Ainsley Harriott & Len Goodman visit Rice & Things

From start to finish it was a bit of an adventure. From having the small space of Rice and Things overrun with camera crews, to the amazing personality that is Ainsley Harriott, it was a great experience. Chef, over two days, exposed Ainsley to the way we cook ‘Rice and Things’ style, following which Ainsley was inspired to cook his own dish with a little bit of Rice and Things flair!

The star of the show was Len Goodman. As he admitted in the show, he was really a novice when it came to Jamaican cooking, but he tried everything Chef placed in front of him! He absolutely loved our mother’s stuffed chicken breast, with callalou and Jamaican herbs and spices. But he also tasted our signature dish of curry goat and rice, ackee and saltfish and the vegetarian’s choice – veggie chunks and beans.

Over the two days we had a blast, and would welcome them back to the restaurant with open arms, any time they are in Bristol!

Rice & Things interviewed for the Independent Newspaper

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK … and there’s more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

David Gerrie goes in search of some authentic soul food

In search of the perfect jerk food while trying to avoid the braying tourist crowds of Jamaica’s Negril resort, we took the advice of a local taxi driver and wound up at an obscure beach shack, standing in front of a cooking device that would have sent health-and-safety officers in this country screaming into the ocean.

In between what looked like massive sheets of char-blackened chicken wire and hulks of smoking logs were sandwiched a variety of lumps of meat. A tiny table in the sweltering heat and a Long Island iced tea later, we were presented with these meaty chunks, accompanied only by a bucket of industrial-strength jerk sauce.

Rice and Things Exclusive Jamaican Restaurant in Bristol (John Lawrence)

We had ordered a quarter of a chicken each, but, oh my, how we wound up wishing that we’d ordered a whole one. The quick hit of the fiery, crunchy rub, the mellowness of the moist meat inside and the long, long endorphin-releasing rush of that searing sauce made this one of the best lunches we have ever eaten.

Until recently, it’s been nigh-on impossible to replicate that exquisite experience on these shores. True, Levi Roots and his ilk have done much to popularise Caribbean cuisine in the UK, but, apart from in indigenous communities, you still can’t pop down to your local high street for a spot of Caribbean.

Times are changing, though, with London experiencing a new boom in Caribbean eateries and savvy businessmen and West Indian ex-pats spotting Brits’ familiarity with, and love, of intense spicing as well as the ease with which we adapt to foreign cuisines. So it’s time to get to know your callaloo from your cassava and your ackee from your saltfish.

Chef Branatic Neufville cooking away (John Lawrence/The Independent)

Caribbean cuisine is a blend of African, Amerindian, European, East Indian, Arab and Chinese influences. While each island will have its particularities, most restaurateurs say that some 80 per cent of all Caribbean cooking is centred on Jamaica – its heavy emphasis on jerks and marinades seems to be reflected in most recent UK openings. Like Cajun and West African cooking, Jamaican cuisine has its own Holy Trinity of ingredients – Scotch bonnet peppers, spring onions and fresh thyme.

Outside London, Bristol probably has the largest number of Caribbean restaurants, with Branatic Neufville, the chef/owner of the Rice and Things Exclusive Jamaican Restaurant, emerging as the local guru for all things Jamaican. “Arriving from Jamaica 14 years ago, I saw the acceptance of ethnic foods in the UK,” he explains. “Bristol is a diverse, fast-growing city with guaranteed investment from the food trade and a large, tightly knit, family-oriented Jamaican population.

“Whether you like it or not, Jamaica’s food, music and culture make it the driving force of the Caribbean. Much of our inspiration and many of our ingredients – ginger and marsala – are influenced by other nationalities. In fact, the Chinese and Japanese will tell you our cuisine is a lot like theirs.

“Lots of people tasting Jamaican cooking will say that it tastes like the food that their grandma made. Really authentic Jamaican recipes can be replicated over here, but if you try and fiddle with them or modernise them too much, it will end in tears.”

There are certain rules that should be adhered to, Neufville says. “You must leave the bones in your meat, stab and slash it right down to the bone and lovingly massage your rub or marinade in to the flesh. I’m also a stickler for using authentic Jamaican ingredients, such as wild cinnamon and tamarind, pimento leaf (like a spicy bay leaf), pepper elder – a hillside vine with an incomparable flavour and cayenne-like bird peppers.

Chef Branatic Neufville chopping spring onions for a jerk marinade (John Lawrence/The Independent)

But there is a downside, he says, to the growing trend for Caribbean food. “The problem is that a lot of Caribbean people have started cooking a watered-down version of their food over here, because they want to fit in,” he says. “If you had been intoxicated by the food in Jamaica 40 years ago and walked into a lot of today’s UK Caribbean restaurants, the food would taste nothing like it did back then.”

As a final bonus, most of the ingredients needed for replicating Caribbean cuisine at home are readily available at most good supermarkets. You don’t need any hi-tech kitchen widgetry and if you’re looking for a foreign cuisine that instantly transports you to its original home, there really isn’t any finer example.

But remember, it’s soul food, so take your time and always cook it with your heart rather than your head.

Taken from the article by David Gerrie in the Independent Newspaper on 28/08/14.
Read the full article here:–and-theres-more-to-it-than-jerk-chicken-at-carnival-9698009.html

Bristol Caribbean community honoured at awards ceremony created by Rice and Things

From left, awards presenter Sherie Eugene, organisers chef Branatic Neufville and Barbara Brown and Patrick Hart, who was also presenting awards

ELDERS from Bristol’s Caribbean community have been honoured for their contribution to society at a ceremony at Colston Hall.

As part of Black History Awareness Month and the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, the first generation of Jamaicans to arrive in Britain were recognised for paving the way for future generations.

The event was the brainchild of chef Branatic Neufville from Rice and Things restaurant in Stokes Croft. The Jamaican-born chef has been cooking all his life and set up his own business after being inspired by an elder who wanted to buy his food.

Known as “Chef”, the Jamaican said he wanted to organise the ceremony as Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence.

The Garage Gospel Choir performs

The first wave of Caribbean people to arrive in the UK came from Jamaica in 1948 at the invitation of the British government, to help replenish the workforce after the war.

The main award of the night was for a life-time commitment to race equality.

‘Harsh life’

chef on BBC website
Chef from Rice and Things

Mr Neufville said: “It’s about respect… and ensuring that our elders are feeling, on their last days, that the message they have started, someone is taking it up and is prepared to carry it along.

“It’s about time our youths, our younger generation, respect the harsh life they had to put up with when they just came here.

“It wasn’t as easy as what we’ve got now and we must pay attention to what they’ve done and show them the gratitude that they deserve.”

He said: “I have so much respect for the older generation and wanted to treat them to the best food imaginable. To combine it with an award ceremony is the icing on the cake.”

Gloria Morris was given the Outstanding Individual Contribution award at the Colston Hall ceremony Pictures: Dave Betts

Over 80 people were honoured at the gala dinner with 20 special honours made in the first awards ceremony of its kind.

Chef Neufville treated the 120-strong guest list to a four-course authentic Caribbean banquet. The menu included lobster and crab, callaloo steamed in coconut milk, escovitch tilapia fillets as well as chef’s signature curried goat dish.

Chef was taught to cook by his grandmother in Jamaica
He said: “When you look around you and see the level of breakdown in society, in discipline, in knife crime, the gun crime, it’s all young people below the age of 25.

“What that says to me is they have no regards for the legacy that has been left and the things that have been done so we can have a better life. It’s being taken for granted.

“We need to take back society and not let it go to rot.

“We need to show some respect for the work these people have done, not just the black migrants but those that helped us to settle here when we came here because we couldn’t have done it on our own.”

Goat curry

Mr Neufville, who was taught to cook by his grandmother in Jamaica, cooked a four-course Caribbean banquet for the guests, including lobster and crab, callalou steamed in coconut milk, escovitch tilapia fillets and goat curry.

He said: “Some of them end up in old people’s homes and the food – there’s a difference in culture – there’s no care as to what they eat. Tonight might be a night that they have eaten a real Caribbean meal in a long while.”

Barbara Brown, a consultant who helped organise the night, said: “The benevolence across the city has been amazing. In outlining what we hoped the event would be, others have extended themselves so that we can collectively say ‘thank you’.”

The venue has been donated by Colston Hall, with Bristol Blue Glass offering glassware for the awards.

A message of support has been sent by the governor-general of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, talking about the courage and endurance of the migrants of the 1950s and 60s “pathing the way for the benefit of future generations”.

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