I'm all about sistas doing it for themselves. My upstairs neighbour Karen, also a single mum, who comes from a Jamaican background, has started a sideline in selling proper Jamaican food to other mums outside the school gate. Parents are flocking to buy tubs of her rice n peas, callalloo (a Caribbean spinach) and Jerk chicken. I can't blame them, it's delicious, healthy and whilst a seemingly simple dish, it's time consuming to make properly. Contact Karen here (she also runs a complaint letter service, like a street lawyer!)
The future lies in kitchen table entrepreneurs!
Rice and peas is the mainstay food of Jamaican cuisine. Peas is beans: the further south, the darker the legume. Caribbean islands near to the southern states of America, will often use the black eyed pea as I have. Jamaicans use the pinto bean. Islands closer to South America will use the small black turtle bean.
Caribbean and food from the South in the US, is hugely influenced by African food, foodways brought by the slave trade who tried to reproduce their home food using local ingredients. Most African countries have a stew and a starch as a main dish.
Karen kindly gave me her recipe. A few pointers:
One of the things that surprised me was that she soaked the peas with garlic and onion "to soften them". Softening those peas is important.
Pimento is 'All Spice'. I'd love to get hold of the leaves, they taste like bay leaves.
Scotch Bonnets: make sure you get the real thing, not habaneros. Genuine Scotch Bonnets have a fruity flavour, not just heat. If you are really hard-core you can put the entire Scotch Bonnet in your beans when cooking but you risk it bursting, spilling the seeds and making the dish too hot.
My tweak: I had some fresh coconut so I cooked my peas with a few large slices. It lent a rich depth to the flavour. And the fresh coconut tasted amazing just eaten by the slice.
1 cup beans = 2 (or 3) cups of basmati rice depending on your taste.
Soak Beans in filtered water or cooled water from the kettle, overnight if possible add a tiny piece of garlic ½ ways through (yes I have woken up in the middle of the night to put garlic in my beans)
1 clove of garlic
2 spring onions
½ red bell pepper
2 slices scotch bonnet pepper no seeds
Pimento seeds (4 minimum)
Optional 1 carrot
2 small slices of fresh ginger
Put garlic, onion and pimento seeds on to boil using water from the kettle, cover beans and then some.
Simmer for one hour.
Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer till cooked. Don’t let beans cook too soft, they should smell sweet and creamy.
Melt coconut cream in hot water (just to dissolve the block) for 2 cups of rice I would use ¼ of a packet (200g size) of coconut cream. You can add more or less if you prefer, it’s a matter of personal taste. I find too much coconut cream makes the rice greasy. Add thyme about 2 – 3 stalks or a tablespoon of dried. I put at least one table spoon of soy sauce in at this stage. You can add any seasoning you like i.e. Season All, Reggae Reggae sauce etc.
Simmer the peas on low and wash your rice. Season well.
Once your rice is free of starch add it to the peas and stir with a fork. Taste liquid. Usual rules for cooking rice apply; you may need ½ cup more liquid than normal. I use the knuckle test and stick my finger in but otherwise its 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. I add a generous knob of butter and check seasoning. Cook rice on stove or in oven on a low heat, till its cooked. Check the water and don’t stir with a spoon.
Alternatively if not cooking rice till next day, drain peas and reserve liquid. Mix peas into rice and stir (heated) liquid back in.
Rice should be soft and fluffy. Serve with anything!