Jamaican Red Pea Stew

  • Traditional fresh pea soup in a bowl
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  • 1 pound dried red peas (kidney beans)
  • About 2 cups water
  • 2 carrots, cut in half-coins
  • 1 chocho (chayote), peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 1 red potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 habanero pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 whole scallions, chopped
  • 1–2 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, stripped off the stem
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Soak beans overnight (up to 24 hours unrefrigerated) in plenty of water, as they will about double in size during soaking. Drain and rinse with cool water just before cooking.
Place beans in a pot with water to cover, plus about ½ to spare. This will be about 2 cups. The size and shape of the pot doesn’t matter; the ½ inch is more important than the amount of water. Turn on high heat until water is boiling; then turn down to a simmer. Cover.
Meanwhile, prep and stir in all other ingredients except the scallions. Keep pot covered in between additions.
Cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Turn off heat. Gently stir in the scallions.
Serve as a one-pot main meal or as a hearty side.
This reheats well. Add a little water to the bottom of the saucepan when reheating, so it won’t scorch.

Notes on what I did different from the source

• Vegan
• I use a lot less water, so it turns into more of a stew than a soup
• I soak the beans overnight and rinse thoroughly before cooking. This step rinses away enzymes that cause indigestion and flatulence. Don’t skip it.
• I didn’t make the dumplings (spinners)
• I doubled the amount of vegetables
• I used red potato, which is less starchy and more waxy, and therefore won’t disintegrate into the soup nearly as easily.
• I didn’t mash any of the beans. The starch from the beans thickens the stew just fine.
• I didn’t futz around with a combination of whole and sliced chili peppers, some to be removed and some to remain.
• Overall, my method is greatly streamlined compared to the source recipe.

Source recipe
Red Pea Soup
p. 34-35
Jamaican Cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes
Lucinda Scala Quinn
Macmillan USA, New York, 1997
1 pound dried red peas (kidney beans)
2 pounds soup beef with bones
1 ham hock or other smoked pork
11 cups water
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 chocho (chayote), peel, pitted, and chopped or 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Irish potato, peeled and chopped
1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper (green recommended)
2 slices Scotch bonnet pepper (any color)
3 cloves garlic
3 whole scallions
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Spinners
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water

Rinse the red peas, beef and ham hocks separately and place them in a large soup pot with 10 cups of the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Cook at a brisk simmer until the peas are soft and the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, to prepare the spinners, in a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Add the water and blend with a wooden spoon until a ball is formed. Flour your hands and knead slightly to form a soft dough. Add more flour if it is too sticky. Cover and set aside.
Remove the beef and pork from the pan and set aside. With the back of a spoon, mash some of the peas in the soup pot.
Add the carrot, chocho, potato, whole and sliced Scotch bonnet pepper, garlic, scallions, thyme, salt, black pepper and remaining cup of water. Cook for 30 minutes longer. With 15 minutes of cooking time left, form the spinners by rolling small pieces of dough between your floured palms to form 1-inch-long oblong shapes. Drop into the soup one at a time. Stir gently to prevent the spinners from sticking to the bottom.

Remove the meat from the bones of the beef and pork. Discard the bones, chop the meat into small pieces and return it to the soup pot. Remove the whole Scotch bonnet pepper, scallions and thyme sprig (if using). Serve immediately or refrigerate it until needed. Blend in 1 cup more water if you are reheating it.
For an even heartier soup, drop in spinners with 20 minutes cooking time left. If you are reheating the soup, be careful that spinners don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

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