In the Turks & Caicos last winter, we drove to a resort at the end of a long, unpaved, chalky road. When we arrived, there were no other customers and no restaurant menu like we had seen online. We were seated in an empty outdoor bar, and we asked them to bring us something vegan. There was one local guy cooking in the kitchen and he was really just cooking a simple meal for the staff of Belongers, but we were welcome to have some. The revelation of that meal was the Rice and Peas. Wanting to try it in the rice cooker, I watched several youtube videos, and it turned out well. In Jamaica, Pigeon Peas are called Gungo peas (pronounced goongo), but you can find them in the Latin section of many grocery stores, and it will say Gandules Verdes on the label (see below). Pigeon Peas contain high levels of protein, and the important amino acids. There’s much debate between countries and cooks as to whether one should use long-grain or medium-grain, or Jasmine rice. One lady on youtube even uses parboiled rice, and some cooks use the entire can of beans, liquid and all (a practice I’ve adopted). Some use creamed coconut and some use coconut milk. Some mix in a bit of chopped Scotch Bonnet pepper, and some simply lay the uncut fiery pepper on top of the rice while it’s cooking, and many don’t use any spicy peppers at all. The main elements are here below. Peas also often refers to kidney beans, so if you cannot find the pigeon peas, you could substitute them, but I do love the flavor of the Gungo peas. Please read the full recipe, including the notes at the bottom, before you begin. When I say “cups” in the recipe, I’m referring to the measuring cup that came with your rice cooker (see notes). Once you make this, you’ll see how easy it is. p.s. See my little Thyme patch below, and think about planting some, as it’s a perennial in many climates.
JAMAICAN RICE AND PEAS IN A RICE COOKER
Serves about 6
2 rice-cooker measuring cups of medium-grain white rice, or Jasmine rice, rinsed of starch (I’ve also used un-rinsed white Jasmine rice)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 scallions/green onions, sliced using the white and pale-green parts only
1 can pigeon peas, drained, but save the can liquid
3 sprigs fresh thyme (strip leaves and discard stems)
15 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
Add rice to rice cooker. Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and let it sizzle for a minute or two, taking care it doesn’t burn. Add scallions, pigeon peas and thyme leaves, and sauté stirring for another 2 or 3 minutes.
To the rice in the cooker, add bean liquid, and enough lite coconut milk to bring your contents up to the appropriate mark on the rice cooker. For example, I used 2 rice-cooker measuring cups of rice and added just enough liquid to bring the contents up to the #2 on the inside mark of the rice pot under the White Rice/Mixed Rice column (see photo). Now add skillet contents, salt, pepper and vegan butter, and stir contents. Set rice cooker on the White Rice or Mixed Rice setting. You may have a “Mixed Rice” option and that may be what you want (not sure, as every rice cooker is different). In my old Zojirushi, I do use the Mixed Rice fill level mark. When the rice is done cooking, open lid briefly just to stir contents with a rice paddle, and then close lid again.
Notes: I’ve also used long-grain organic brown rice. Every rice cooker comes with its own measuring cup, and they often do not equal a standard 8 oz. Cup measure. For example, the cup in my 15-year-old Zojirushi NS-ZAC10 holds less than 8 ounces–it holds 3/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water, or only 14 Tablespoons of water (a standard Cup is 16 Tablespoons), and this is measuring level to the very top of the cup. If I’m using brown rice in my old Zojirushi, even though I’m filling the liquid to the Mixed Rice level mark, I am then choosing “brown rice” on the electronic settings. It’s important to add the skillet contents after adding your liquids, because the skillet contents will displace a lot of the liquid, and enough liquid is needed to properly cook rice, especially if you are using brown rice.
I really like the flavor of these Goya pigeon peas.
2 “cups” dry rice and enough liquid to reach “2” on the inside of the rice cooker pot, of my Zojirushi NS-ZAC10. Note the “Mixed Rice” option under the white-rice heading.
Here’s part of my thyme patch, peeking out from under Fall leaves and mums. It often comes in handy, even late in the year here in Maryland.