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Kwame’s Pantry

Kwame Onwuachi

Lesson time 18 min

Kwame lands in Jamaica, and while he’s not yet sure what exactly he’s going to be cooking, he knows he needs to stock his pantry with all the essentials. Learn how to make jerk paste, marination, curry powder, and Kwame’s famous AP (all-purpose) seasoning, which he calls “salt on steroids” and puts on everything! This lesson is the building block for almost every recipe Kwame will make.

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– Welcome to my pantry. I don’t really know what I’m gonna be cooking yet, but I know that I need these key things in order to build these amazing flavors. So the things and ingredients that I make that are essential to my cooking are usually all-purpose seasoning, which is like a house spice, Curry powder, Jerk Paste and Marination, which is like a marinade for all meats that I cook that have Caribbean influence. So I’m gonna grab some cayenne, some black pepper, some granulated, garlic, granulated onion, some paprika and salt for this all-purpose seasoning. So I use this for everything. I use this to sear my steaks. I use it to season my oxtail. I use it to season my Brown Stew Chicken. This is an all-purpose seasoning. Honestly, there’s not a recipe normally that I don’t use this, and It’s like better than using salt. It’s like salt on steroids. So I’m gonna add some kosher salt. Some paprika. Some onion. Some garlic. Some black pepper. And some cayenne. Here’s what you put the least of. It’s really, really hot. You just want that flavor of the cayenne, and not that like super strong heat. So you know, this seasoning is like a really good balance, like bumps up the flavor of everything. It’s about like three part salt, two part garlic and onion, and then one part paprika, cayenne and black pepper. If you wanted a bit spicer, you can add more cayenne. You can even add a little bit of sugar or MSG to it. This is a good base to build for any real spice blend. This is a derivative of my mother’s house spice. It’s a spice blend that she used, and she taught me at a very young age. So I’m gonna put it here, and move to the next thing in the pantry. So next, we’re gonna make our Curry spice. Now, this is gonna go on our goat. It’s gonna go on our Curry crab. But first, you wanna start by toasting your spices. So I’m gonna pick out the spices. The whole spices that I’m gonna use for this. We got some cinnamon. Some aniseed. Got some clove. Some coriander. Some Fenugreek. So the whole spices I’m gonna toast, and then I’m gonna add all that to this turmeric, which gives like this Curry powder a signature color. The thing that gives Caribbean Curry powder like It’s signature flavor is the aniseed. All right. The Indians actually came over here as indentured servants. So a lot of the food has lots of similarities to Indian cuisine, and that’s where you get your Curry goat, your Curry chickpeas and things like that. So I’m gonna toast these off and It’s really gonna release so much more flavor. You know It’s gonna get nice and fragrant. And when I’m doing this, I’m not looking for a color or anything. I’m using my senses. And that’s what cooking is all about, is using all your senses when you’re cooking. I can already smell these spices toasting, and It’s super fragrant. So this is already done. We can take this off the flame, and we’re gonna add this to the blender, and blitz it up. I’m gonna add the spices directly to the blender. I’m just gonna shake this up. I’m looking it to be finely ground. You want it to almost be a powder. I’m just gonna add that to this bowl. So you can see It’s a little coarse. It’s still gonna taste really, really great. Now I’m gonna add some turmeric to this. It’s gonna give it It’s signature bright yellow color. Mix that in. – It’s about half turmeric to that spice blend mixture. And there you have this beautiful fresh Curry powder. So now we’re gonna continue with the pantry, and there’s two marinades that I make. One is Marination or It’s a Jamaican marinade that they use for all different types of vegetables and meats, and the other one is called Jerk Paste. So for the Jerk Paste, we’re bringing out the blender again. We’re gonna add our spices to this first, and blend that up before we add our fresh ingredients. So I’m gonna add a little bit of all spice, which is the main ingredient in Jerk Chicken. I’m gonna add some bay leaf. I’m gonna add some clove to this, just a little bit. You don’t want too much clove in this. So we’re just gonna blitz this up. So now that the spices are grinded, I’m gonna add my fresh ingredients. So I’m gonna grab some ginger, some garlic, some green onion, some thyme. Also a couple of these scotch bonnets, super important. And then some liquids for this as well. So I use a little bit of soy, some Worcestershire and some vinegar. Now the vinegar, you can have fun with. I wouldn’t use like red wine vinegar, but you can use like white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, even you know, sugar cane vinegar. And I’m gonna grab an ingredient that’s really, really cool. It’s cinnamon leaf. You can only get it in like, really Caribbean areas, but it has the flavor of cinnamon, but this really, really fresh green vegetable flavor as well. Wow, It’s so good. So I’m gonna add a couple leaves of this. I’m gonna add some fresh thyme to this. Now, the thyme out here is a little sturdier than the thyme we have back home. So I’m gonna strip this of It’s leaves, help the blender out a little bit. You can just pull on it just like that. I’m gonna throw a couple of these Scotch bonnet in there whole just like that. Just take the stem off. Scotch bonnet is a pepper that’s indigenous to the Caribbean. It grows in really nice warm climates. It’s very fruity, very reminiscent of a Habanero pepper, but it has like this tropical flavor profile to it. This thing is spicy all right. So be very, very careful when you’re using it. If you don’t have Scotch bonnet where you’re from, use Habanero or the spiciest chili you can get. You know Jerk was originally made with Thai chilies, that’s what grew like wild. When I peel my ginger, I’m gonna take a spoon, and this helps peel it a little bit easier without taking out pretty much any of the flesh. And you can get in the grooves, so you have a better yield. I’m gonna run my knife through this a couple times just to help the blender out a little bit. I’m gonna slice it down. Now I’m gonna take some green onions, just run my knife through them. Pop that right in there. And then like three cloves of garlic. I’m gonna add some salt. A little bit of cane sugar. Some white vinegar. Some Worcestershire sauce. Some soy sauce. We’re gonna turn this baby on. So this is Jerk Paste. It’s nice and like still chunky like a paste is really. I’m gonna put this in a jar. This can store you know in your fridge, like up to a month. So like make this, and you can make salad dressings from this. You can make aiolis. You can do so much with this besides just marinating it for chicken. Make sure I get every drop out of here. Bang, bang. So the last step in our pantry is marination, It’s a marinade. We use it for all different types of vegetables, and meats from oxtail to Curry goat to Brown Stew Chicken. Let’s get into it. So basic things are onion, ginger, garlic. Pop that down there. Then we’ve got our beautiful bounty. Got some celery. Some green onion. Got some Scotch bonnet as well. Some dice. And I got some vinegar. So all these are going in the blender, so everything is a rough chop. So I’m just gonna help the blender out, and chop those just like that. Bang, bang. I’m gonna chop the celery, and I don’t want to use the leaves. So I’m just gonna take these beautiful ribs. In Trinidad, we call this green seasoning. So you’ll see different names for this in different areas. You know, in Puerto Rico, It’s called Recaito. So like, you’ll see this everywhere all throughout the Caribbean. Just gonna use half of this onion. Gonna add one of these. Couple cloves of garlic, not too much. So got some ginger, I’m just gonna peel with the spoon. I’m just gonna chop this just to help the blender out a little bit. Then I’m gonna add some thyme and same thing, I just want the leaves, I don’t want this thick woody stem. So I’m gonna add some vinegar to this. This is gonna help blend it up, and a little bit of canola oil as well. So we’re just gonna blitz this up. All right, so this is done. Mmm. Mmm. It’s so good. This is what adds so much depth to flavor to Caribbean cooking. You have the fresh onion, garlic, thyme, ginger, scallion and Scotch bonnet and celery. You have the little bit of vinegar, and oil in there. So this is the basics of you know, Caribbean kitchen. You have the Jerk Paste, green seasoning, your all spice, you have Curry powder. All right. So your pantry set. It’s time to start cooking.

About the Instructor

Kwame Onwuachi started peeling shrimp and stirring roux at 5 years old in his mother’s catering kitchen in the Bronx. The James Beard Award-winning chef has received many accolades since then, including FOOD & WINE’S Best New Chef, Esquire Magazine’s 2019 Chef of the Year, 30 Under 30 honoree by both Forbes and Zagat, and has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef as both a contestant and judge. In his class, Onwuachi embraces the richness of Afro-Caribbean culture and cuisine, and teaches students how to cook his favorite Jamaican recipes.

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