Rice and Peas

Rice and peas lr

Serves 2

There are various versions of rice and peas throughout the Caribbean. They all share the same core flavours of coconut and thyme. Although called rice and peas, the dish is usually made with kidney beans rather than peas.

Most recipes will tell you to use tinned coconut milk but I find that can give a slightly soggy or sticky result. I prefer to make my own coconut water which gives light, fluffy grains but still has plenty of coconut flavour.

This rice dish is an excellent accompaniment to just about any grilled, roasted or BBQed foods – especially jerked dishes.

This dish is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

For the coconut water…
Unsweetened desiccated coconut filled to the 10 fl oz mark in a measuring jug, covered with boiling water to the 20 fl oz mark.

Pour the boiling water over the coconut and leave to macerate for 40 minutes. Sieve into a clean jug, squeezing the coconut pulp to remove all the liquid. Discard the pulp.

For the finished dish…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
1 medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 2 pieces
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 fl oz long grain rice
15 fl oz stock made up with the coconut water topped up with vegan stock to make 15 fl oz in all
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil and sauté the onion until soft, approx 10 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, chilli, ginger, salt and pepper and sauté for a further 1 minute then add the rice and stir gently to coat the grains.

Add the stock and kidney beans, bring to a simmer and simmer covered until the rice is tender, approx 20 to 30 minutes. (Check the rice after 20 minutes and add a little boiling water if it is starting to catch.)

Remove the ginger before serving and check the seasoning. Rice dishes like this can take quite a lot of salt.

This dish can be cooked ahead and stored in the fridge until needed. To reheat, place in a microwave-proof bowl, loosely cover with cling film and cook on high for 5 minutes.

Cajun Spice Blend

Paprika peppers

Everyone seems to love the flavours of Cajun dishes. Cajun chicken is a particular favourite, but the flavours work well on just about any meat, fish or vegetables too. I experimented with many mixes of herbs and spices before finding that this blend really hits the spot.

This spice mix has a mild heat.

Simply mix the seasoning with a little oil to make a loose paste, rub it onto your chicken, vegetable kebabs, chops or fish – whatever you fancy – then leave it to marinate for up to an hour. Cook in the usual way – roast, grill, barbecue or fry. Allow 1 teaspoon of the spice mix per portion.

2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cayenne chilli powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
2 ½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and store in a spice jar until needed.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

il-condimento-del-borgo-il-cilindro-rosso

Serves 4

This vinaigrette differs from the standard balsamic vinaigrette by addition of water which has the effect of emulsifying (thickening) it. This is useful where you want the dressing to cover more evenly.

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic
1 tablespoon cold water
4 tablespoons (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Whisk together the mustard, balsamic and water, then whisk in the oil. This should give a thick, glossy dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add lemon juice if necessary for extra acidity (whether or not you need this will depend on the sweetness of the balsamic).

This dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Vegetable Soup with Puy Lentils and Paprika

Sweet peppers

Serves 4 as a lunch or main course

This soup is quite rich with warming spices of paprika, smoked paprika and chilli. It is packed full of goodness and makes a perfect lunch or dinner main course.

It is vegetarian and vegan, as long as the stock is vegan.

250g Puy lentils, washed and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery sticks, diced
4 sweet peppers, various colours, deseeded and diced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 rounded tablespoons paprika
1 rounded tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
1 ½ litres vegetable stock
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring a large pan of unsalted water to a boil, add the lentils and simmer for 35 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook the onion gently for 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots, celery and peppers and season generously with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down low, cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Stir in the paprika, smoked paprika, thyme and chilli flakes, then add the tomatoes, stock and vinegar. Add the cooked lentils. Stir well, bring to a gentle simmer and cook covered for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning and serve piping hot.