Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pigeon Peas and Ham Soup

     Caribbean Cooking!  
     I cooked a lot of Caribbean food while working in Florida.  Many cooks and chefs that I worked with were from the islands down south.  I learned as much as I could from these folks while the opportunity presented itself.
     Mastering the vast array of Caribbean cuisine spices and chili peppers can difficult to do.  If you want to learn Caribbean cuisine then it is best to start with simple traditional island recipes first, because this style of food is like good old fashioned home cooking with a little bit of spicy heat.
     Arawak and Carib tribes cooked some great food long before the European occupied the islands.  Many food historians agree that the native island food casts the deepest roots of Caribbean cusine.  Jerk and Barbacoa are two good examples of Pre-Colombian cooking styles that are well known in this modern age.  Both Jerk and Barbacoa require local chile peppers that are very spicy hot!
     Pigeon Peas are native to tropical Eastern India and they were introduced to the Caribbean during the European age of Imperialism and slavery.  Pigeon Peas have a deep rich flavor like lentils.  Pigeon peas are a main staple in the Caribbean and they are almost always served with rice.
     Today's pigeon pea soup recipe involves no tricky techniques.  Like many traditional Caribbean soups, this bean soup is simply boiled.  The pigeon peas impart a rich flavor.  The simple combination of peppers and allspice creates a zesty, yet warm comfortable taste sensation.
     Pigeon Peas and Ham Soup: 
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups of soup.  (2 medium size servings) 
     Canned pigeon peas are much easier to find at grocery stores than dried pigeon peas.  Canned pigeon peas are tender enough to mash, so this reduces the simmering time.    
     Go sparing with the Scotch Bonnet pepper, because it is only meant to impart flavor to this soup! 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of rinsed canned pigeon peas or (rinsed cooked dried pigeon peas) in a mixing bowl.
     Use a potato masher or a fork to mash half of the pigeon peas.
     Set the pigeon peas aside.
     Step 2:  Place 2 1/2 cups of light chicken broth in a sauce pot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced carrot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Add 1 chopped green onion.
     Add 1 chopped small plum tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 of a minced seeded Scotch Bonnet Chile Pepper.  (Or adjust the spicy heat to taste.  If no Scotch Bonnets are available, then substitute 1/2 of a Green Habanero Pepper.)
     Step 3:  Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved partially mashed pigeon peas to the soup.
     Add 2 ounces of roasted ham that is torn into small bite size pieces by hand.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 5:  Bring the soup back to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Slowly simmer and reduce, till the pigeon peas are very tender and the mashed pigeon peas thicken the broth to a medium thin consistency.
     Step 7:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Garnish the soup with a slice of buttered grilled bread.
     This soup tastes nice and savory!  For those who prefer extra spicy heat, serve with a bottle of Matouk's or Ocho Rios Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce on the side.  A little bit of Scotch Bonnet goes a long way!

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