Traditional Jamaican Rice and Peas

Traditional Rice and Peas is the staple of many a Jamaican family meal. Sunday dinners and Christmas time finds this Jamaican dish at the centre of the table. Nowadays it is also a big part of the traditional ‘box lunch’ which many islanders pick up for their midday meal.

4 cups of white rice
1 cup dried red peas (kidney beans / red beans) – You can use tinned instead, just don’t soak them)
2-3 stalks of eskellion (green/spring onion)
1 large tomato
2 clove of garlic
1 sprig dried thyme
1 scotch bonnet pepper (there are other spicy alternatives if you aren’t in Jamaica)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter / margarine
1 pack of coconut milk powder/1 tin of coconut milk (you can make coconut milk from scratch)
Water – (Combined liquids should make up about 4 - 6 cups)
1 vegetable stock cube (optional but recommended for a fuller flavour)

Thoroughly wash the red peas (kidney beans) and discard the water
Place the red peas into the pot you intend to cook the rice and peas in, add about 4 cups of water and diced garlic, cover the pot and leave overnight ( a minimum of 2 hours are needed for the peas to swell properly)
After soaking, the water should have a reddish hue, which will colour the rice when it is cooked.
Do not discard the water.
Set peas to boil in the same pot with water from soaking.
Do not allow to boil dry – add more water if necessary, but coconut milk will add moisture later
Wash the seasoning, then crush the spring onion stalks, slice the tomato thinly and put to one side, with the thyme and scotch bonnet pepper
Boil the red peas until almost soft – around 30 – 40 minutes
Add the coconut milk to the pot and stir in with a fork to finish cooking the peas
Cook for 45 minutes to an hour on normal flame then turn down to a simmer.
Add the stock cube, thyme, spring onion, tomato, salt, a good amount of the butter and the whole unpierced scotch bonnet pepper (if possible leave on the stalk
Lightly boil until seasoning is soft
Wash the rice thoroughly and add to the pot, the liquid level should be about 1 inch above the height of the rice and peas
Carefully and lightly stir with a fork to mix the peas through the rice, (always be careful not to burst the pepper)
Turn down the heat and cover the pot and leave to steam
Steam until the rice is tender and all the liquid is gone (around 30 minutes)
Fluff with a fork (and only a fork!)

Cooking Tips:
You can use tinned red peas (kidney beans) if necessary, but they don’t turn the cooking water very red and aren’t quite as nice as using the dried variety.

Test the peas are cooked by removing one from the pot and see if you can crush with a fork. If you do feel the need to stir the pot again, only use a fork, any other method will make mixture mushy (like a risotto).

If the rice is still hard and the pot is dry, turn down the heat a bit and carefully place some saran wrap (cling film) over the top of the pot, leaving the pot to sweat, the condensation created in the pot will usually finish cooking the rice to perfection (a plastic bag or even tinfoil can be used if cling-film is not available).

Serves 6 people, if you want to feed more people, just increase the quantities to enjoy this delicious Jamaican food

Takes about 10 minutes to prepare and up to 2 hours to cook.

If preferred you can cook the peas in a pressure cooker from dried, in about 45 – 60 minutes, which saves time and energy, plus it also gives a great colour to the finished rice.