Booking the cooks
THIRTY SECONDS into my interview with Toots Hibbert, we both realise that we’re having a major communication breakdown. I’m having serious problems getting my head round his Jamaican accent and my Irish brogue isn’t helping things on his end.
But once we resolve to chat at an exceptionally slow speed, the lead singer of Toots The Maytals and I are finally off to talk food and music. Actually, the decelerated conversation makes it all the more enjoyable. Hearing him list off all the exotic Jamaican fruits and veg that he was raised on is comfortably hypnotic and makes one yearn for a holiday.
“Coconuts, guava, pineapples, callaloo, yams, breadfruit, ackee, June plums. All them wonderful tastes of the Caribbean.” He had me at guava.
When we get round to discussing his massive body of work that goes back as far as the early 1960s, he tells me it’s his 2004 album that he’s most proud of.
“Everybody from Keith Richards and Manu Chao to Bunny Wailer, working with all them greats. Such a beautiful blessing.” Add to that list other luminaries such as Bootsy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Ryan Adams, and you can see why he likes that album so much. If any of them were really lucky, then he would have made for them one of his favourite Jamaican dishes. Grilled goat fish and plantains, a somewhat more tropical version of the humble cod and chips. Give it a go. It’s probably as close as you’ll get to any sunshine this summer.
Toots & The Maytals play Liss Ard Festival on Sunday, August 5th.
For more recipes, see rockcookbook.comTOOTS HIBBERT’S GRILLED JAMAICAN FISH PLANTAINS
INGREDIENTS AND METHOD FOR SAUCE
½ cup brown sugar
6-8 garlic cloves
½ cup of all spice berries, aka pimentos
3 Scotch bonnet peppers, cored and seeded – wear rubber gloves while doing this and just to be on the safe side, wash your hands afterwards
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 bunches scallions
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of water
Drop everything into a blender and blitz into a paste. Place into a jar – it will keep for a few weeks once put in the fridge.
INGREDIENTS FOR FISH AND PLANTAINS
2 red mullet fillets (unless you can get Jamaican goat fish)
2 whole plantains – you can get these in African or Asian stores
Oil for pan frying and a couple of pinches of nutmeg for seasoning
Turn on your grill to a medium heat. Grill the skin side of the fish first until crispy, then turn it over and spread no more than a teaspoon of the sauce all over the flesh side of the fish. Cook until it browns. Peel each plantain by making two incisions on opposite sides of the skin and then peel. Cut into one-inch slices and pan-fry lightly in some oil. Season with salt and nutmeg. Plate the plantains with the grilled fish, garnish with some lime wedges.