As a kid growing up on the islands you never really understand/appreciate what you have, especially when it comes to our local produce. I remember giving mom a difficult time during ‘peas season’ (usually from Dec to mid-June), as it would make it’s way on the dinner table too often for my liking. We had a kitchen garden so many of the meals prepared came directly from that small plot of land behind our home. Today I’m stuck using the stuff from the can and the occasional time I can find it in the frozen section of the supermarket. Being based in Canada, the options are slim.. rare is the time you’d get fresh pigeon peas.
2 1/2 cups pigeon peas (green / from frozen)
(water for boiling the peas)
2 tannia (potato will also work)
3 bird’s eye pepper (bird pepper or any spicy pepper you have/like)
1 small onion
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon coconut oil (veg oil works great)
2 – 2 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (geera)
2 tablespoon shado beni (divided – cilantro will also work)
3-4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt (adjust)
Note: Shado beni is also known as Culantro. If you cannot get it, feel free to use cilantro. I believe the Tannia is aka coco yam in some parts of the Caribbean.
Important: If doing this recipe gluten free, do go through the full list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs. Especially the curry powder you use, as some may contain flour as a filler.
The first step is to thaw and rinse the pigeon peas, then place them in a deep pot covered with water and bring to a boil. As it comes to a boil, reduce to a gentle boil and cook for 25-30 minutes. This step will help us to remove the sort of ‘”bitter” aftertaste you can sometimes get, plus it will help make the peas a bit more tender. Drain, rinse and set aside.
Peel the tannia and cube into 1 inch pieces, if you’re using potatoes I’d recommend cutting them large as it will be cooked for an hour and 40 minutes or so. Place the peeled and cubed tannia in cool water as we get to cooking, to prevent discoloration.
Heat the coconut oil (any oil will work) in a wide pan (one with a lid) on a medium flame, then add the diced onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to as low as it will go and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the bird’s eye pepper, black pepper, 1/2 the shado beni (chopped fine) and cumin seeds. Cook another 2-3 minutes. It’s now time to add your favorite curry powder – heat still on very low. Cook the mixture for another 3-4 minutes as to cook off the raw curry taste.
Turn the heat up to medium and start adding the washed tanni, stir well to coat with the curry base. You can now add the pre-cooked pigeon peas and stir will.
Top with the water, add the salt and bring to a boil (raise the heat to high).
When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover the pot (slightly ajar) and cook until tender. In my case it took about an hour and 40 minutes. Add more water if necessary (during the cooking process). Taste for salt near the end and adjust accordingly… you can now crush some of the tannia with the back of your spoon, to help thicken the gravy. As you turn off the stove, top with the remaining chopped shado beni.
I love having this curry peas with hot roti, but it’s excellent with rice, ‘bakes’ and any flat bread as well. Be mindful that it will thicken up as it cools. The same sort of method can be employed if you’re using freshly picked/shelled pigeon peas to make this curry dish.