I picked up a few small gifts for Michael on my travels through the US: a snowy owl pin from West Virginia, astronaut magnet and freeze-dried ice-cream sandwich from the Air & Space Museum, and of course some duty-free snacks at the airport.
Actually, the first gift I bought was a jar of Jamaican jerk seasoning from DC's Union Market. Though the seasoning itself is vegan, it's traditionally used to flavour meat. Still, I had some vague memory of seeing a few vegan recipes on USian blogs and I was pretty sure Michael would enjoy its spiciness. The person running the spice stall boosted my optimism, telling me about the vegetable-based stew she'd made recently with this condiment. Just go easy, a teaspoon at a time, she warned me. This stuff is hot!
I had a hell of a time getting this jar safely home. I packed it in my carry-on bag, only to have it rejected as a liquid over 100mL. So I chased my checked-in luggage back through the front counter, downstairs to baggage claim to nestle it amongst my dirty laundry and back upstairs to recheck. I tried not to imagine the glass crushing on the journey, staining my clothes with pungent oil.
The jar survived, and I was keen to make quick use of it. Internet browsing turned up this stew/curry recipe as an appealing winter weeknight option - it's a big pot of sweet potatoes and black beans, simmered in a tomato-based broth infused with the jerk seasoning, ginger and fresh coriander. Though the original recipe contains three tablespoons of seasoning, I heeded the market salesperson and started with just a teaspoon. It gave just the right amount of heat on that first night, as we spooned the stew over steamed rice. Michael added a bit more to the mellowed leftovers.
That still leaves 95% of a jar of jerk seasoning in the fridge! Please tell us what else we should do with it.
Jerk-seasoned sweet potatoes & black beans
(slightly adapted from on a recipe from BBC goodfood)
50g fresh ginger
small bunch coriander
1-3 teaspoons jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
400g can chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 vegetable stock cubes
1 kg sweet potato
2 x 400g cans black beans
300g jar roasted capsicum
salt & pepper
Roughly chop one of the onions and place it in a small food processor or spice grinder. Peel and roughly chop the ginger and add it to the processor; get the coriander stalks and jerk seasoning in there too. Blend everything up into a paste.
Finely dice the second onion. Heat the oil in a large pot and saute this onion until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the blended spice paste. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, stock cubes and water. Simmer everything for 10 minutes.
During the simmering, peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Drain the black beans. Drain and slice the capsicum. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and simmer them for 15 minutes. Stir in the black beans and capsicum slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes and serve garnished with the reserved coriander leaves.