Everyone thinks, as soon as they see or hear something is Jamaican style, that it is spicy and hot. This is not that dish.
Once in a while, I make a dish that doesn’t have a written recipe. This is that dish.
My mother made a roast beef that is marinated in onion, scallions, and Pickapeppa Sauce. When I was growing up in Jamaica, there was only one Pickapeppa Sauce, a dark brown condiment that was salty and sour, redolent of black pepper, allspice and cinnamon. We shook it out of the bottle onto fried eggs and especially bully beef, tinned corned beef fried with tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnet peppers.
Mom used Pickapeppa mainly to season her roast beef. Poured thickly into a Chinese soup bowl with chopped onions and scallions, this marinade was rubbed into the fat and the crevices of the beef. Tiny slits cut into the fat allowed more of the marinade to get inside the beef, and a chopstick was used to poke the onions and scallions deeper inside. Mom cooked by instinct; she knew when the beef was done and would take it out of the pot or the oven when she judged the roast had had enough. Me, I roast the “beast” in a 350˚F/175˚C oven resting on thick slabs of onion to caramelize and soak up the juices. I also use a thermometer. When it reaches 135˚F, it’s time to take it out of the oven and tent it with foil to rest for 10 minutes. A 1kg ribeye roast takes 1 1/2 hours from start to finish.
Of course, a roast needs a gravy. I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Homemade Gravy. Substitute beef broth for chicken, and do not forget to add the roast beef pan juices to the pot. Because there weren’t that much juices in the pan, I also added a little soy sauce for color and umami flavour to the gravy.
I try to make sure the colour green is included. I love greens. Baby bok choy is so tender and crisp, even when stir-fried. Trimmed of any yellowed leaves and leaves that don’t look appetizing (they have holes and tears), baby bok choy make a simple vegetable dish that can be whipped up with minced garlic and ginger and a spoonful of miso for flavour. No salt needed. It’s light and crisp-tender, a perfect complement to the Pickapeppa Sauce in the roast beef. Which, by the way, you can serve with more Pickapeppa on the side.
I insist on more greens so I put spinach in the mashed potatoes. Called colcannon these mashed potatoes are so creamy and chunky, but you can whip them for a smoother texture. I cut back 1/4 cup on the milk because it seemed to be too much liquid. I would add the milk gradually until you reach the desired consistency. If you add a bit too much liquid, as I did, it won’t matter because mashed potatoes also thicken slightly when they sit. If it isn’t creamy enough to your liking, you can also add more milk later. I substituted chives for the leeks, and I decided the butter and scallion toppings were really optional.
The really interesting things on the plate, to me, are the condiments. I was watching Somebody Feed Phil Rio de Janeiro when Phil bit into a roast beef sandwich with pineapple salsa. I thought, what a delicious idea! Now most people who are traditionalists, believe that a sweet condiment is better with pork and lamb, while beef deserves something savoury. Well, I offer both. First there is the sweet and sour (and spicy) pineapple-tomato-chili salsa, and a salty sour peppery limoon (lime chutney) that is my Chinese grandmother’s recipe.
To make the salsa, cut up 3 cups fresh sweet pineapple into tiny chunks, add 2 cups chopped fresh tomato to taste, and about 2 tablespoons minced cilantro or parsley. Pour 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil in a small mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider, jasmine rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar). Pour over the fruit and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste. I added a teaspoon of chopped Thai chili to make the salsa interesting. You can add more to taste or simply leave it out. Then I pulsed the whole thing in the food processor until it was a chunky paste. It had too much liquid, I decided, so I strained the salsa.
The last condiment is the lime chutney or limoon. It’s not Chinese so I think my grandmother must have learned it from her Jamaican neighbours. Quarter six limes and put them in a glass jar with a lid. Cover the limes generously with salt and close the lid. Keep in a cool place until the limes turn brown and “spring water” as we say in Jamaica. Remove the limes and wash off the excess salt. Process the limes with onions and scotch bonnet peppers to taste to make a fine paste. Serve limoon with grilled meat or fish. It goes well with curry lamb or goat too.