Some of you might remember when I created my list of 100 dreams, although it has been a while. One thing which was on my list was learning how to cook Caribbean food – something I should have done ages ago, especially as my boyfriend is half from Barbados, but I never got round to it.

I decided it was about time I finally taught myself, so that I could surprise my boyfriend and our housemate with some tasty Caribbean cuisine. So on Friday my new cookbook arrived, Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae Cookbook (apparently the Caribbean food Made Easy book is fab too), and I sat down on Saturday morning pondering over what I should make.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

A lot of the dishes do need extra preparation time, sometimes overnight, so this did limit my choices a little, but there were still plenty of options.

I popped out to grab a few things form O2 Centre in Finchley Road too – a few bits and pieces from Tiger to help with my cooking, including a timer, measuring spoons and a cute little oven mitt for holding hot pans, and some new gorgeous serveware from Habitat – I thought as I was cooking for date night, I might as well make it feel (and look) extra special.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

I also went Sainsbury’s to stock up on the food items I needed – They have a great World Foods section which had everything I needed, although they had run out of Oxtail on the butchers counter – maybe next time! I did make myself laugh when I didn’t know which part of the supermarket to look in for the bar of creamed coconut – I thought it’d be in the fridge, but it’s in the World Food section! I also looked on the fresh fish counter for saltcod, haha (this is in the World Foods section too). My boyfriend did laugh at me when I told him on my return too.

I then spent the afternoon preparing and cooking my Brown Stew Chicken with Yard-Style Gravy, Rice’n’Peas and plantain.

The recipes were pretty easy to follow, although in the Chicken recipe it misses telling you to brown the rest of the chicken after the first batch of 6-8 pieces. But you just need to use your initiative a little and you’ll be fine.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

The Brown Stew Chicken with Yard-Style Gravy was pretty simple. You had to rub roughly 16 pieces of chicken with the juice of one lemon, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 1/2 tbsp. all purpose seasoning, 1/2 tsp. course ground black pepper, and then marinate in the fridge for 30 mins (or preferably overnight). You then brown the chicken in 400ml vegetable oil, in batches, in a large pan or casserole dish, remove from the pan, and remove most of the oil from the pan too. You then return the chicken to the pan, and add 3 chopped spring onions (the green part), 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped scotch bonnet chilli, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1/2 chopped red pepper and 1/2 chopped green pepper. You pour over 450ml of water and pop in a knob of butter, cover and simmer for about 15minutes, until the liquid has thickened to form a nice gravy.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road. Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.Learning to cook Caribbean. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

See, pretty simple. you can’t really go wrong.

Rice’n’peas is normally so yummy, and I didn’t see how I would be able to make any better than the Caribbean takeaway we occasionally get, but I wanted to give it a whirl.

Again pretty easy, and with only 10 ingredients, including salt, butter, garlic and all-purpose seasoning (store cupboard essentials), it’s something you should definitely give a go if you can. The only odd ingredients being the bar of creamed coconut, if you don’t wish to use a whole coconut and dried red kidney beans.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road. Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

The recipe does call for you to use dried red kidney beans which you soak overnight, reserving the soaking water, but I didn’t have enough time, so went for tinned red kidney beans, which seemed to do the job.

You do need a HUGE saucepan, as although the recipe says it serves 4, I think I made enough for roughly 10 servings! Which was fab, as we had enough for dinner the next night, and I had some to take to work too!

I’ve cooked plantain before, so I knew how I was going to prepare this – I like to do mine in the frying pan, adding 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 1/2 tsp. sugar for every plantain, to add a little sweetness. Alex loves it like this too, so I thought it’d be perfect addition to our date night meal.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

I was going to try the festivals recipe too, but had a little issue with the oil for frying, so decided to leave this one this time.

My flat smelled amazing – a mixture of stew chicken and coconut. Mmmm…it was making me really hungry.

I managed to get everything ready at about the same time – but you can reheat if needed, and lay the table for our meal. It looked so pretty. Look how gorgeous my new Habitat dishes are…

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.They’re all hand crafted, so each is unique – they’re not quite round either. I fell in love!Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

We sat down to enjoy. The rice’n’peas’ albeit a little sticky, was absolutely delicious. I may have overcooked slightly, causing the stickiness, but it had the aromas and delicious taste I’ve come to love from Caribbean rice’n’peas. I maybe could have added more red kidney beans as there weren’t as many as normal – I think next time I’ll use the dried ones so see if this help with the consistency too.

The Brown Stew Chicken with Yard-Style Gravy was amazing. The chicken was so juicy and tender, falling apart easily. The sauce was rich and flavoursome, with a slight kick from the chilli, with plenty of onions and peppers adding to the flavour. I think this is one of the best chicken dishes I’ve had in a while! It also went really well with my plantain.

Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.Learning to cook Caribbean Food. O2 Centre Finchley Road.

Alex seemed to really enjoy his too, and was almost surprised at how well I did at cooking Caribbean for the first time! I don’t think I can take all the credit – Levi Roots’ Reggae Reggae cookbook helped so much, I definitely couldn’t have done it without it. I’m already planning what I’m trying next – I’ve got saltfish in the cupboard ready for me to try saltfish fritters, and I really want to try to make ackee and saltfish too.

The O2 Centre on Finchley Road was a great place to get everything I needed in one place too. With a large choice of shops including Habitat, Bo Concept, Homebase, Oliver Bonas, Tiger, Waterstones and Sainsbury’s, I was almost spoilt for choice! I was also in heaven wandering around Habitat – they have so many beautiful kitchenwares and serveware at the moment, you have to check it out.

The O2 Centre is actually encouraging shoppers to #FallForYourHome this week, with a chance to win a £100 gift card – you can enter here. Remember guys, you gotta be in it, to win it!

Have you learned to cook something new recently?

Chloe xx

*I was contacted by the O2 Centre on Finchley Road, and provided with vouchers for food, the cookery book and a few items to help me achieve one of my 100 dreams. All views my own.