Two of the things I do not miss about my Jamaican childhood are stoking a coal pot or a wood fire for hours, usually on a Saturday afternoon, to cook the peas for Sunday’s Rice and Peas, and grating coconut for milk to boil said rice and peas. Such is the life of a ‘poor’ Jamaican country gal. Thankfully coconut milk is now only as far as the nearest grocery store and outdoor cooking is now a perk of my trade not a part of my daily life.
Few dishes are as closely identified with Jamaican cuisine as rice and peas. Even though there are several variations of Rice & Peas served throughout the Caribbean; foreigners almost always associate this dish with Jamaican cuisine. A lunch and dinner mainstay, Rice & Peas is found on all Jamaican restaurant menus and at most Jamaican (and other traditional Caribbean) gatherings. In recent months I have seen more than a few chefs, some from reputable Jamaican establishments, touting “coconut rice& peas”. Fact is coconut milk is a standard ingredient in authentic Jamaican Rice & Peas. So regardless of what anyone tells you to make this tasty aromatic side dish coconut milk, thyme and scallions, or onion are a must. Rice & Peas can be made with kidney beans or gungo (pigeon) peas.
You can make Jamaican style Rice & Peas with kidney beans or pigeon Gungo peas. The nutty, creamy flavor of Gungo peas adds extra richness to the flavor of this Jamaican classic which gives a little added luxury to the flavors of Christmas and other celebratory meals.