You are not a Jamaican if you don’t know how to …….
Have you ever heard of some of these sayings? Well, some would say if you don’t know how to make Jamaican Rice and Peas then you are no Jamaican. I don’t agree! It is good to know how to do it but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that.
In fact, many people have been attracted to Jamaican culture including our cuisine. And they always try to have a go at making Jamaican rice and peas.
One of the dishes that Jamaican cuisine is known for is Rice and Peas. Traditionally it is cooked on a Sunday but it is not unusual to have it any other day of the week and it is certainly a dish that shows up at all important celebrations or holidays.
Rice and Peas is traditionally served with some protein like fried chicken, curried goat, oxtail or vegetable protein like the vegan version of ackee and saltfish, and fresh salad or steamed vegetables. Fried ripe plantain also makes a very good accompaniment. My mouth is watering now as I write this. I’m going to make some on Sunday and I just can’t wait.
Two of the main ingredients for the dish are kidney beans (generally known in Jamaica as red peas) and coconut. It is typical to find Jamaican households that grow their own peas of various types and also coconut trees in a backyard is the norm.
The peas are usually dried so that their shelf life is extended and thus they are usually soaked in water overnight to make them easier to cook. Nowadays, people use kidney beans from a can for the convenience of it but it is not typical in Jamaica. If you are using the dried kidney beans, you will have to soak it preferably overnight, and then boil it to soften it.
The coconut would be reaped from the tree, husked (removal of the outer skin) and the exposed hard shell is broken, either against a rock or with a machete. That job is usually a man’s job.
After this process, the coconut is passed to a female who would do the cooking. She would remove the actual coconut from its hard outer shell with a knife. The coconut is then washed, grated and juiced with warm water to get the sought after coconut milk which is what gives the rice and peas its distinctive taste. Here in the UK, coconut milk is usually sold canned and the average size is 400ml.
Jamaicans would also use fresh thyme and also a scotch bonnet pepper from the garden. A green scotch bonnet pepper is preferable because it has a lovely flavour which goes well in the rice and peas.
These days it is more convenient to use kidney beans from a can and also coconut milk from a can. Using the juice from the canned peas also gives the dish a more authentic look and flavour. You don’t want to make a pale, anemic looking Jamaican rice and peas.
Jamaicans are really proud of this tasty dish and we are honoured and willing to share the recipe, which is why you have it here. Enjoy and please tell us how yours turned out and what you think about it.
If you ever try this recipe, take a photo and tag us on Instagram.
Authentic Jamaican Rice and Peas
1 medium-sized can red kidney beans (400g with liquid)
1/2 can coconut milk (200ml)
2 cups of rice
1 small onion, chopped or 2 stalks escallion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 scotch bonnet pepper (whole, do not chop up)
2 cups of water
Place all the ingredients (except for the rice) in a saucepan.
Bring to boil and allow to boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Check that the peas are soft.
Add the rice and stir (this is the only time you will stir it).
Reduce the heat to medium until it starts to boil again. Place the lid tightly on the pan.
Now reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and allow the rice to cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Remove the scotch bonnet pepper before serving.
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