A Guyanese Twist To A Bajan Favourite

>> Sunday, 9 February 2014

Rice and Peas photo ricepeas2_zps4fe95bcb.jpg

Rice and Peas is a staple that is served at every Barbadian (Bajan) meal of lunch or dinner. In Guyana it is plain-cooked rice or roti and elsewhere in the Caribbean some other form of peas with rice or boiled ground provisions. Rice and Peas is the starch component of the meal. It is always served with some type of meat or seafood cooked with a sauce or gravy. Even when the meat is roasted, gravy is always prepared separately to serve along with the Rice and Peas. On Sundays, that is generally stewed lamb.

Rice and Peas is rice cooked with Pigeon Peas (dried or fresh). While Rice and Peas can be made with other dried or fresh peas/beans, it is not called Rice and Peas. It would then be rice and whatever beans/peas it is cooked with. For example, rice and black-eye peas, rice and split peas (it would be identified by the colour of the split peas), rice and kidney beans… you get the drift.

For the MY FOOD Project, one of the questions I ask first generation Caribbean people living abroad is to identify a dish from the country they now live in that they have taken and made their own. In other words, a dish that they have fused or converted in some way, either by the method used to cook it, a technique, the way the ingredients are cut etc. If you recall, from the most recent MY FOOD interview, Michele Eastmond - a Barbadian living in London - has Bajan-ized the British Fish & Chips by seasoning the fish the way it would be done here in Barbados. The preparation for the fish would also include a cleansing ritual of rubbing the fish with lime and salt and then seasoning the fish with herbs.

Regardless of where you are from, can you think of any dish that you have placed your stamp on to make it your own, to suit your taste or the style of cooking of your country? Please share in the comments below.

In my case, I have put a Guyanese twist to Bajan Rice and Peas. I do it in a number of ways - by the rice I make the dish with, the liquid used to cook the Rice and Peas and finally by the initial cooking of the dish.

While each household in Barbados has it own way of cooking this everyday staple, it is generally made by first soaking the peas overnight, chopping up onions, gathering a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 2 - 3 pieces of salt-meat (either pig tails of salted beef). Parboiled rice is the rice of choice in Barbados.

  1. The soaked peas is rinsed a couple of times and added to a pot along with the salt meat and water, and brought to a boil, a little baking powder is added to aid in the peas cooking quickly. 
  2. The rice is washed a few times and then added to the pot along with the onions and thyme. Some people add in a fresh bay leaf for extra flavour. 
  3. The ingredients are mixed together, enough water is added to cooke the rice and the peas. The pot is brought to a boil on high heat and then the heat is lowered (pot covered) and left to cook for a period of time until all the liquid has dried out. A pat or two of butter may be added to the rice just before the heat is lowered. Nice!

Personally, the only time I like sauce or gravy with my food is when a dish is specifically made that way and it is meant to be consumed that way. Therefore, I do not like Rice and Peas that I then have to ladle gravy onto, so I decided to make my Rice and Peas differently. I wanted my Rice and Peas to be able to stand on its own. So here is what I do. Here is my Guyanese twist.

  • I soak my peas overnight too but I also soak my salt meat overnight in boiling water to remove the excess salt. This method allows me to put in a few more pieces of the meat.
  • I cook my rice and peas with onions and thyme too, however, I sauté the onions, thyme and salted meat for a period of time, to gently infuse the oil. When I remember, I pluck a fresh bay leaf and drop it into the pot.
  • The peas is then added to the sautéed ingredients along with a little boiling water and pressure-cooked for exactly 6 minutes (time beginning from the first whistle). I want the peas to be cooked through but not mushy. And I like a lot of peas in my rice!
  • The rice is washed (I flip-flop between long grain white rice and parboiled rice for my rice and peas) and added to the pot along with a measured amount of coconut milk (usually fresh) to cook the dish.
  • Everything gets mixed together and I taste for seasoning. Sometimes I may add a little salt if the salt meat proved to not provide enough along with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
  • A couple more sprigs of fresh thyme is added and some Guyanese wiri-wiri pepper. The pot is brought to a boil and then left to simmer, covered, until all the liquid has evaporated. I don't usually put in any butter because there is gloss, shine and flavour from the coconut milk.

Rice and Peas is a meal by itself. Whenever I travel and return home to Barbados, it is the first thing I make. It has become a taste of home for me, a combined home-taste of Guyana and Barbados.

Rice and Peas2 photo ricepeas5_zpsc488e2fd.jpg

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