Good Food blog
Levi Roots on how to make the perfect marinade
Want to make a finger-lickin’ marinade? We asked Levi Roots to share his secrets for how to make authentic jerk chicken at home.
You don’t have to cook by numbers if you’re making a feast outdoors. That familiar smokey flavour, partly from the wood or coals, part classic barbecue marinades, comes together on the day – and it always tastes better when the sun is out.
But there are some secrets to getting it spot on every time. Step forward Caribbean cook and creator of Reggae Reggae sauce, Levi Roots, who believes that anyone can master marinades.
Mash it or bash it
There’s just one thing that Levi couldn’t do without. “My pestle and mortar,” he says. “I love making sauces and pounding herbs and spices. I believe in making your own marinades and sauces – plus, it gives you muscles.
“It’s not about how you use it; you can mash it or bash it, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a wooden pestle and mortar - it’s not heavy, and it makes you feel part of nature.”
The big question is, what goes into the pestle and mortar? Levi likes to improvise. “Add some garlic, spring onions and fresh ginger,” he says. “Add some ketchup, allspice and cinnamon. Then go for a little nutmeg, honey and salt – keep going until you get the flavour you like. That’s the perfect marinade.
“My recipes come out of my travels,” he explains. “I love my mum and my grandmother’s way of cooking, that’s what I try to bring out. There are no rules and no set ingredients or quantities.”
Wait for it
“Leave your chicken to marinade for as long as you can, overnight is better,” says Levi. “When you’re ready, you don’t want to cook the chicken with the sauce still on it or it will caramelise before it cooks and it will burn. You can always baste it later on.”
To the grill
“For perfect jerk chicken, you have to barbecue,” says Levi. “The greatest thing is the flavour you get from the smoke. In Jamaica, it’s all about the wood they use for the barbecue - they use hickory or pimento wood and they throw Guinness or stout on the flames.
“But if you want to try it at on the barbecue at home, put your sauce in a bottle with water and squirt it into the flames as the chicken cooks. It’s the smoke that creates the flavour.”
We'll be trying this at home, will you?
For more ideas, take a look at our top 10 marinade recipes
Aardman joined forces with Levi Roots to produce the first ever cinema and TV commercial for Reggae Reggae Sauce, which premiered in May.