NEW YORK, NY - One of my favorite dishes to cook is Caribbean rice and peas.
I love this dish because it is a challenge to make it delicious, and frankly speaking as a Caribbean chef/cook, your cooking skills are judged by how you cook rice dishes, especially rice and peas.
When making rice and peas I have the choice of freshly picked or dry Red kidney peas, pigeon peas, Cow peas or black eyed peas, to choose from.
While I love them all, the peas I often use is the dark red kidney peas. I choose the dark red kidney peas because the rice will get some of the color and for me and my family and friends this is important.
When rice and peas – especially if you are using dry red Kidney Peas – is on the menu and you are cooking all your dishes on the same day – which is only way to go in my book because the meal taste much nicer – the first thing to start cooking is the dry red kidney peas.
Starting the dry red kidney peas three to four hours before dinner is critical because the dry peas often takes up-to one-hour-and-a-half hours to cook soft enough to eat. Some people put the dry kidney peas to soak overnight but I do not do that. My recipe for Rice and Peas using Dark Red Kidney Peas is as follows:
Caribbean Rice and Peas
1lb Dry Dark Red Kidney Peas
25 oz Coconut Milk or one large dry coconut)
1 gal of tap water
6 stalks of scallions crushed
6 sprigs of thyme
3 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
One small Scotch Bonnet Pepper
2 lbs long grain Rice
Wash red peas Add coconut milk Add water Add scallion, garlic, salt, thyme and pepper Cover the pot Allow peas to cook until they crush with ease between your index finger and thumb. Do not burn yourself! If while cooking liquid is significantly reduced, add hot water.
Add rice to the cooked peas and coconut milk mixture and stir it all together! Liquid should be one inch above rice and peas mixture. Put excess liquid to the side. Add only if needed.
Ensure all ingredients are mixed together thoroughly.
Taste for salt and add salt if necessary.
Add one sprig of thyme.
Allow mixture to come to a boil.
Cover and turn the fire to low and allow rice and peas to steam cook!
Serves 8-10 people
Serve hot with oxtail, Brown Stewed Chicken, Steamed Fish, Roast Beef, Stewed chicken or beef, Baked Chicken, Jerked Chicken, Jerked Pork, Curried Goat or any similar meat or fish dish.
*Minna LaFortune is a trained Caribbean caterer and also president, Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora (SACD).