As we near the end of Black History Month, restorative yoga teacher Donna Peart shares her final Afro-Caribbean meal – Coconut Vegetable Curry, Rice and Peas and Roasted Plantain.
The history of the Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures, from Africa, to Europe to South / East Asia and the Middle East, and the food reflects this, as do the faces of the people.
‘Out of Many One People’ is the motto of Jamaica, based on the population’s multiracial roots.
This curry recipe is a favourite of mine because it is so versatile. You can use the sauce with any vegetable combination you might want. This is mine, but yours might be different. Be creative.
The Rice and Peas dish is a Sunday dinner tradition in the Caribbean, literally, everyone has some form of this dish on a Sunday. My version takes into account that being born in the UK, I’m third generation Jamaican heritage and I do not always have that much time, so I have played around a bit and used simple techniques and ingredients that are readily available.
Lastly, plantain is one of my absolute favourite foods. Although closely related to the banana family, it has a very different taste and texture when cooked, and it is delicious.
I believe the beauty of Caribbean cooking is that it is open to interpretation. My Nanny’s cooking would have changed when she came to the UK back in the ’50s, based around what was available, and my style reflects where we are now – whilst still paying homage to my cultural roots, I hope.
I’d like to add that although the cultures across the islands were created through colonialism, slavery and oppression, there is so much to be celebrated about who we are in the present day. From the diversity, warmth and cheekiness of the people, the excitement and vibrancy of the music, to the spicy deliciousness of the food, and so much more. The Caribbean has influenced and contributed so much to the world as members of the African diaspora and beyond.
I do hope you enjoy trying out these recipes as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you in honour of Black History Month. Thank you for your time. I think my Nanny would be very happy
Coconut Vegetable Curry Ingredients
1 large orange sweet potato and half white sweet potato
2 small or 1 large carrot
3 tablespoons red lentils
2 shallots, 2 spring onions, 2 tomatoes
Half green pepper and half red pepper
5 tablespoons green peas
2/3 large handfuls fresh baby spinach
300ml coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder (mild or medium)
Half teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs and 1 teaspoon dried parsley
Dried red chilli flakes & course ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon bouillon
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic puree
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste
1 tablespoon tomato and chilli Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
Wash and pre-cook red lentils until soft and translucent, then drain and put to side.
Peel and chop sweet potatoes and carrot(s) into small/medium size pieces, then season with salt and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil before roasting in oven for 25-30 minutes at 200 electric. Put to side when done.
Whilst the vegetables are roasting, chop (& peel) 2 shallots, 2 spring onions, 3 tomatoes, half green pepper, and half red pepper.
Heat oil in large frying pan and add shallots, spring onions and pepper mix and lightly fry.
Add dried mixed herbs, dried parsley, bouillon, red chilli flakes, coarse ground black pepper, nigella seeds & curry powder to the pan, before adding a drop of water and stirring to lightly toast and release the flavours of the spices.
Add garlic puree, tomato ketchup, sun-dried tomato paste and tomato and chilli sauce to the pan. Stir well.
Add 300ml coconut milk and 150ml water to pan. Stir well.
Add nutritional yeast to pan. Stir well, before bringing to boil, covering and leaving to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes (or when the oil has separated from the sauce) add the pre-cooked red lentil to the sauce. Stir well.
Transfer sauce into large pot, then add roasted vegetables, gently combine. Followed by frozen green peas, gently combine, and finally, the fresh spinach sprinkled on top. As it wilts, gently combine.
Bring everything to boil, before covering and leaving to simmer for a further 50-60 minutes until the sauce is thick and all the flavours merge together.
Rice and Peas Ingredients
1 tin of kidney beans in chilli sauce
2 medium cups of easy cook long grain rice
100ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Half red pepper
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon of bouillon
Sprinkle of red dried chilli flakes, course black pepper
1 teaspoon of garlic puree
2 teaspoons of sun dried tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce (optional)
Salt to taste
Chop (and peel) shallots and red pepper.
Heat oil in medium pot, add shallots and pepper and fry lightly.
Add dried mixed herbs, bouillon, red chilli flakes and black pepper, with a drop of water to help toast the spices. Stir well.
Add garlic puree, sun-dried tomato paste and dark soya sauce (omit soya sauce if gluten-free). Stir well.
Add tin of kidney beans with chilli sauce and stir well.
Add 100ml coconut milk with 100ml water. Stir well before bringing to boil, covering and leaving sauce to simmer for up to 15 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, wash the long grain, place in another medium pot, top up with 1 litre cold water, place on high heat and bring to boil.
Once boiling, remove from heat, drain water in large sieve, and run under cold water to wash away starch.
Add the rice to the sauce and stir well. Add an additional 100ml water and a little salt to taste, before stirring well, bringing to a boil, covering and placing on very low heat to cook slowly for 40-50 minutes.
Keep an eye on it, stirring if necessary to avoid sticking. Once cooked, remove from heat and allow to sit for at least 10minutes with lid on before serving.
Roasted plantain (you can find plantains at your local South Asian grocery store)
Wash and peel one moderately ripe plantain, then cut into pieces anyway you want.
Place plantain pieces into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, stir to ensure each piece is evenly coated.
Line a baking pan with greaseproof paper and place plantain pieces on so that each piece is touching the paper, sprinkle with salt (optional) and place in oven to roast for 15-20 minutes at 200 electric.