Caribbean-style stewed pigeon peas
It’s been so hot these days you guys!! If you live here you can relate and if you don’t you may be rolling your eyes. But it’s been getting close to 40 degrees Celsius everyday for the last couple weeks. Super super dry and dusty with no rain, and it feels like that right from sunrise to sunset. I’m sure that’s not accurate but it feels like there is no cool breeze in the morning or the evening. Just letting you guys know what conditions we cook in here in the tropics. (Gives you a little idea of how much frenzied hard work goes behind making a smoothie bowl/boat and popsicles and trying to shoot before they melt into soup) It doesn’t stop us but I definitely feel a difference at the end of the day at these temps. The sun and heat really take a lot out of you!!
Despite the hot temps I have still been in the kitchen whipping some fun stuff up and looking forward to sharing all of it with you guys!! I shared these ‘stew’ peas (stew is colloquial for anything stewed or cooked in browning-explanation for that coming) with you last week via IG and wanted to share the recipe. As you may have guessed by the multiple recipes using peas and beans of all sorts that I post - I am a fan, so this dish had me at pigeon peas! This way of doing them has to be my favourite way of eating them other than in a pelau. I have had them many ways and I love eating them any way but this way takes the cake.
I was In Tobago a while back with family and friends one holiday weekend and we all sort of shared the cooking. My dear friend made a beautiful tasting pot of these stew peas and I fell in love with her way of making them. I don’t even think she really had a recipe, but just whipped them up like that. She is a fabulous cook and anything she touches is golden. She doesn’t see it that way but it’s the truth. She has a natural ‘mom’s’ hand! You know how mom’s (most of them at least) have this way of making things delicious and seem effortless- well that is my friend.
I have tried to replicate this recipe so many times and for a long time just couldn’t get it right until not too long ago. One day it just clicked and I finally got it right or at least tasting the way I love it. I realise that browning (browning is a process of caramelising or in a sense burning brown sugar in water or oil) the peas is not very common or so I have been told but I know some people do it and I think that was the game changer for my peas! Oh my!! It added just a little extra sweetness and a deeper flavour to them.
So although I can’t say these are your typical Trini ‘stew’ peas they do use methods common in Trinidad. They are pretty easy to make and are lovely with whatever you serve them up with. This time I served them with this delicious macaroni pie and ‘stew’ chicken. I always make lots and I eat the leftovers with just plain rice. I can literally live on them folks! Go ahead and try them and you will see what I mean.
2-2 1⁄2 cups of pigeon peas (fresh, frozen or canned)
2 tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil
2 tbsp of brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1⁄2 to a full cup of water
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2-3 pimento pepper chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 cup of peeled and chopped pumpkin
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 leaves of chadon beni chopped
2 sprigs of green onion/ chive chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tsp molasses or browning syrup (optional)
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper (optional if you like some heat)
Heat oil in a large pot to medium high (I like to use my cast iron pot) and add in your brown sugar - allow the brown sugar to caramelise to the point that it’s nice and dark, bubbling and starting to smoke (this takes a few minutes). There is a fine line between caramelising and burning it. Burning it will result in a very bitter tasting pot of food. So if your not sure err on the side of caution until you get the hang of it and add some browning or molasses to achieve the colour you would like. Don’t over do it with the molasses either because the result will be the same bitterness. Just add a tsp at a time as needed)
Once oil and sugar are caramelised and bubbling add in your pigeon peas cautiously because the caramel likes to spatter and burns really bad (I use the lid as my shield) stir them up really well cover and let simmer for a few minutes stirring and checking them every so often. If they are not as brown or dark as you would like them add in your molasses and stir well.
Now turn up the heat to high for a minute or two and stir well and constantly until most of the moisture has mostly evaporated - takes only a minute or two with the peas.
Once it’s mostly evaporated add in your veggies and aromatics (pimentos, onions, garlic, tomatoes, pumpkin, chive, chadon beni and thyme) let them sauté for a minute.
Then add the coconut milk and water (at this point you can add the whole hot pepper in, remembering on no account to break it otherwise it won’t be the flavour you get, it’ll be heat) stir well and bring to a boil and once boiling reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until peas are tender and the pumpkin has basically melted or mashed easily with the touch of a fork or spoon. Feel free to add in a little extra water if needed
Serve and enjoy! I topped mine with a little extra chopped chadon beni