Jamaica and Spain have strong historic ties and a friendly relationship. In this second edition of our Global Kitchen Series, JuicyChef invites her friend Enric Escriva to cook some dishes reflecting his Valencian heritage to ‘nyam and trod’ vicariously to Spain via their palates. Before they started to cook under her garden’s gazebo, the art of Valencian artist Eduardo Bermejo* in the background, Jacqui asked Enric a few questions about how he ended up in Jamaica and discussed his increasingly popular food brands which include pizza, cookies and fine wines, perfect comfort food in the pandemic age. Many of us have dreams of visiting Spain right now, but today we can travel in our kitchens via the cuisine of Valencia using commonly found Caribbean ingredients.
How did you end up living in Jamaica and how long have you been living on the island?
I have been living in Jamaica since Summer 2017, but I have been coming here since 2012. Long story short, Alicia, my wife, is from Kingston. We lived 7 years together in the UK and from there we moved to Jamaica with the dream of starting our family and business.
What is life like as an expat on the island, is there a thriving Spanish speaking community?
There are quite a few of us, not only from Spain but from most of the South American countries too. I feel very lucky because I have been exposed to both the local and “the foreign” Jamaica. Initially as an expat, Jamaica can be confusing until you get “di riddim” 🙂
You are proudly Spanish, but also Valencian, can you explain to our readers what makes your region Valencia special?
Spain is a diverse country of many regions and climates, therefore different traditions and foods. Valencia is known for paella, the beaches, horchata, world renown Valencia oranges, plus wine. But, definitely best of all is the region’s lifestyle and its people.
Share with us your various food brands, including your wife’s. What motivated you to start and where can our readers purchase them?
Our website wineandcookiesja.com is where we unify all of our brands. Lia’s Sweet Side: Cookies and treats. Hungry Man: Artisan frozen pizzas. Vinoiswine: Imported wines from Bodegas Arraez. Farina: Breadsticks and other traditional baked goods.
How did you get involved with the winemakers of Bodegas Arraez?
The first time I heard about Bodegas Arraez was from my dad. Over time, I researched and found out more about them and fell in love with their way of doing things. At that time I was doing parties in the UK so got in touch with them about organizing a party with their wine to accompany my tapas and paella. Their response was great, they helped me a lot and the party was a success. Since then, every visit to my family I always go to visit them too since the winery is not far from my hometown. As much as I learned from them, more and more I respected their company culture so when moving to Jamaica the idea of importing their wines was already in my head. They cannot wait to come and visit us in Jamaica and do some tastings around the island.
Outside of Spain and Jamaica, what other countries are special to you?
England. Specifically Reading. It is a very important place because it is where I met my wife and also where I started my business. I believe the experience of being in a different country with a different language having to start from scratch was tough but a great learning experience at the same time.
What are you hoping to do post pandemic?
First of all, to go and visit my family and friends back home in Valencia. Grandpa and grandma are missing their grandson a lot 🙂 After that I guess the same as everybody, restaurants, bars, concerts, movies, parks, traveling!
*Editor’s Note: We would like to express a big MUCHAS GRACIAS to Spanish artist Eduardo Bermejo who graciously allowed us to hang up some of his art for our shoot. His artwork was sent in advance for a trip to Jamaica for a showing at the Spanish Embassy in Kingston. However, due to the pandemic, the show was postponed and his art is being kept safe in storage. Eduardo who also hails from Valencia, designed the label of Vivir Sin Dormir, a special red wine from Arraez Bodegas which we paired with the paella. His fine art is irreverent and has been described as “New Surrealist” and “Cubist” in style, but an aesthetic that is uniquely his own. For more on his playful, provocative and exciting work of art, visit his website www.eduardobermejo.com and follow his Instagram page @lineapuraworld
‘Espencat’ is a traditional cold salad made with roasted vegetables, also known as ‘Escalivada’ in Catalunya. It is the perfect appetizer or side dish, usually served with bread or breadsticks.
Wine Pairing: Arraez Bodegas Canallas White
- 3 red bell peppers
- 1 large onion
- 2 eggplants (aubergines)
- Salt to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for drizzling
- Wash the peppers and eggplants, peel the onion and place them on a baking tray. Season them with salt and EVOO.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Roast the vegetables in the oven’s middle row for 40 minutes approximately. The longer they stay the softer they will get. You want to see the eggplant and pepper skin get dark from the roasting as well as the outliers of the onion.
- Once it is roasted and cooled down, peel the peppers and eggplant and strip the flesh into a bowl, do the same with the onion, throwing away the outside layers that get charred. If you prefer, you can also use scissors to cut strips.
- Finally with the veggies peeled and striped in a bowl, you just need to add salt to taste and olive oil, mix properly and serve with breadsticks or water crackers.
Paella de Coliflor
I am sure everybody knows about paella, the one pot rice based dish from Spain. I am also sure that most of you never heard about a paella with saltfish and cauliflower, actually it sounds very Jamaican but it is one of the favourites for locals in Valencia. This paella is also my dad’s favourite and it can be both a celebratory dish for a special occasion or just a quick dish that he will cook on a random Tuesday. Serves 4.
Wine Pairing: Arraez Bodegas Vivir Sin Dormir
- 500g salted cod (2 large pieces), soaked overnight and cut into chunks
- 800g cauliflower (1 large cauliflower), cut into florets
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 head garlic, chopped
- 2 or 3 tomatoes, grated
- 8-10 stalks escallion
- 400g paella rice, we used Bomba here
- Fish stock (1200ml Paella/Risotto Rice, 800ml regular/ long Grain rice)
- 1-2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
- Salt (to taste)
- Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder (Saffron substitute)
- Parsley, for garnish
- In a paella pan (or the largest pan that you have at home) stir fry the cauliflower with olive oil with a couple cloves of garlic and some salt, once it is ready put aside for later.
- In the same pan, fry the saltfish and set aside.
- Now in the same pan without cleaning it we are going to do our sofrito, which is going to be the base for the rice. Stir fry slowly the diced onion with the remaining chopped garlic until it becomes soft and transparent, then add paprika and the grated tomato (alternatively you also can chop it).
- Once our sofrito it’s ready add the escallion, rice and the turmeric and stir a bit.
- Everything is now ready for the final step, adding the fish stock to cook the rice. Depending on the rice and the stove you are using cooking times will vary, but roughly most rice types need around 15 to 20 minutes. Usually you want the first half of the process on a high flame and the other half on low.
- Once you finish the first part of the boiling you can start adding the cauliflower and the saltfish on top of the rice while the stock finishes evaporating while the rice simmers on a lower heat until fully cooked and ready to eat.
Bunyols de Carabassa /Buñuelos de calabaza / Pumpkin fritters
A classic from Valencia, bunyols are a kind of a doughnut made with pumpkin. You can get this dessert on the streets of Valencia during the festivities of Fallas.
Drink Pairings: Arraez Bodegas Cava Sutra and Arraez Bodegas Miss Tela
- 400g pumpkin
- 200g all purpose flour
- 7g dry yeast
- 1-2 Tbsps water (a bit of water to mix the yeast with)
- Sugar (for coating)
- Oil (to deep fry)
- Slow roast the pumpkin in the oven until it gets soft enough to make a paste, you also can boil the pumpkin instead of roasting it in the oven.
- Once it is cool mix it with the flour and the yeast until it is well integrated, at this stage you also can add a little sugar to taste, depending on how sweet your pumpkin is.
- Cover the dough and let it rest and rise for half an hour or until it doubles in size.
- Finally, you will have a soft and airy dough ready to be deep-fried, be very careful placing it in the hot oil, use your index and big finger to pinch the dough and make the hole in the middle as you are letting it fall into the oil. Do in batches and drain on paper towels.
- Once they are cool dip in sugar, chocolate or eat plain.
Jacqui ‘JuicyChef’ Sinclair, founder of Nyam & Trod, is a British Jamaican award-winning chef, writer, and food culturist. She is a co-founder of Kingston Kitchen, an annual food event supporting food artisans. Jacqui has been an advocate of the Meatless Monday Global movement in Jamaica since 2011. Jacqui’s work has been featured in such publications as the Huffington Post, the Jamaica Observer, Saveur, The Jewish Post and numerous blogs. She has appeared on the Travel Channel’s ‘Bizarre Foods’ with Andrew Zimmern and Food & Wine’s Jamaica episode with Kwame Onwuachi.