Island Rice and Peas

Island Rice and Peas

Sorry for the poor lighting – up here North of the 56th parallel it’s still quite bright late at night!

Ever since discovering the glories of Kushari and the closely related (aka time pressed) mujadara, I have been obsessed with creating and discovering new dishes that cook a grain and a legume in one pot. Some have been successful, some have not. For instance, adzuki beans and quinoa are absolutely divine together, but should not be cooked in one pot unless you like your beans crunchy or your quinoa overcooked. (Caveat: if you have canned beans or pre-cooked adzuki beans, welcome to the one-pot party!). Adding 1tsp. of miso to the pre-cooked adzuki beans and quinoa while the quinoa simmers may be as close to heaven as one can get on a weeknight. Throw in some kale, and its eye-roll worthy! But I digress.

With this obsession in mind, I turned to Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero, a cookbook that is quickly replacing Veganomicon in my heart. Island Rice and Peas beckoned, even though when I saw peas I instantly thought “green peas” which was followed quickly by a nose wrinkle and an “ick”. Pea haters don’t despair – there are no green peas in this dish! Rather the peas refer to pigeon peas, which are a legume. Whew! I’ve used them previously in my Sambar, and to be honest have been at a loss as to what to do with the whole variety since. After making this dish, I now know their purpose in my life. And that’s Island Rice and Peas.

Simple in concept, this is the Jamaican version of the one-pot mujadara, although I took my adzuki bean lesson to heart and pre-cooked the pigeon peas. The pigeon peas start out grey when dry, but when you cook them they turn a glorious golden brown, making them much more appetizing looking! They taste like a meaty lentil (if that makes sense), and sit atop the rice pilaf like treasures. The pilaf is kicked up a couple of notches with Scotch Bonnet peppers, or a combination of Scotch Bonnet and habanero, if you can’t find enough Scotch Bonnets and you like spice like I do. Coconut milk tempers the heat somewhat, making the dish that addicting combination of spicy and cool creaminess, which just makes you go for more! The spices are simple: all spice and thyme, and if you are like me and have a mini panic attack when you see only two spices listed in a recipe, fear not! Sometimes simple is best, and this is one of those cases. The recipe makes enough to feed a small army, which is great for those who love reheated leftovers. Freeze individual portions (I used a plastic-lined cookie tray), and then when you want to enjoy an exotic lunch add some water and reheat. Just as good, if not better, the second time around.

I did make some minor tweaks to the recipe as written. Instead of coconut milk I used almond milk, and the result was just as creamy as the original (I think). I also added some collard greens for good measure, because I am addicted to greens. In Jamaica as well, all I ate in a week vacation there was sautéed caloo, which is similar to collard greens, but more delicious (perhaps it’s because you’re in Jamaica?). Although a two-pot affair to cook the beans, this is a tasty version of my standard mujadara, and will enter the rotation with glee!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online version for you – the recipe is on p. 313-314 of Vegan Eats World.

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