Wednesday, April 22, 2009

trinidadian black-eyed pea stew

After uploading all the photos for this post, I almost didn't want to start writing the copy. Contemplated a nap. Decided to persevere. So this is a recipe for a Trinidadian stew. I can't vouch for its authenticity, not being Trinidadian. But it sounded good.

I based my recipe on the above recipe for Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Soup.

I found it in a book called World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey. She's like the Godmother of Indian cooking. I don't know if she knows anything about West Indian cooking... but I bet she can fake it. I'm also thinking she's looking pretty awesome in that photograph, because her Wikipedia entry tells me she was born in 1933. If her recipes keep me looking that fine when I'm 70-something, I'd be happy.

This is a package of dried black-eyed peas. I'm totally making this recipe from scratch, sorry for your luck. You can take the wimpy way out and used canned black-eyed peas. I'll enable you that much.

For the real cooks out there, pre-soak the beans in a pot full of water. I'm using my Crock Pot here. Soak the beans for several hours (eight is always quoted as a good number, but I'm pretty loosey-goosey with cooking times myself, so feel free to make it up), then drain off the soaking water, re-fill your cooking vessel, and cook the beans until they're done. I totally meant to cook my beans in the slow cooker overnight, but forgot to. This morning I was greeted by some beans that had been soaking for about 20 hours. Awesome.

I also made the mistake of trying to cook too many beans for the capacity of my Crock Pot. They made a total mess of my counter and my kitchen floor when the cooking water boiled over. Also awesome.

When the beans are done they will be soft (i.e. try one and see if it breaks a tooth or not). Another way to tell if beans are done is by blowing on them; if the skins start to curl away from the insides, then they're done. I really wanted to demonstrate that technique in the above photo, but apparently my beans weren't cooked enough. I called them done anyhow.

I had the brilliant idea that I would like to cook the entire stew in my Crock Pot, and so I rushed to clean it out after the beans were cooked. I don't really recommend trying to wash a REALLY HOT Crock Pot. Like really - pretend I never even suggested it might be possible. But this hypothetical woman I might know? She does it all the time. And when she doesn't burn herself, it's mostly successful. Just remember to unplug the outside container first if you should be so foolhardy, yourself. After all that work, I realized that IF THE BEANS WERE TOO FULL FOR THE CROCK AND MADE IT BOIL OVER, then the stew would probably be, too. And maybe even more so. Ya think? So I cleaned this bugger for nothing. Sigh.

Okay, don't be frightened. I meant to have a nice picture of three lovely bell peppers to introduce the whole chapter on "How to Roast Peppers," but I neglected to actually take that photo. I'm sorry. The charred mess, above, is actually what these things look like after they've been roasted. When I do them, anyhow. Simply wash and dry the peppers and put them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Then stick them under the broiler and turn them regularly. This is one instance when the presence of a smoke alarm anywhere near the vicinity of your kitchen will be really annoying. I had to take the batteries out of mine before these babies were done. True.

Cover the roasted peppers with plastic wrap (if you're fond of zeno-estrogens in your food supply) or aluminum foil (if you're playing Russian Roulette with Alzheimer's), and let them sit, covered, for 10-15 minutes. This helps sweat the skins off. In theory. The above peppers have done their sweating, and as you can see from the middle pepper, the skin should just peel right off without much trouble. I totally recommend you let the peppers cool completely before trying to remove the skins. Not that I follow my own advice. But I totally recommend that you do.

The peppers will now be all limp and slimy; slice them in half lengthwise and remove the stem end and seeds. You may need to scrape all the stray seeds with a knife or something. I don't recommend you use your fingers, because that then becomes a lovely game akin to the whole peanut butter on the roof of your mouth phenomenon. Chop the seeded peppers into a large dice.

Take an onion.

Chop it into a fine dice.

Take some sinfully yummy coconut oil (my new favorite cooking oil, because of its high smoking point and delicious flavour - and its multitude of health benefits including weight loss and anti-infection properties (I'm not making this stuff up, although that doesn't mean that it's true)), and heat the oil in a skillet.

Saute the onions in the coconut oil until they're soft and slightly browned. My onions are a little browner than you're aiming for. Thought I'd offer that up as a bit of a cautionary tale. (More like I just got preoccupied with other stuff in the kitchen before I took the photograph.)

Remove the onion from the heat and add the chopped, roasted peppers to the onions. You can see how successful I was at removing all the pepper seeds. What can I say? I always use my fingers.

Take four carrots.

Chop them into a medium dice. Note that my dice qualifiers are totally arbitrary and only meant to sound professional. Which I am not. At least I've styled the photograph in such a way that it appears to demonstrate how to chop carrots into a dice. I've forgotten what I actually did here, though.

Saute the diced carrots in more coconut oil. Add them to the onions and peppers.

Next comes a bunch of fiddly little ingredients that you add to the onions, peppers and carrots. Start with 4 tablespoons of uncooked brown rice.

Then add this much ginger. I'm calling it 1 1/2 teaspoons, but then I like ginger. If you don't like ginger, add less. Or none. Why are you even making this recipe if you don't like ginger, though?

Okay, the next few photos might be a bit confusing. The recipe called for allspice, which I don't have. But I'm thinking, "Allspice is called allspice because it tastes like all the baking spices." You know - like cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg. I think. So here I'm adding a tiny bit of ground cloves. If you have allspice (show-off), just add some allspice and forget about these other spices, okay?

This is cinnamon. I think.

I'm pretty sure this is nutmeg. I'm pretty sure I don't remember how much I added. Seems to me I was grinding this thing for a long time. I like nutmeg, though. You might not.

Okay, now we're adding some mustard. The recipe called for dried, ground mustard, but I totally didn't have that either. This is prepared mustard from a squeeze bottle. I was thinking it was Dijon or something, but then I noticed the label said honey mustard. Doh. I don't think it will matter, though.

Okay... now here the recipe called for thyme, and I don't have any of that either. But I'm thinking that thyme and sage are kind of the same, so I added ground sage. Sounded good in my head, anyway.

The recipe also called for bonnet peppers. I think those are super hot. I'm not a bit fan of even barely hot, myself, so I substituted red pepper flakes. Feel free to improvise with an eye towards your own particular level of hotitude.

This liquid that looks like dishwater is actually vegetable stock that I save from cooking vegetables and freeze until I need it in recipes. Yes, I am that awesome. Feel free to use plain water if you must, or some kind of vegetable boullion from the store. Total aside: Guerilla Firebox is telling me that I'm spelling boullion wrong. Totally had to look that one up, just to be sure. Don't know where they're getting their spell-check words from, but I think boullion is totally the way Americans spell that word. The French spell it bouillon, and the English and Canadians add another 'u' in there somewhere, I think.

Add everything (black-eyed peas, vegetables, rice, spices and herbs) to your cooking pot, and then add the stock or broth until everything is just covered. I don't like watery soups, which is why this recipe is called "stew." Go ahead and make a soup if you really want a soup. I don't. Simmer the stew (soup) for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked. You'll know it's cooked because the individual grains will be all puffed up and splitting apart.

This is what my stew looked like when it was done.

Okay, now comes another confession: The soup recipe called for fresh cilantro. I didn't have any of that either. I made a special trip to the grocery store after the stew was all cooked, because while the stew tasted good, I knew it would be so much better with cilantro in it. I LOVE cilantro. Some of you might not. In fact, to some of you, cilantro might taste like soap. True. I'm so glad I'm not one of those people. Anyhow, to finish off this recipe properly, you really need some fresh cilantro.

Cut off a big handful of the leaves, and wash them well. They'll probably be quite sandy, and that's such an unpleasant feeling against the teeth, let me tell you. To chop the cilantro, I use a pair of scissors. It feels like cheating, but apparently real chefs do it that way too, so I'm passing the tip along for what it's worth.

This is what my finished, finished stew looked like. And it tasted awesome. Really.

Packing up leftovers into glass sealers, so I can freeze them for another meal. You don't have to be that anal if you don't want to be. So there you go. You're welcome.


Ellebee said...

While the mustard in that photo looked like something that could come out of my canary if he were sick, that stew looks so good I can practically smell it.

I'm hoping a) there are some leftovers and b) you're willing to share.

And re: the spelling of that soup-stock word, both my Webster's and Canadian Oxford say "bouillon."

SLY said...

amazing! I love this recipe! I will try it soon.