I have just returned from the outdoor food event of the year and one of the best reasons to live in South London: The Annual Jerk Cook Out. This feast of Carribbean food has outgrown its previous home at the Horniman Museum and is now hosted at Brockwell Park in Brixton, making it much easier to lure some hungry friends along to get stuck in!
We arrived just after one o’clock and things were building up nicely, but weren’t too packed. A quick saunter round eyeing up the offerings later and we joined the burgeoning queue at the Tasty Jerk Ltd stall. The busiest of all the stalls, we were also drawn by the magnificient jerk spit roast lamb out front and phalanx of jerk drums along the side of the stall. This was serious business.
The queue moved quickly and we just had time to decide on a jerk pork and jerk chicken, plus a helping of the lamb which I have never seen offered before. We got some rice and peas on the side of the pork too as it looked particularly moist and delicious. The pork and chicken was with us in a trice, but we did have wait about five minutes extra for the lamb, while the queue for the stall expanded rapidly.
Finally clutching our well filled plates, we found a spot to sample them and realised how worth the wait it had been. The pork was glorious. Stained as pink on the edges from peppers and sugar as char siu, it was soft and succulent enough to cut through with the rather flimsy plastic fork we were given. Tangy with chilli and deliciously charred and chewy from the barbeque, we loved it.
The chicken was equally good. Cooked on the bone and roughly chopped into pieces there was a good mix between white and dark meat. It sparkled with the fruitiness of scotch bonnets and our lips tingled in no time, especially when we scooped up some of the homemade chilli sauce on the side.
But the star of the stall was the jerk lamb. We’d managed to get pretty much the first serving (thanks to E and S for waiting it out!) off the spit roast and our thickly carved slices were a good proportion of crispy skin and juicy, still slightly pink meat. The skin was rich with fat, musky allspice and sweet chillis, melding beautifully with the luscious meat, dripping sweet juice down our hands as we feasted on slice after slice of the lamb. Not only is this the best jerk I’ve ever eaten, it’s some of the best lamb I’ve ever eaten. I would definitely venture all the way to South Norwood any day of the week for this, especially at the bargain price of £5 per plate without sides!
With empty plates in front of us and a mountain of wet wipes to show how hands on we’d been, we moved on before the the ever growing queue for Tasty Jerk Ltd trampled us. Another wander between the stalls led us in search of jerk ribs, but watching them grown cold and unappealing as we queued put us off. We contemplated trying something totally different with a refreshing shaved ice, but our eyes were caught by a stall advertising jerk brie…
Utterly intrigued, especially by the cute little V for vegetarian beside it, we just had to try it. And since we were getting it, we thought we might as well get some festival and fried plaintain as well to add some carbs to our feast! And we are glad we did! Partly to see how one jerks cheese and partly because it was actually delicious!
The sweet creamy brie went very well with the spicy jerk breadcrumbs it was wrapped in before being deep fried. The cheese was gorgeously gooey and molten inside and if it wasn’t so rich, I could have eaten another one! But I wanted to leave room for the delicious festival, which if you haven’t had it, is like a less sweet version of a doughnut. Carbs finished we strolled round checking out the rest of the stalls, debating whether to go back to Tasty Jerk Ltd, but being scared off by how big it had got! Feeling more than replete and with still tingling lips, we decided to avoid the increasing crowds and head home before it all got too stressful for one’s digestion!
I’ve already put next year’s Cook Out in my diary already and will be there bright and early next year to make sure I’m first in line again for that jerk lamb. I’ll also remember to bring something to sit on and a few beers to go with it!