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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Authentic Jamaican Dishes - Rice and Peas




Jamaican dishes - Rice and Peas is one of the most beloved . Learn how to make it, and absorb a little Jamaican culture at the same time.Of all the delicious Jamaican dishes that the world has come to know, Rice and Peas is without a doubt the one which appears most frequently on the Jamaican table, and on the menus of restaurants that sell Jamaican food.

We eat it so often that it has been dubbed our "Coat of Arms". Rice and Peas and chicken is a favorite for Sunday dinner, but some of us will eat it every day, and with every type of meat, if you give us the chance. Or with just gravy. Or all by itself.

Other countries in the world have variations (called Peas and Rice in some places), but none is exactly like ours, made with coconut milk and just the right mix of seasonings.

In the not too distant past, before powdered and canned coconut milk came on the market,
the preparation of rice and peas was very time consuming. A dry coconut would have to be
split, the coconut meat taken out and grated, then put through a sieve and the milk squeezed out. Some people still do it this way, but apart from taking a lot of time, grating coconut can be very hard on the fingers!

Now that you have the background, let me now walk you through a recipe for Jamaican Rice and Peas.

Ingredients

-2 cups parboiled rice
-1/2 cup red peas, dried or canned
-1 sachet of coconut milk powder, or 1/2 can coconut milk
-1 tsp salt
-1 small onion, chopped
-1 stalk escallion (crushed)
-1 sprig thyme
-1/4 tsp pimento (all spice)
-pinch of black pepper
-1 whole green scotch bonnet pepper
-1/2 tsp ginger (optional)
-1/4 tsp paprika (optional)

If you are using dried peas, soak them for a few hours (or overnight) in water to soften.

Boil peas in cold water until tender. Pour off stock from peas and measure. Add enough water and coconut milk/coconut milk powder to make 4 cups of liquid, and add to peas.

If you are using canned peas, there is no need to cook them beforehand. Just add the four cups of liquid as described above.

To the mixture of peas, water and coconut milk, add all the seasonings and spices. Allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the rice to this mixture, and stir well. Increase flame until liquid boils. Then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until rice grains are tender. Apart from the first stir, try not to stir the mixture again while cooking. Unless you want very sticky rice and peas!

A delicious alternative to red peas is to use gungo (pigeon) peas. Gungo rice and peas is my personal favorite and is a must at Christmas time when gungo is in season. Use canned or green gungo peas. There is no need to soak green gungo. Merely boil until tender, then continue the recipe as described.

Rice and Peas makes a nutritious, filling and tasty accompaniment to a wide array of meat dishes. From jerk chicken to roast beef, from pork chops to steamed fish. It also makes a good one pot meal for vegetarians. I've never tried it with sushi or haggis, but you never know - it just might work!

Rice and Peas is not just food, it's part of our culture. Real Jamaica Vacations
Immerse yourself in Jamaican culture.
By Allison Morris

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