Photo: Ground mace, courtesy kevindooley.
When I moved to Birmingham in 2000 I was introduced to a quaint little walk-up restaurant with outdoor seating by the name of Tasty Jamaica. When I walked up to the the window, the aromas of jerk chicken, sweet bread and ginger filled my nose. I ordered a dinner of oxtails, rice and peas, mac ‘n’ cheese and plantains with a Ting (a ginger soda). This became my monthly treat to myself.
About two years ago I went through a serious Caribbean cooking phase. I stocked my pantry with the basic herbs and spices of the cuisine. It’s amazing what can be done once you know a
regional flavor profile. For 6 months straight I transformed my
everyday meals into Caribbean masterpieces. I made everything from meat
loaf to beef stew using these spices:
This past week I had a craving for some of
those now-familiar flavors. The restaurant I loved has since closed so
I once again headed to the market to stock up on spices. This time I
chose a less traditional, but more cost-effective route: spice blends
from Spice Islands and Spice Hunter. Not only are some available in a salt-free variety, they are actually pretty close to the real thing.
I made the most amazing meal of stewed
oxtails, rice and pigeon peas, beef patties, and skillet plantains. I
used canned pigeon peas instead of dried ones
are great when it comes to preparing Caribbean, Mexican, and South
American cuisine. Here is my personal simple rice and peas recipe, a
great side dish for any occasion. (Note: It wasn’t put through the
regular Test Kitchens testing process.) Regular long-grain rice works
fine, but I prefer the sweetness of Jasmine.
Rice and Pigeon Peas
1 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup lite coconut milk, divided
1 cup canned or frozen Goya pigeon peas
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Combine rice, water, and 1/2 cup coconut
milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to
low. Cook 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
2. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk and remaining ingredients.