Beans By Request: Caribbean Rice And Peas

My friend Zanmei, who teaches in Iraqi Kurdistan, has asked for some bean recipes so she can put her shiny new pressure cooker through its paces.

Personally, I tend to make make my beans in batches, soaking various kinds overnight on a Saturday, and cooking them up one after the other the next day. They don't take long. Around 2 minutes under pressure for white beans (the beans in baked beans, also useful in Turkish cooking), 3 minutes for chickpeas (you can never have too many of these (g)), about 5 minutes for red kidney beans (excellent in abgusht and today's recipe), and around 6 minutes for giant butter beans (which I would eat more often, except they cost over 700 yen for a 350 g bag!).

Once they cool down, I wrap them in recipe-sized portions and put them in a nice, big freezer bag so I'll always have beans on hand whenever I need them.

The recipes I will post here in the next few days are therefore not the kind where the beans get cooked for hours and hours. Actually, these are all quick dishes that I cook on a weeknight, so they have to be fast.

Today's recipe is from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook, one of my favourite cookbooks for non-saffron & lemons-type recipes. I have an older edition than the one in the link above, but I imagine the book's main features are still the same. Like the chapter introductions, which feature a photo and short description of all the recipes, divided by cooking time. This makes it super easy to choose dishes that are not going to be too taxing in the madness that is a weeknight in the Saffron household. Top marks to Mary, and to publishers DK, too.

I've chosen this dish as I think Zanmei will be able to get just about everything she needs for it. Except maybe the bay leaves. I know that thyme is used in Turkey, so I'm imagining it is also available in Iraq, though I am sure Zanmei will put me right if I'm wrong. I believe that she will have access to something that will substitute for the bacon (I know they have chicken jambon in Iran; something like that will do). Tomatoes are only available in Kurdistan fresh or in paste form, apparently, so I guess this will only work during the tomato season. Anyway, I love it, and it has had rave reviews from guests whenever I've made it for a party.

Caribbean rice and peas

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
8 spring onions, sliced
3 smoked bacon rashers, rinds removed, diced [or the equivalent of chicken jambon, or whatever is halaal]
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250 g long grain rice
1 x 200g can tomatoes [S: I use 1 x 400 g can and adjust the stock accordingly. Since tinned tomatoes are hard to come by in Iraq, substitute fresh and maybe a tablespoon or two of tomato paste]
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves [S: optional, I suppose (g)]
1 small green chilli, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp each turmeric, cumin seeds and dried thyme
1 x 400 g can red kidney beans or black-eyed beans, drained [S: or equivalent of pre-cooked beans]
375 ml chicken stock
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve

1 Heat the oil in a pan, add the spring onions, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

2 Add the rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 tbsp of the parsley, the bay leaves, chilli, turmeric, cumin and thyme, and cook for 2 minutes.

3 Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

4 Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve at once, with lime wedges.