Cooking during the time of COVID-19: Meatless Monday is Still Happening

Our family eats vegetables and fruit everyday but we try to do a Meatless Monday every week. Trying to deplete the fridge and pantry before going to the grocery, we were happy to see that we could go meatless today. I pulled out a couple cans of chickpeas, some green beans and some left over naan and roti from last week’s meal. I grabbed the curry powder and the black pepper – black pepper helps our bodies absorb the curcumen in turmeric – and of course I took some Himalayan salt from the pantry as well.

  

    

Open the can of beans, drain and rinse –

   

Wash your green beans, cut the tips off and blanch them in boiling water for no more than 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

     

Chop up the onions and garlic. A tip on garlic – to get the skin off place in a bowl (stainless steel or glass), place a plate on top of the bowl and shake the crap out of the garlic. The skin falls off and you have nice smooth ready to cut up and cook cloves of garlic.

   

We have vegan butter at the moment and I melted it in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and allow them to sweat.

       

When the onions and garlic start to turn a soft yellow (you can also tell by the glorious smell when they are ready), add the curry paste. and mix it in then add the chickpeas and stir so that all peas are coated with curry.

     

Let the chickpeas simmer for a minute add black pepper and salt, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for another 15 minutes. If you find there is not enough liquid in the saucepan, add a little water. Closing the lid will allow for condensation and therefore the peas wont dry out and burn.

    

   

Next, cook the beans. I like to give these a garlicky flavor, so I used the vegan butter and added some garlic salt and a bit of fresh chopped garlic.

      

Melt the garlic butter in a smaller frying pan, and on high heat cook the beans, tossing and constantly moving them for about 3 to 5 minutes. By the time the beans are cooked, the meal is ready to be served. Remember I warmed left over naan and roti skins to serve with the meal however you could do a side of rice if you wanted to or serve with fresh vegetables like cucumbers and carrots or whatever you fancy.

This is the meal we had for lunch today – meatless, vegetarian and delicious. Cook what you have at home during this time of social distancing and isolation. When your supplies run low, go out and replenish but only then. I am typing this up trying to distract myself but it’s hard. The news is on and there is a plea that will soon be an order for all over 70 to stay home. When I was out getting supplies the other day, 90% of the people out and about were old buggers. Why can’t people place orders? Get delivery service? Why are some people and in my community old people so bloody stubborn?  Our community has no reported cases of this virus. We need to keep it that way. Everyone is pointing the finger at young people but I am going to point the finger at stubborn old people too including my in-laws. Compromised as hell but still doing what they want to do. If you contract this virus and you get it severely, you will die and you will have to know going in whether you want to be kept comfortable with morphine or whether at your elderly age, do you want to be flogged until you die by being placed on a ventilator for 3 weeks. You will not survive and you will die alone. Please STAY HOME. It is the right thing to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking int the time of COVID-19: Quick and Easy Veggie Omelette

Both my sons are competitive athletes and they are very aware of staying in shape and eating well while waiting to be allowed to pursue their sports once the pandemic is over. This morning a veggie omelette was the general craving for Logan. Adam is more of a peanut butter/almond butter toast guy. He likes bagels and cream cheese, fruit or will have cereal. Logan is more like me, but mostly like my sister who enjoys a big, cooked breakfast. In keeping with the theme of only going out when necessary, we are using the ingredients we have in the house to make our food until we have a substantial list for us to do a grocery run. I really don’t want to be out in public if I don’t have to be so we are sticking to this plan.

Omelettes are great because you can put whatever you want in them and you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time. Here is how Logan makes his veggie omelette:-

Take 2 or 3 eggs and whisk them in a bowl.

Add a splash of milk ( you don’t want too much liquid when making a veggie omelette because veggies let out water when you cook and you don’t want a soggy runny omelette)

Whisk in the milk and add some black pepper. Whisk that into the eggs and milk and set aside.

The veggies in the fridge were mushrooms, onions, mixed greens and olives. Using olives eliminates the need for adding salt as the olives gives it a salty enough flavor.  Chop up the veggies and set aside.

 

Time for the cheese. We had a peppered Monterrey Jack, goat cheese and 2 year old smoked cheddar from our local factory – Mapledale cheese factory. Once that is shredded, set it aside.

We have vegan butter on hand so that is what was melted to coat the pan. With a pan like the Rock you need less butter or oil to cook your food because it has a non-stick cooking surface.

Add the egg mixture to the pan and let it cook on a medium high heat until it starts to solidify then turn heat down a bit.

Add the veggies, spreading them evenly and add the cheese. Once the egg starts to leave the edges of the base of the pan use your spatula to start rolling the egg from one side to the other as if trying to roll it.

   

It it breaks that’s okay, just flip it over in pieces and push the pieces together as you are done rolling. Gently press down on the omelette. Some cheese will ooze out but that’s okay. Once the omelette feels solid, plate it, add sides and enjoy.

 

Remember an omelette is what you make it, meat, meatless, just with cheese, it’s a blank canvas so have fun. Just remember to use enough eggs to contain your ingredients. the more or the bigger the ingredients, the more eggs you will need. When he is training, Logan usually uses 3 to 4 eggs.

Enjoy!

Stay home. Stay safe and try new recipes. Use out what you have at home before you go do a grocery run. Don’t go out if you don’t have to, reduce the number of times you go out in public. Wash your hands and disinfect all surfaces including door handles, light switches, stair railings and the dash, gear stick, door handles and steering wheel of your car. Together we can keep ourselves and each other healthy ~ Daniella and family

 

Cooking in the time of COVID-19: Trinidad Sunday Lunch Minus the Callaloo – Remembering Aunty Yvonne, Aunty Moye and the “Sweet Meat”

It’s Sunday. It’s raining. There’s thunder and lightning and it’s chilly. I have to make lunch and I want to use up what I have in my kitchen so that when I go to the grocery, I make one trip to replenish what we need. We are doing our part to keep ourselves and others healthy by staying home and only going out when we have to and if we want a little fresh air, we sit on our front or back decks or go for a short walk minding to stay 2 metres away from other people. Mind you, the times we choose to walk, barely anyone is around.

So…Sunday lunch. Growing up I remember some variations on Sunday lunch. Typically it is stewed chicken and peas, macaroni pie, callaloo, sometimes rice and a salad. Sometimes Mummy would do stewed beef instead of chicken. Sometimes she would not put pigeon peas in with the meat to stew and she would do red beans as a side. Sometimes you might encounter a potato salad and when Avocado was in season and I mean the real deal big-ass avocados we grow on tall trees in the West Indies, not these dinky, little, pebble avocados from Mexico or California that you can buy a bag of in North America, where half of them are over-ripened and black streaked inside. My point is Sunday lunch is a full meal made with variations of a tradition cooked out of love. There was nothing like smelling Mummy’s pot on a Sunday and very often, when we were riding our bikes in the neighborhood, the wafting smells from everyone’s Mummy’s pot came together to make your belly growl as you played as you made sure you were close enough to home to hear your mother shout “Come inside for lunch!” Those were simpler, purely happy times and as I look in my fridge today to pull together my version of Sunday lunch in this time of pandemic, these memories will keep a smile on my face and the love of my birth land, my mother and my extended family will flow from my heart, to my hands, to the spoon to the pot and to my family this afternoon. I think I will play a little soca too, to transport me mentally to Trinidad and put me in a cooking mood.

Now, I do have callaloo*  from a batch I made a couple weeks ago but it is frozen and I really don’t feel like doing the work to thaw it . My beasts will be ready to feast soon, so, time is not quite on my side, plus it isn’t enough callaloo for all four of us. Moving on… I have chicken legs that are thawed and seasoned and I have a can of pigeon peas, so I am going to stew them and I am going to make a macaroni pie as a side. I will also steam some rice as Logan and Adam will want rice, as they say to “suck up” the gravy from the stewed chicken and peas – my “chirren”,oui!

    

      

Here, I am browning the chicken by “burning” (caramelizing) a bit of sugar in oil. At the end of me explaining what I have done for this meal, I encourage you to read on as I will tell you the story of the “sweet meat” and why it is so important to brown meat the right way so that it won’t hamper the taste of your dish.

 

Once I see that nice glowing, rich, brown colour I add my chicken and turn it vigorously in the pot. Next, I add my pigeon peas. If the pot looks a little dry I add a bit of water (because I want enough for gravy) and I put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat, checking on the chicken, stirring occasionally. When the chicken is no longer pink and is tender and seems to look like it could fall off the bone, I know it’s done.

   

 

While the chicken is cooking, I boil about 2 1/2 – 3 cups of macaroni. My family loves macaroni pie so I make one where there will be some left overs for teenage fridge raids later. So many cultures have their own recipe for macaroni and cheese. This well known comfort food can be creamy, baked with breadcrumbs, done in a slow cooker … the methods are endless. For us Trinis, if we could solidify it, cut it and share it and make it damn tasty, we certainly will, and so, our macaroni and cheese is a pie without really being a pie but more like a casserole.

    

While my macaroni is boiling, I whisk together an egg, about a cup of milk salt and black pepper and I shred my cheese. I want to get a real cheddary flavour because there is no point in a bland macaroni pie. I use anything from 2 to 4 year old cheddar from Mapledale, found here in my neck of the woods and i also use a little 2 year old smoked cheddar to well, add a little smokiness to the taste but if I don’t have it, I just use the old cheddar. I have smoked cheese today so I will use both.

       

Once the macaroni is ready, I drain and I put a layer in my glass baking dish. then I add my cheese and pour a little of the egg mixture on and I keep layering until the ingredients are all in the dish. I top with cheese for a nice crust at the top and like Mummy would say, dot with butter ( today we have vegan butter so that’s what I will use – no real difference in taste) before putting it uncovered in the oven. My oven is at 400 F because my sons are hungry (again and as usual) and I started cooking a little late. Usually I will do 375 F for an hour but today,this pie will bake for about 45 mins, with me keeping an eye on it during that time.

Alright, I’m waiting on my macaroni pie and I promised to tell you the story of the “sweet meat”. My aunts, Ruth (Moye was her Chinese name) and Yvonne were close in age and went to school (SJC Port of Spain) together. Aunty Moye was a fantastic cook. She was also an incredible seamstress who at one time had her own store and had a long reputation of beautifully outfitting women in Trinidad. She was an amazing mother and wife and was a true role model for her younger siblings and eventual matriarch of our family. In a time that shifted from women being successful at home by having “domestic” skills to women having success because of office/business skills, Aunty Moye kept doing what she knew best and was around to see that the benchmarks of success shift again to incorporate all skills of every woman.

Aunty Yvonne was sweet,quiet and super intelligent. She loved to read and acquire knowledge all the time. I remember when she would be at our home after her cancer treatments resting until my uncle picked her up. She was jovial even then and was always content to rest with a good book. She did know how to cook but I think if she didn’t have to she would have much rather spent her time reading, learning and raising her boys. Anyway, I got this story from my mother years ago when she taught me how to brown meat, and in my mom’s clever way, this story was a teaching tool that worked because I remember it every time I brown meat and as you have gathered by now, I cook A LOT!

It was the afternoon of Aunty Moye’s and Aunty Yvonne’s cookery exam. During the school term, they cooked side by side, Aunty Moye right there to lend her younger sister a helping hand. But, all semesters end with exams and for this exam their stations were separated. Aunty Yvonne had to brown stewing beef and while she knew the ingredients and the steps, she had no clue about the timing of cooking and how to generally eyeball the process of cooking food. She put her oil in the pot but put in way too much sugar and added the meat when the sugar just started to get a golden colour. When sugar caramelizes, is a rich brown and is just beginning to smoke is when it looses it’s sweetness. That is when you add your meat. There is a big hiss that kind of sounds like chawahhh and steam and you have to turn the meat over fairly vigorously in order to brown all the pieces before reducing the heat and getting it to a simmer. And what an inviting and delicious smell that screams home – my sweet T&T. Mom said during the exam, Aunty Moye said she could see the uncertainty in Aunty Yvonne’s face and she knew that maybe little sister was in trouble. At the end of the class, the nun marking the exam went about for the taste test. To her credit, Aunty Yvonne’s meat was indeed cooked, though a bit paler than the other girl’s dishes. Sister “Cookery” dug in, and tasted and with an astonished face said ” Oh, my, why is this meat? … but…but this is a sweet meat!”

Needless to say, Aunty Yvonne failed the exam and with the results in hand went home where all the brothers and sisters heard the story at dinner time. In Trinidad, a little heckling (or fatigue as we refer to it) from your brothers and sisters is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a little ribbing in fun, which I imagine hardly anyone today would be able to handle, no matter how playful. After the story, for a little while, one of the brothers would say, “Aye, Sweet Meat, Mummy callin’ you,” Aunty would blush and Mamma, my grandmother would tell the boys that enough was enough. But the positive side to the sweet meat still flows through the generations today. Mamma apparently called Aunty Yvonne into the kitchen by simply telling her, “I want you to help me in the kitchen today, Yvonne,” and my mom says this went on for weeks and eventually, my prefer-books-to-all-else aunt, learned to cook just as well as her brothers and sisters. My mother told me that story when she was teaching me and my sister to brown meat. Since then, I have told it to my husband when I was teaching him and I just told it to Logan who was here watching me make the chicken. It’s a cute funny story that is a major cooking tip and I hope it keeps being told as our younger family members learn to cook.

 

   

The dishes are done and ready to serve. This, my version this afternoon of Trinidad Sunday lunch minus Callaloo. It all looks and smells as it should and I feel good inside with my Soca playing and recounting this story of my dear, dear aunties. I also got to thinking what a good job Mamma did making sure all her children learn to cook well. I don’t have an aunt or uncle on my mother’s side who can’t throw down in the kitchen. And I mean THROW DOWN, dish, after dish, after dish. And so, all the cousins know how to cook too. As Logan put it, “I know if I am ever at anyone related to you mom, I will never starve because you all know how to cook what I like to eat. I’m so lucky.” That you are, my boy, that you are.

Please use this time of isolation and social distancing, well. Remember, get creative in the kitchen. Teach your kids to cook and share your recipes. We have a world wide health crisis that needs us to stay home. Please do so and make the most of the time. Stay safe. Stay healthy ~ Daniella and family.

 

Cooking in the time of COVID-19: Bravo,Logan on your Delicious Beef Broccoli

The deal is, Logan learns a new dish every Monday and Friday. Tonight’s diner…Beef Broccoli.

 

My son and I share a deep and meaningful love of Chinese cuisine. For the past 7 years, we would go to Toronto for March Break and have the 3 but at least 1 all day Chinese food and Dim Sum feast. This would also be the time he would bring all his gift cards he received at Christmas and buy new clothes. If we had time we would take in a play, catch a movie or visit an attraction (usually the Hockey Hall of Fame). In addition to other spots we would try, out two spots are Rol San on Spadina for Dim Dum and Island Mix in Pickering on our way home for Chinese food made by a Trini hand. It is so crazy, that we promised each other if we ever had anything of major significance to tell each other we would do so at Rol San. But there was no all Chinese food weekend for March Break this year because of the COVID-19 Pabdemic. So, if we cannot go to the Chinese food, we will make it here at home with whatever ingredients we can find.

I taught him how to boil rice the other day and he decided to do rice  as his base dish as we were out of the broad rice noodles we usually serve with Beef Broccoli (we only have Basmati rice in our pantry and we are not going out if we don’t have to). He remembered everything I told him. He measured out 1 1/2 cups for our meal and he washed it the way I showed him 3 times until the water drained clear. He put it in a medium saucepan and added just over 2 cups of water, a squirt of sesame oil salt, pepper and a bit of parsley as we were out of green onions and we weren’t going out just for that. He stirred the pot occasionally and reduced the heat so it went from a boil to a simmer. As the water evaporated, he lowered the heat and put the lid on it until it was moist yet fluffy. I have to say, teaching him to cook with the Rock pots is a blessing as we don’t have to fuss over food sticking and we don’t have to worry about any non-stick coating peeling off and getting into our food. I also f=don’t have to worry about having to use certain utensils with these pots. When he eventually moves out I think I will be getting him his own Rock set of pots.

Taking some pre-seasoned meat we thawed earlier, He put a table spoon of sesame oil in the Instant Pot and selected saute. He let the meat cook for about a minute and a half, stirring occasionally.Because we knew we were going to do beef broccoli with this batch of stewing beef, we did not season with salt, This allowed him to put a table spoon of soy sauce in with the meat, and by his choice, a table spoon of Hoisin sauce. Stirring that in with 3 table spoons of water, he switched the key pad to meat/stew and sealed the pot and had it cook for 20 minutes.

Next he prepped the broccoli. He used frozen broccoli and it was semi-thawed which was perfect. Throwing it in a bowl, he cut up some ginger and sprinkled in some sesame seeds and microwaved it for about 30 seconds on high. He drained the water and set the broccoli aside.

Once the beef was done in the Instant Pot, he gingerly let the steam out. (It is funny watching a newbie hesitate with the valve  – a very safe valce by the way, and still get stunned by the steam). He tasted the sauce and was happy with the flavor he was able to capture with the ingredients we had available. He stirred in the broccoli, ginger and sesame seeds and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

He garnished his rice with a little more parsley and called us to the table. He plated our meals for us to, giving himself the largest portion, (lol) sprinkling some extra sesame seeds for a bit more garnishing. He has the capacity to consume a whole lot more than we do and still stay lean, even now that he can’t do any sports until the pandemic is over.

The beef was tender and juicy and we could taste the ginger and soy and whatever else the Hoisen sauce brought to the dish. Logan has always loved broccoli  and is always looking to incorporate it into a lot of his meals and he really enjoyed how each piece was soaked in the sauce.

I apologize I only have a few photos of this, but my attention was on showing him what he had to do.

Dad thought it went very well with beer

This is a very quick and easy dish to prepare that is tasty and flavorful. we even had a little bit left over which I believe he ate later that night as a snack, as per usual.

  TA DA!

Try this at home if you have the ingredients and us know what you think. Remember to share your recipes too. This is a good time to cook what you have in your freezer teach your kids to cook and experiment a little. Stay home. Stay safe. #flatten the curve. If we all do it , we will beat this virus sooner rather than later. ~ Daniella and family.

Cooking in the Time of COVID-19: I Found Some Roti Skins in My Freezer … Ta Da!

Part of this odd kitchen adventure we are on takes us on expeditions to the frozen lands that are our freezers. Yesterday I found roti skins or roti bake as we Trini’s call them and people started saying whether they wanted beef or chicken.

The order was 2 beef for Logan and me and Adam and Tom opted for chicken. As I mentioned in my previous post, we seasoned quite a bit of meat this week so having chicken and beef thawed, seasoned and ready to go was a time saving bonus. Now, while I know how to make curry dishes, I am by no means an expert in roti. I don’t make my skins, I buy them and I buy the dhalpuri roti as my sons look forward to the dried split peas embedded in their roti bake. Fortunately, I had gone to the West Indian supermarket in mid February to get some ingredients to make food for my visiting guests but of course, typical me, I had so much food we never got around to making roti while they were here. So, tonight it’s roti for four, 2 beef no pepper, 2 chicken, 1 with pepper. Here’s how I did it:-

I  

I didn’t thaw the roti skins overnight as I had planned so in order to have everything ready in time for dinner, I placed them (with the parchment paper between each) on a sheet of foil, sealed them up and placed in the oven to warm at 200 degrees F in a pressure cooker like the Instant pot.for an hour. This would thaw them and warm them keeping them nice and soft.

With the skins in the oven, it was time to prepare the beef and the chicken curry. For the beef, I decided to use the Instant pot to cook it quickly and to give it that tenderness I like. No one ejoys having to gnaw on food that is tough, so for me, every time I cook stewing beef, I do it either in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot.

I am a little stuck for brands so when I stock up at the West Indian grocery I buy Chief curry powder as it is a flavor I am familiar with and I’ve been cooking with it for years. I add a little hot water to the powder, make the paste, melt some butter in my pots and added the paste in. For the chicken, I used my iron pot knowing that cooking the chicken in this would time out perfectly for when the beef was done in the Instant Pot.

     

Throw in a cube of coconut milk for flavor

So here, once the butter and paste cooked together, I added the chicken and potatoes, added a little coconut milk (I freeze coconut milk in an ice tray and put them in a freezer bag so I can use it in my cooking without having to run out and buy a can all the time) and covered the pot and reduced to medium heat, occasionally stirring. While this was happening, I did the same with the beef, covered the instant pot and let it do it’s thing for about 20 minutes.

     

Since I started cooking, from the moment I put the roti skins in the oven until the meat was done, about 40 minutes had gone by so I turned off the oven, took out the bakes and for the most part they were soft and warn. A couple of them tore in spots where they were a dry and some of the dhal spilled out a little but that was no big deal. I then put the meat on the roti bake/roti skin and folded it and wrapped it in wax paper and put them on the table labelled with one of the rotis (Adam’s) made to go because we told him we would walk it over to his apartment. That boy will not tolerate being excluded from enjoying a roti. In Trinidad, my family like many would accompany a roti with a red soft drink(pop), sweet drink or as we would call it (cutting off the last letter of the first word) a sofdrink or a sweedrink. Of course, I didn’t have one because a) I didn’t buy any when I was at the West Indian Shop, b) we don’t buy pop and c) we are supposed to be social distancing so I got creative and made a cranberry spritzer instead…Look, it red oui, and I was happy to pretend.

     

2 Beef no pepper & a Chicken with pepper to stay. One beef no pepper to go. 

Makeshift “Red Sofdrink”

I am certainly not as good as any roti shop I would ordinarily buy from and even further away from the  top quality of the roti shops in Trinidad. Roti is something that any of my cousins know they could give me as a gift when I go home for a visit because there is nothing more tasty, more special and no better way to say “I love you”, in my opinion than bringing me roti and doubles. The other thing my friends and cousins know I crave when I go home, is Kibbeh from our Syrian/Lebanese community and they never disappoint. Oh Lord, I digress thinking about all the good food in Trinidad. Like I said, I am not  great at roti – for crying out loud I buy pre-made roti skins.but in a time when we are stuck at home, it was nice to be able to make roti for my family and put a satisfied belly smile on their faces. It tasted great and filled us up and there is a little more room in the freezer. No need to go to the drive through for fast food. No need to expose ourselves to COVID-19. No need to go against protocol and go outside. Comfort food in the form of a roti brought the comfort we all needed even if just for a little while. Look in your pantry and your freezer and see what you have that you can make with your family. Cooking through this time of isolation is a great daily distraction. It is cleaner and healthier and it is a nice time you can share with your family. Stay home, stay virus free and share your recipes as well. Inspire others to do the same – Daniella and Family

Cooking in the Time of COVID-19: How About We Make a Pelau Today?

Today I am going to show a real traditional, staple Trinidadian dish. If you are Trinidadian/Tobagonian and you can’t make Pelau, I don’t know what to say to you other than, you’d better learn. Pelau is a one pot meal, made with nutritious and tasty ingredients that fills bellies. I can’t think of a specific time when Trinis eat Pelau. It works any time of year, at any festival or celebration and is welcomed by all every time it is served.In my family Pelau happens at Carnival time, mid week for lunch, on a Sunday for lunch sometimes, at christmas, at the beach, at fundraisers, at Gaby’s rehearsal dinner, when Trini’s come back home for a visit, or when I have people at my home in Canada so that my guests can taste our heritage cuisine. It can be stored for the week in the fridge and the staler the Pelau, the nicer it tastes, in my opinion. Pelau can be frozen and thawed and eaten at a later date and again, it tastes even better. Many Caribbean islands claim to be where Pelau originated. The French West Indies claim it to be their traditional rice dish, and here is what the epicurious website says about Pelau:

“Pelau is one of those dishes that really exemplifies Trinidadian cuisine because it is an admixture of various cooking styles. Pelau, or rice with meats and vegetables, is a variation of East Indian pilau, which originated in Persia where it is called polow. The Anglicized version of the dish is called pilaf. The process of browning the meat in sugar for pelau is an African tradition and ketchup is a New World addition to the dish, although I suspect it has its basis in tomato chutneys available in British India and likely brought to Trinidad by the English.”

In my biased opinion, Trinidad & Tobago Pelau is the best because of the way we cook our food, the way we season our meat and the way we perfect it a little more every time we cook it. I believe, even if you don’t consider yourself a cook, every Trini, needs to know how to make a Pelau just as well as they know how to tie their shoes. Now isolated in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am teaching my younger son to cook and while I know perfecting Pelau will take him some time, I want him to get to the point I am at, where if I feel like eating it, I can make it anytime, once I have the ingredients.

 

As you know, at this time of isolation,we are using what we have in the house to make our dishes, so I had Logan take out the Basmati rice and measure out enough for the four of us ( so just under 2 cups). I showed him how to wash the rice and that he was to do so about 3 times or until the water becomes much less cloudy than the first rinse. Next, I had him open the last can of pigeon peas that we had, drain and rinse it. With all the cooking we have been doing we have seasoned meat ready to go. So if you are wondering, the seasoning is my Trinidad bottled green seasoning, garlic, onion, chives, thyme, salt and pepper, parsley and basil, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Logan wanted a chicken and beef Pelau, so I showed him how to brown the chicken and had him add the pigeon peas and rice to it. I like the beef tender so I showed him how to use the instant pot to achieve this texture.

Putting a little olive oil to prevent the meat from sticking and I chose saute on the instant pot and started cooking it for just over a minute. Then, I set it to “pressure cook” for about 20 minutes and set aside.*Note about the instant pot. I have made Beef Pelau in the instant pot before but I cannot guarantee the bottom layer of food will not stick to the pot so in the interest of not wasting or burning food, we just used it to soften the texture of the stewing beef.

Pelau is all about cooking down the food together. So since we used about a cup and a half of rice I added just under 2 cups of water to the peas and chicken, added the beef,

     

and a tablespoon or two of coconut milk which is an ingredient I always have on hand in cans or my freezer. However, you don’t need coconut milk to make Pelau though it is a nice touch when it comes to flavor. I also did not have a Scotch Bonnet pepper so pepper was added to people’s plates as needed.

Allow your Pelau to come to a boil then simmer. giving it the occasional stir. Once the water starts to diminish, cover and lower heat. The cooking and prep time for me is usually about 45 minutes, maybe a little longer. It is a pot that has to be watched as it simmers down because you don’t want what is at the bottom of the pot to burn. It will take Logan some time to learn this but after years of making Pelau, I have found that sweet spot in the cooking time where my dish is not overly dry and not soggy. My Pelau is moist and does not stick to my pot and I consistently use my iron pots from Trinidad.

Here is the finished product of Logan’s chicken and beef Pelau. Pelau can be made like this, with beef as the only meat, with chicken as the only meat or ox tail as the only meat. Of course, my mom, who makes the best flavored Pelau I have ever eaten is loaded with dark chicken meat, beef and ox tail…because she is granny and when she “throw down” a Pelau, she silences everyone. My mother comes from a large family of brothers and sisters who knew how to cook. I could taste my grandmother’s hand in all their dishes, each sister’s dish slightly different from the other’s with their own signature. The base taste for all however, is Ma Juanita Yee Foon’s hand. My cousins can cook. We were all brought into the kitchen at an early age and while some may say they aren’t as good as others, I have never had a meal at any of my cousin’s homes that was not tasty. I am loving passing on this skill to my son. I think he is enjoying it and moves comfortably about the kitchen. I hope he feels the same pride I do, having the ability to make my heritage dishes and I hope he gains as mych joy as I do spending the hour or so it takes to make a meal.

For those of you trying this for the first time, I have included a recipe for chicken Pelau. Cooking new dishes is something we can do during this time of Pandemic isolation and social distancing. Stay at home. Step away from the news and spend the time cooking with your family and best of all, eating with them. This time shall pass, why not use wisely and productively. Stay safe. Stay germ free. Wash your hands. Stay home. Feel free to share your recipes as well and comment on how your Pelau turned out.

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 cup dry or 1 (12-ounce) can pigeon peas, pinto beans, or black-eyed peas
    • 2 cups long-grain rice (or whatever rice you have)
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil (to brown meat)
    • 3/4 cup sugar (white or brown to use in browning meat)
    • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 cup canned coconut milk (use just a tablespoon or two for flavor. Too much can overpower the taste)
    • 1 bay leaf (optional)
    • 2 teaspoons green seasoning ( if you have green seasoning. see Tips, below)
    • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
    • 1 sprig thyme
    • 5 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
    • 1 small whole Scotch bonnet pepper
    • 1/2 cup ketchup of tomato paste

PREPARATION

    1. If using dried peas, soak them overnight in 3 cups of water. Drain. Bring 3 fresh cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the peas. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until cooked almost completely through. Drain and set aside. If using canned beans, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside. Wash the rice by placing it in a colander or fine-mesh sieve and running cold water over it until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Drain well and set aside.
    2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy, deep pot. Add the sugar and swirl in the pot, stirring constantly; allow it to caramelize to a dark brown color. Add the chicken and stir well to coat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
    3. Stir in 2 cups of water, the coconut milk, bay leaf, green seasoning, parsley, thyme, carrots, and scallions. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
    4. Stir the rice, peas, hot pepper, and ketchup, into the chicken. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the peas and vegetables are tender. Remove lid and fluff the rice. The rice should be moist but not sticky.