Jamaica: Out of Many, One People

“…Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Sayin’, this is my message to you…”

– Bob Marley

Mango-Lime Marinated Jerk Shrimp with Rice

Banana Walnut Bread with Spiced Rum Butter

Who hasn’t dreamed of Jamaica? With lush mountains, rainforests, and an abundance of sparkling beaches with reefs ideal for snorkeling and diving, this Caribbean island is paradise, full stop.  However, the birthplace of Reggae hasn’t always been so carefree and idyllic for its residents.

The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the indigenous Arawak people who arrived roughly 2500 years ago from South America. They crossed the Caribbean to inhabit the island they called Xaymaka (Jamaica) until Christopher Columbus’ voyage and their ultimate destruction by the Spaniards of disease, torture, and murder.  The Spaniards then brought slaves from Africa to replace the Arawak as laborers.  In 1655, England defeated Spain and took control of Jamaica. They used the slaves to harvest sugar cane, which was used to produce molasses and rum. In 1838, the slaves were emancipated and England then imported indentured servants from India and China to provide needed labor.

It wasn’t until August 6, 1962 that Jamaica became an independent nation, breaking its ties to the United Kingdom.

From the turbulent past of Jamaica (including pirates!) and its confluence of cultures was born an interesting, diverse, and complicated variety of food. The roots of all the previous inhabitants can be traced in many of the recipes Jamaica calls its own. With deference to the people that made Jamaica what she is today,  I have chosen to combine that heritage of flavor while highlighting the island’s abundance of seafood and tropical fruit.

Mango-Lime Marinated Jerk Shrimp with Rice

With so much coastline, seafood is queen in Jamaica.  This easy recipe incorporates island flavors from tropical mangoes, limes, and peppers along with jerk seasoning. The typical pepper of Jamaica is the Scotch bonnet, a very hot island pepper.  If you can’t find Scotch bonnets in your local market, you can substitute the less-scorching jalapeño or the equally-flame-worthy-but-less-sweet habanero.


  • 1-1/2 pounds raw jumbo shrimp
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • juice from 3 limes
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/4 of a red onion
  • 2 T jerk seasoning (store-bought or see recipe below)
  • steamed white rice
  • optional: 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Jerk Seasoning Ingredients (if not using store-bought):

  • Combine: 1 T garlic powder, 1 T cayenne pepper, 1 T onion powder, 2 tsp thyme (dried), 1 tsp sugar, 2 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp paprika, 2 tsp Jamaican allspice, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger.  This recipe uses 2 T jerk seasoning. Store the rest in an air-tight container.


  1. Rinse the shrimp and set aside. In a deep bowl or dish,  whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, peppers, honey, and jerk seasoning.  Add the shrimp to the marinade, mix well to cover, and place in refrigerator for one hour. IMG-1779
  2. Steam the white rice, keep warm, and set aside.
  3. Remove the shrimp from the fridge, toss again with the marinade, and heat up a large pan.  Place the shrimp and marinade in the pan and cook over a medium-high heat. Cook until the shrimp turn pink and remove from heat.IMG-0013
  4.  On a large platter, arrange the white rice, the mango, and sliced rings of red onion. This will form the base for your shrimp.  IMG-1782Spoon the shrimp and any remaining marinade from pan over the base and sprinkle with optional coconut shreds. IMG-0016

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Banana Walnut Bread with Spiced Rum Butter

Island-grown bananas, walnuts, molasses, and nutmeg are the main flavors in this bread.  It can be served at breakfast or brunch, or as a snack or dessert.

You will need:

  • 4 medium-sized very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

For milk glaze:

  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Jamaican allspice

For Spiced Rum Butter

  • 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Jamaican allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dark rum
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Beat the coconut oil, sugar, molasses, and vanilla until smooth. Incorporate the eggs and beat for another minute. Mash the bananas and stir into the mixture until well combined.
  3. In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add in the nutmeg.
  4. Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix.  Gently stir in the walnuts.IMG-1778
  5. In a greased loaf pan, pour in your batter and smooth the top with a rubber spatula or spoon.  Put in oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and while still in loaf pan, make the milk glaze by whisking the milk, powdered sugar, cinnamon and allspice until smooth.  With a fork, poke holes into the top of the bread and pour the milk glaze over it.  Let cool and remove from the loaf pan.IMG-1750
  7. Combine all the Spiced Rum Butter ingredients in a ramekin and stir until smooth.  Place in refrigerator to firm up, then remove a few minutes before serving the bread to soften a bit. Spread the rum butter on slices of the bread and serve.

– ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright



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