quite soft and break up easily so it's worth putting them between sheets of clingfilm or grease-proof paper and leaving them in the fridge for an hour or more to help them keep their shape when cooking.

I de-seeded the chilli in the burgers because you want the burgers to have only a mild kick. On the other hand, you could leave the chilli out if you're effetely inclined.

I didn't put chilli in the salsa, but you could if you wanted a bit more heat. I appreciate that this salsa is similar to the pineapple sambal I posted previously, but the flavours are very different in flavour and definitely characteristic of the respective cuisines they come from.

Like in a lot of Caribbean food, the best chillies to use are Scotch bonnets which have a fantastic and distinctive fruity flavour.

Scotch bonnet
No, I don't see the resemblance either

Finally, given the ska theme, it would be remiss of me not to give a plug to a band called Skaface, a 10 piece ska band from the coastal English town of Blackpool. My pal Colin is their drummer and they are ace, so, if you get a chance, go and see them.

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