This dish connects my family to our Jamaican heritage and all four of my immigrant grandparents, who long ago passed on. They, along with their siblings, friends, and countless cousins who built a new life here, are in my mind, The Jamaican Generation, and they are missed. The recipe is authentic to them more so than the island. I cook it because they cooked it, and because it is delicious. Click here to watch the video.
My grandfather used what he called "gungo peas" or pigeon peas, while my grandmother, who lived with us, chose black eyed peas, perhaps because they were more familiar and readily available in the US. I think Kidney beans, however, are the most popular.
Growing up we never used green onions or thyme, which grow wild on the island, but not in Hempstead NY, circa 1972. We did, however, always include coconut, often fresh, and scotch bonnet peppers, in the form of the ever-present bottle of yellow hot sauce. In general, it's a pretty fluid recipe; you can try a pinch of allspice or cloves one time, a touch of salt pork the next, maybe even some adobo.
It's a perfect dish for large family gatherings, especially with Jerk Chicken and a Red Stripe. Just like "back home" even if that's Long Island! (Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk is my favorite jarred jerk, available in most grocery stores!)
My Rice and Peas
1/2 pound of dried black eyed peas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (or one bunch green onions, if preferred)
pinch dry thyme OR 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (optional)
3 cups water
1 can coconut milk (not the sweet version!)
2-3 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons yellow Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce OR 1 whole Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 pound long grain rice, such as Uncle Ben's
3 additional cups of water
In a large dutch oven or a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, if using. Stir in peas and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until just tender, about 45 minutes.
Then add coconut milk, salt, scotch bonnet pepper sauce OR whole pepper, and 3 cups water. Mix well and taste; it should be rich and well seasoned. Bring
to a boil, stir in rice, reduce heat, cover and cook until rice is
tender and liquid absorbed, about 45 minutes.
Check occasionally while the rice is cooking. Add more water if needed, or remove the cover and let the liquid cook off, if it is too loose, but take care not to burn. Fluff the rice, and serve with love and gratitude!
N.B. Fresh grated coconut yields a more traditional, and extremely delicious result, but I mean fresh as in get the coconut, crack it open and grate it, not the packaged version in the store.