May 31, 2023 9:30am
We were honoured to host Craig and Shaun McAnuff (the charming brothers behind the sensation that is Original Flava, a London-based food and lifestyle platform inspired by Caribbean culture) at our aparthotel in Birmingham’s Newhall Square recently.
The two were in town for a signing in Waterstone’s for their new book, Original Flava: Caribbean Recipes From Home, and during their stay —during which they cooked up a storm in their fully equipped Staycity kitchen — we caught up with Craig to talk Caribbean cuisine, reggae and sharing bunk beds.
OK, firstly, tell us a bit about the new book please…
Sure. It’s inspired by our family and where we’re from, Jamaica. We went there for four weeks to get the best, most authentic recipes. We were all over Jamaica. We stayed with family in Kingston and even visited our grandmother’s old home. If I were to summarise the book, I’d say it’s about family, community, and fantastic food and Caribbean flavours.
Sounds delightful! So, what are the three dishes someone new to Jamaican food absolutely must try?
Jamaica has amazing seafood. So, I’d say curried lobster and garlic lobster. Obviously jerk chicken too — it’s the best chicken in the world! Thirdly, ackee and saltfish, which is the national dish of Jamaica. Or if you’re looking for a more vegan style, ackee and callaloo.
Ackee and callaloo?! What are these exotic delicacies you speak of?
Ackee’s a fruit that grows on trees in the Caribbean. It has a gorgeous buttery and creamy taste and texture. Callaloo is similar to spinach, but denser.
Nice. Fingers crossed Lidl starts stocking them soon. What would be your death row Jamaican meal?
Saltfish fritters to start. They’re gorgeous, with a spicy kick and great crunch. For main, I’d go for curry goat or oxtail, with rice and peas, and honey macaroni and cheese.
Honey macaroni and cheese, you say?! Good Lord! That sounds like food of the gods if ever there was!
It is! I’d also have a side of coleslaw and roti, which is a popular bread in the Caribbean. It’d be a real feast. I’d throw in a vegan dish too — a chickpea curry. And I’d finish it off with an apple, mango and rum crumble with ice cream.
Drool! And what if you were cooking a meal to woo a lady, Craig? What would that involve?
I’d start with pepper prawns. Then a pepper steak for the main, and a banana fritter cheesecake for dessert. Hopefully that would put a smile on her face.
Would you like our number?! Joking! What about the secret to a killer Caribbean rum punch?
It’s all about the strawberry syrup. This gives it the colour, sweetness and distinguished taste.
We love your YouTube videos. They’re always sound-tracked by seriously sweet reggae. What are the top five reggae tunes on your playlist currently?
Always Bob Marley, obviously. ‘One Love’, that’s the anthem, isn’t it?
Hell yes! What else?
Bob’s ‘Wait in Vain’ is another one of my faves. Then ‘Rock Away’ by Beres Hammond, ‘Toast’ by Koffee, and ‘Sweet Jamaica’ by Chronixx. The last two are more new school acts. They’re really good.
We’ll check them out post haste! So, you two are brothers. It can be tough working with family. Do you ever kill each other?
Sometimes! But it’s all in the name of getting the food right! And we always sort our squabbles out in minutes. We’ve always been that way. We’re really close. We shared bunk beds growing up. I was on the bottom and Shaun was on the top.
Cute. Now, controversial question — who’s the better cook?
I always say we complement each other well. Shaun is fantastic at creating new ideas and concepts of what flavours go well together. Whereas I love the intricacies of cooking, and the artistry and creativity of it. We make a good team.
Any plans to open a restaurant?
We’d love to. It wouldn’t just be an ordinary restaurant. It’d be a hub where people can enjoy our food and chill out. We’d do cooking demos and workshops for kids. It’d be more like an extension of our home.
We’d be all over that. And what about a TV show? Have you been approached by anyone?
Yeah, a few times! Watch this space!
Finally, you guys stayed with us in Birmingham, and cooked up quite a feast in our kitchen. How did you find the experience — did you have everything you needed?
Absolutely. It was a joy to cook in our Staycity apartment. You guys have nailed the ‘home from home’ vibe. We’ll be back!
Fancy making like the boys from Original Flava and cooking up a storm in your very own Staycity home away from home? Then please be our guest! Our gorgeous aparthotels are located in 12 of Europe’s most vibrant cities, and if you join our new loyalty club, Stay Sweet, you’ll get the best rates available on planet Earth!
‘Original Flava: Caribbean Recipes From Home’, by Craig and Shaun McAnuff, is published by Bloomsbury and available from all good bookstores.