Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jamaican Stew Peas...and Hummus?

Over the summer, when we were nanny-less, we had someone with us for about 5 weeks.  She was very strange.  She went for long walks without telling us she was leaving, refused to eat in our houses (my sister and I share a nanny), and frequently paced in our front yards whispering into her cell phone for hours at a time...instead of watching our kids.  Why am I telling you this? Well because even though she had to go, her recipe for Jamaican Stew Peas was a keeper.  See - every cloud does have its silver lining.

Allspice berries (aka pimento seeds)
 Anyway, this week I came across the outline for this recipe and decided I would try to make it again.  I'm sure it's not as good as the original, but what I love about it is that it's unlike anything else that I make in terms of flavor combination.  It calls for whole allspice berries (see picture), scallions, thyme, salt, and pepper.  I also like it because I learned that peas don't mean green peas.  For Jamaicans (or at least this is what she told me), peas mean any type of bean (in this case it was red beans).  You can make it with a variety of proteins including beef, chicken, or even make it vegetarian.  Plus, it's a pretty easy dish to make. 

Now did Henry like it? Not at first...actually he wouldn't try it.  But then I took out the hummus.  And after dipping each bite in hummus, he ate his whole bowl (which wasn't that full).  And our current wonderful nanny told me that he even ate most of his bowl for lunch - sans hummus.  So, we'll say it's a maybe...

Jamaican Stew Peas
1 pound dried red beans (soak night before)
3 cloves garlic
~1 pound stew beef
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
~3 Tbsp water
3 scallions
5 stems fresh thyme
10 allspice berries
salt & pepper to taste

1.  Put beans in a large pot along with the garlic (whole), and fill the pot about halfway with water (you should cover the beans plus a couple of extra inches).  Bring to a boil and cook until it is almost soft.  Then, bring pot down to a simmer and throw in the stew meat.

2.  In a small bowl mix together the flour and water until it is a dough-y consistency.  Break the dough into small pieces and roll into small strands (about the size of half a pinky finger).  Throw into the pot with the beans and meat. 

3.  After a few minutes of cooking, start to season the pot.  Throw in the whole scallions, thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper.  You may want to put the scallions, thyme, and allspice in a cheesecloth so you can pick it out at the end (I did not do that).  Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until stew begins to thicken.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve with brown rice.

Happy and (mostly) healthy eating!

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