Though you may know it as rice and peas or peas and rice, peas is not actually used in this dish. Instead red kidney beans is the actual “peas” of choice used. And though we may associate this dish as being uniquely Jamaican, it’s also enjoyed throughout the Caribbean. However there are limited restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago that serves it and I’m still to find a home where it’s part of their weekly menu. Our choice for a rice dish with peas is Pelau.
This recipe is a modified version of a recipe that was passed on to me from a good friend from St Vincent. According to him, he makes the best rice and peas in the Caribbean… we’ll leave it as that for now!
2 cups brown rice (not instant)
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 cloves of garlic
1 scallion (sliced)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 can red beans (kidney) 19oz
1 teaspoon salt
Dash black pepper
1 whole hot pepper (scotch bonnet, habanero or whatever you like) * This is optional.
1 medium onion diced
Start by dicing the onion and scallion and smash the garlic so it’s crushed but not in many pieces. This way you can remove it from the finished dish easily. Also remember to remove the thyme off the sprig or you can leave it on the sprig and take the spring out when the dish is done cooking.
Then we’ll put a deep pot on medium heat and pour in the oil to heat up. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, thyme and scallion. Allow this to cook on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
While this cooks, let’s get the rice ready. I usually wash my rice before cooking to get rid of any grit and dirt. I do so by putting the rice into a bowl and let warm water cover it. Then using my hand and fingers I massage the rice. You’ll notice the water will go a bit gritty/white (see pic below). Drain that water out and rise a couple times again. Be sure to drain out the water well the final time. Now the onion should be soft and the oil infused with the other ingredients we added to the pot. Empty the wash rice and give the pot a good stir.
I’ve seem people empty the can of red beans directly into the pot, but I hate the liquid it’s packaged in. So I drain and give a quick rinse before emptying into the pot. After that I add the water, coconut milk, dash of black pepper, salt and the whole pepper. By putting the pepper whole, I can remove it at the end… plus it will get some of the flavour of the pepper without the actual heat. I then bring it up to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. This will then cook for about 25 minutes.
Stir every 5 minutes or so, and play close attention to the level of liquid. If you find that the liquid is drying up too fast, turn down the heat a bit. The final 10 minutes is crucial, since you want the rice to to cook, but not overcook and go mushy. If after 20 minutes you find that the rice is plump, turn up the heat (remove the lid) and cook off any remaining liquid. TIP: Here’s a simple way to test the rice to see if it’s done. Take a couple gains out of the pot and place on the counter top or on a side dish. Now gently press your fingers down and across the grain of rice. If there’s no solid texture (grainy feel), it means the rice is fully cooked.
As mentioned the last 10 minutes is crucial, since this is where you can control the desired texture of the rice. With the use of coconut milk and the fact that the rice contains starch it’s very easy to go creamy and sticky. I like my rice grainy so I burn off the liquid very fast once I determine that it fully cooked. Most times I under cook it (means the rice could use about 5 minutes more cooking) then I remove it off the heat with the lid covered. The residual heat in the pot continues to cook it while not on the heat of the stove.
* If you find that your rice is not fully cooked and your liquid is gone, simply add some boiling water to the pot and continue cooking.
The finished dish with some curry chicken wings.
I’d love to hear from you, especially if you have a different way of preparing rices and peas. Please leave me your comments in the area provided below.