by Denise Albert
We hear a lot about self-care these days and the importance of taking time for oneself. Every year, my husband has the honor of being invited to recharge from his stressful job with fellow physicians at a conference. Spouses are encouraged to attend as many help shoulder the burden throughout the year. It’s a self-care long weekend held during the bleakest time of year that has become a welcome respite every winter. When possible, we bring our children. And, so it was, we found ourselves recently in the Bahamas.
Wow, we were in for a treat! I ordered the local red snapper that was fried whole and served with pigeon pea rice seasoned with Caribbean spices, fried plantains, and a mound of coleslaw. It was a huge plate of food. My kids decided to try the Caribbean Lobster and it was a sight to behold with its claws and tentacles. My husband tried the conch salad and the conch fritters which is a local favorite.
It was all wonderfully delicious and my kids really enjoyed sharing and tasting and tasting and sharing some more. The restaurant was packed with locals that looked just as happy sharing their meals with one another as our family.
Now, if you’re curious, the pigeon pea is actually an ancient seed (dating back more than 3400 years) which most likely got its start in India and, thanks to its ease in cultivation, spread across the globe. Its common name came about in Barbados where it was often used as pigeon feed, but people soon learned that this pea, similar to the English green pea, was a nutritious addition to dishes. In the Bahamas, pigeon peas and rice are a staple. I’ve checked my local Kroger Click List and other grocers in the area and while there’s a limited amount available, here in Central Arkansas you should be able to find pigeon peas. If you can’t, well, green peas could substitute but I highly encourage you to try something you may not have tried before.
Bahamian Pigeon Pea and Rice
1 tbsp olive oil
8 strips bacon, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup red pepper finely diced
2 cups long grain white rice
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 15 oz can pigeon peas drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can chopped roasted tomatoes
1/2 15 oz can corn
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup cilantro leaves finely chopped
1/4 cup scallions chopped for garnish
Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil and bacon. Cook, stirring until the bacon is crispy and golden and the fat has rendered 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the onions, green peppers, red peppers, rice, and salt; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and the rice is lightly toasted.
Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring. Add the oregano, cumin, pigeon peas, corn, tomatoes, chicken stock, and 1 cup water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and cook until the rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Garnish with cilantro and scallions.