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Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Today I link up with Time Warp Wife to share a recipe that is very popular in my country. I would also like to direct you to a friend who is looking for some help with recipes and ideas to bulk up meals on a tiny budget. You can visit April at My Abundant Life. and share any tips you have with her.

This dish can be made with either chicken or beef. (I've even used pork.)  Traditionally, we use bone-in chicken, usually a whole chicken cut up into small pieces. This recipe is different in each home, handed down to generation after generation who modify it to suit their own tastes.  There are so many variations. My mother never added pumpkin and there were times she would put in chopped carrots and potatoes instead of peas if we didn't have any. The coconut milk is also optional. We cook it in a cast-iron pot with a lid and it is a versatile and filling meal, usually served with a salad or coleslaw and sliced avocado (when in season) or some yummy fried plantain.

Photo Credit : The Naparima Girls' Cookbook

4 cups raw white rice
2 cups coconut milk 
(most people put equal parts coconut milk to water.. I don't for health reasons)
6 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
2 seasoning  peppers, chopped
2-3 blades of chadon beni, chopped
2  sprigs of thyme
1 cup pumpkin, cut into small pieces
1 can of pigeon peas or  2 cups cooked
(if unavailable, you can use any other firm pea or bean)
chicken or beef cut up into small pieces
(seasoned with lime, salt, garlic, black pepper to taste and 1 Tbs ketchup)
2 Tbs brown or white sugar

Traditionally a heavy iron pot is put to heat up at a moderately high temperature and about  1 Tbs oil is added (I omit the oil to make it a little healthier). When the pot is hot enough, add the sugar, it will begin to caramelize. When it is bubbling, stir it, watching it carefully so it doesn't burn. When it is a nice rich colour add your meat, reserving the marinade. Quickly, using a large spoon with a long handle, better known as a pot spoon here, stir the meat, turning it to coat it in the caramel mixture so the meat gets a nice brown colour. (Don't worry if your spoon gets caramelized sugar on it.. just let it sit in the simmering liquid for a while and it will all slide off, but remember to use a potholder to hold that hot spoon!)

At this point, I add a little water, the marinade and all of my chopped seasoning, onions, peppers and the pumpkin. I let it come to the boil, turn down the pot and cover it so it can simmer a while to let the meat tenderize and cook a bit. The time this takes will differ according to whether your meat is a tough cut or the chicken is bone-in or boneless. Sometimes I need to keep adding a little water until it tenderizes enough.

Once you are satisfied that your meat is softened enough or your chicken almost cooked, add the rice, water, coconut milk and peas. Turn up the heat and let it come to a boil and then turn down to low, cover and let simmer until rice is tender and liquid is evaporated. Taste for salt before you cover the pot, this dish tends to take quite a bit. I haven't included a  measure for salt because we put very little due to my husband's hypertension

Don't go too far, this tends to cook very quickly, this is why I cook the meat partially first. If the liquid dries out too quickly and your rice is not cooked enough, simply add some more water and allow to simmer again for a while. .

It is traditional to add a whole hot pepper to the top of the mixture before letting it simmer. If you are a pepper lover, you may be fortunate enough to have that pepper burst and distribute its heat and flavour throughout the pot! In my family, there have always been too many children to do this, but the addition of the seasoning/pimento peppers adds the flavour without much of the heat.

This serves my family of 6 with leftovers. You can, of course cut back on the amount of rice you use and using the recipe of 2 cups liquid for every cup of rice,  you can reduce the amount you cook. but I have to say that leftovers never go to waste around here!

The beauty in this dish is that you can add as little meat as you want or as much as you want. You can even make it vegetarian 'Rice and Peas' by omitting the meat entirely. I hope that you enjoy this recipe.

Here are some links to help you understand some of the local ingredients:

This website will help you to understand what a pigeon pea is.

Chadon beni is a popular herb here in Trinidad. Here's a small description. You can use cilantro, marjoram or any other herb you prefer.

Seasoning peppers are found all over the Caribbean and there are many varieties which  can be either hot or mild. I usually taste the seeds before chopping and don't remove them if its mild.

In the words of Julia Child... BON APETIT!

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