One of our ongoing projects here at Feed Me…I’m Hungry is our ‘World Food Tour’ where we take time to find out more about culture and food from around the world. Right now we’re checking out the island cuisine of Jamaica so read on for more…
I was be-bopping around a few blogs that focus on Jamaican cooking the other day. I was extremely impressed with Fay’s site, Cook Like A Jamaican. If you are looking for more Jamaican cooking beyond what I share with you I would check her out. I also came across a post for coconut bread at Caribbean Pot that completely cracked me up. “Yes it’s a bread, but we call it a bake. Just as the fry bake recipe I shared with you a while back, which isn’t really baked… we try our best to confuse the heck out of people with our food names.” I was just tickled because Chris nailed that one. Growing up (in Colorado) I remember my Dad telling stories about Jamaica and occasionally having to sort of… translate for myself. For example Pears = Avocados. And Peas= Beans.
See, and I know you are now feeling completely relieved that today’s recipe Rice and Stew Peas does not in fact in any way shape or form involve peas. Because stewed (green) peas does in fact sound completely unappetizing. But I think this naming thing might be a trick to keep those not in the know away from the tastiest dish in the room because stew peas are completely flippn’ delicious. You know how a while back I talked about transcendent beans? (A really great story in one of the Best Food Writing anthologies had a story about Italians and their beans and used that phrase. Transcendent beans! Come on genius phrase.) Well Stew Peas are in fact transcended beans.
Onion. Garlic. Pepper. Red beans cooked down until they mostly loose their form and become a thick stew with the occasional tender whole bean swimming by. A bit of fat from some sort of meat: bacon or maybe spicy sausage. My Grandma apparently uses pork tail? (But pretty much always pork. :::sigh::: I love you pork.) This whole simple but wonderful concoction spooned steaming hot over a fresh cooked white rice. I’m telling you, transcendent beans my friends.
If you’ve had cajun rice and beans you may have some sense of what I’m talking about here. I would consider Cajun Rice and Beans to be a kissing cousin of Stew Peas. Real Cajun Rice and Beans are quite nice, but I still have to say Stew Peas are better still. Stew Peas are kind of awesome too because they can be served with almost anything. Think of it as your Jamaican mashed potatoes. It belongs with pretty much any meat dish ever. Though honestly I would totally eat Stew Peas for breakfast.
So I actually learned how to make stew peas first from my Grandma. She is (unfortunately in my opinion) quite fond of her pressure cooker. She always makes stew peas in the pressure cooker. Which of course does speed up the cook time immensely. I do admit that speeding up cook time is nice, since you begin this recipe with dried beans that require overnight soaking. But I still have to say that I have never had a good relationship with my pressure cooker.
My Grandma gifted me with my pressure cooker when I moved out of my parents house. I tried the pressure cooker the first time on a refried beans recipe. I needed to cook the beans down to a mush before the refry part and wanted to serve them fairly promptly, so I whipped out the pressure cooker.
I still don’t know what I did wrong.
But it was bad my friends.
There was a great explosion in my kitchen that evening. Beans. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE!
Seriously! They made it up to the kitchen ceiling. Don’t tell my Grandma but my pressure cooker has resided in the way back of a closet since that day.
I was seriously lacking in Stew Peas for a while, but my Mom (though she’s Irish, makes a mean Stew Peas) pointed out I could still make stew peas in a pot, though it just takes forever. Since I still have a pressure cooker phobia I make stew peas in a normal-non-exploding!-pot. But I’ll share directions with you for both cooking methods in case you can handle the pressure cooker fear. Whatever cooking method you use, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this dish alongside any main meat dish you choose to serve.
- 16 oz (1lb.) dried red kidney beans
- one large yellow onion, diced
- 12 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/2- 1 lb. cooked pork (bacon, sausage, leftover pork bits all work fine)
- 6+ cups of water
- red pepper to taste
- 2 cups of cooked white rice for serving
- 1. Clean the dried beans by rinsing and remove any dirt or small plant bits that may have ended up in the package. Pour the clean beans in a large bowl and cover completely with clean water. Allow the beans to soak overnight.
- 2. The next day heat a large pot to medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and about a tablespoon of the pork. Use the pork/pork fat to sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and the garlic is lightly browned.
- 3. Drain the beans from the soaking water and add them to the pot. Cover the beans with six cups of water. Allow the water to come to a boil and reduce the heat to keep the pot at a gentle/lazy boil.
- 4. Continue to boil gently until the beans become completely tender and fall apart beginning to form a soup. Add additional water as needed a cup at a time. The goal is to keep the beans in plenty of water until fully cooked and then to reduce water to leave behind a stew like consistency with the beans. This step can take 4+ hours depending on how hard your beans were originally.
- 5. Add the rest of the pork to the pot and stir well. Allow the beans to simmer with the meat for an additional half hour. Add more water as needed to keep the beans the correct consistency.
- 6. To serve spoon the stew peas over cooked white rice.
- 1. Follow the step one and two listed above, except in a pressure cooker. After the beans have been added to the pot (step three above) seal the pressure cooker. Cook time should be reduced to 45 minutes to an hour.
- 2. Remove the lid (Carefully! Allowing the pressure in the pot to come down before opening.) and add the meat. Simmer the meat in the beans with the lid off for an additional 15-30 minutes.
- 3. To serve spoon the stew peas over cooked white rice.