While salted pigtails may not sound appealing to many people, it’s a key ingredient in many dishes we would consider ‘comfort food’ in the Caribbean. Only recently are we seeing prominent chefs and restaurants trying to find ways to use the entire animal after it’s butchered. Normal thing in the Caribbean. If pork (especially pig tails) is not your thing, I’ve got versions of Pelau using chicken, beef and we’ve even played with a vegan option as well. Check the Recipe Index for those recipes.
1 1/2 lbs salted pigtials (cut 1 inch pieces)
1 large carrot (diced)
3 stalks celery (chopped)
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper (don’t break)
1 tablespoon Caribbean Green Seasoning
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon tomato ketchup
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 large tomato (cubed)
1 tablespoon veg oil
1- 1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 can pigeon peas (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 cups parboil long grain (brown) rice
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
4-5 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
Important! If doing this recipe gluten free, please go through the entire list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs.
I’d recommend getting your butcher to cut the salted pig tails as it can very tough for your ordinary kitchen knife. I used a heavy clever. Rinse the pieces with cool water (about 1 inch) then place in a pot covered with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to a rolling boil and cook for about 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and get ready to season.
To the bowl with the pre-cooked salted pigtails, add the ketchup, Caribbean Green seasoning, black pepper, tomato, onion and grated ginger. Mix well and set aside (no need to marinate).
For this step I’d recommend watching the video below. Heat a heavy pot on a high flame and go in with the vegetable oil. Add the brown sugar and stir. Please use a dry spoon. Your kitchen may go smoky so you may want to open a window and/or turn the fan on above your stove. The sugar will melt, go frothy and finally a dark amber color (do NOT let it go black – STOP immediately if it does and start over). Once you have an amber color, start adding the season pig tails (carefully).
Stir well to evenly coat with that lovely color. Turn, cover the pot and cook for about 4-5 minutes (please stir a couple times). If any liquid formed, burn it off with the lid off, then add the drain/rinsed pigeon peas (you may also use red kidney beans if you can’t source pigeon peas), diced carrot and celery and stir well to pick up that lovely caramel base we created.
Add the washed rice (basically you’ll place the rice in a bowl, cover with water and massage. The water will go cloudy, drain and repeat until the water is no longer cloudy). In the same bowl you seasoned the pig tails, add the water (from the ingredient list above) to swish around to pick up any remaining marinade.. add that water to the pot. You can also add the coconut milk at this point. Top with the sprigs of thyme and the scotch bonnet pepper. Cover and bring to a boil.
Try your best to NOT break the pepper as it cooks or you’ll release the beast (heat). Unless you like that kind of heat. As it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and allow it to cook for 25-30 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.
You may remove the pepper and any of the sprigs of thyme you can easily see. Do taste for salt as we didn’t add any – the remaining salt in the salted pigtails should be enough.. but you’re free to adjust. Cover the pot and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.
There are those who like their pelau ‘wet’ and if you’re like me, it must be a bit grainy. Should you prefer it ‘wet’ add a bit more liquid than I recommended and you’ll achieve a wet finish. Top with the chopped parsley for a bit of color. An amazing one pot dish, which goes well with a side salad of some sort. Some may say, a coleslaw is needed.. I’m cool with a few slices of cucumber and a wedge of ripe avocado.
Do you own a copy of my cookbook ?- The Vibrant Caribbean Pot 100 Traditional And Fusion recipes Vol 2