I’ll be honest and confess that I have little experience cooking Ital food (no salt, no meat.. usually not for me), but I’ve had several requests over the past few months and a friend of mine who’s a practicing Rastafarian commented that I’m not showing him much love with my offerings. So with a little research I came up with this delicious ital soup, which I know is a good representation of their diet code. However I’ve had conflicting info come my way when it comes to cooking without salt. I grew up knowing that my dreddy friends didn’t partake in meats and salt, but I was told that some make the exception and use sea salt. In this recipe you will notice that I didn’t use any form of salt, so it was a bit challenging to have a well balanced soup since my palate is so dependent on this sinful addiction. Feel free to add salt to your taste if it’s not a dietary restriction.
1 cup pumpkin (cubed)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 cup dried split peas
8-10 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 medium sweet potato
2 scallions (aka green/spring onion)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoon oregano (fresh is best)
2-3 cups callaloo bush *
1/2 cup celery
2 cups coconut milk
tablespoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
1 plantain (half ripe)
Notes: The callaloo (Jamaica) bush is also known as chorai bhagi or spinach in the Caribbean. If you can’t source callaloo bush, feel free to use typical North American spinach, baby dasheen bush leaves or shredded cabbage. Additionally you can also add yam, dasheen, cassava or green cooking bananas if you have those things readily available.
We’ve got to create the base for this lovely ital soup and since the dried split peas will take much longer to cook than the other ingredients, we need to put that to cook first. Wash the split peas then put it in your soup pot (huge) and pour in the 8 cups of water. Also chop the scallion, garlic, onion and celery. As the peas comes to a boil add these flavourful ingredients. reduce to simmer and let cook until the peas and tender (about 45 minutes). Place the scotch bonnet pepper in the pot whole as we want to flavor and not the raw heat. At the end of cooking you can remove it from the pot. However if you like the heat, you can certainly burst it open to release the Caribbean sunshine.
When the peas are tender and starting dissolving, it’s time to add the other ingredients. So peel, cube and wash the plantain, eddoes, potato, sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin, then add it to the pot. Now pour in the coconut milk and don’t forget to add the thyme, black pepper and oregano. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pot to cover everything. You can add more water or coconut milk if more liquid is required. Bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer.
Trim the stems off the okra and cut then into 1 inch pieces and ad to the pot. When cubing the ground provisions try to keep them uniform in size so they cook evenly (cut them in big pieces so they hold their shape as they cook). After 25 minutes everything should be almost cooked all the way through, so it’s time to wash and trim the callaloo bush and add it to the pot. Basically all you have to do is remove the leaves off the stem, wash and roll like a cigar and chop into 1/2 inch strips.
Allow it to cook for a further 7-10 minutes so the callaloo bush adds additional flavor and the soup thickens up. If you’re adding salt, now would be a good time (adjust accordingly). NOTE: This soup will thicken up quite a bit as it cools, so make sure you leave a fair amount of broth to compensate.
Now is a good time to remove the scotch bonnet pepper and if you added the thyme with the sprigs, do remember to fish them out as well.
With all the natural seasoning we added with the fresh herbs, you’ll be quite surprised at how tasty this ital soup will be. By using herbs like parsley, savory, thyme, marjoram and celery you’ll add so many levels of flavor to meals, you’ll be better equipped to handle a salt free diet. A nice touch is some fresh squeezed lime juice to top your steaming bowl of ital soup and be prepared for one of the most hearty meals you’ve ever had. You’re guaranteed to have the sleepies after a hot bowl of this ital soup.