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Jamaican Gungo Peas Paste

Well, Christmas is just around the corner and the holiday spirit is rearing its head as it ought to be during this season of good cheer. And, if you are not taking note, there seems to be a kind practical resolve in the air: the gift- giving and end-of –year merry making tradition continues, and, of course, holiday-partying is on some people’s mind. And speaking of partying, I have a little off-the-beaten- path Gungo Peas (Pigeon Peas) recipe that I think will go well with your holiday’s celebrations…Yah Mon!

Now truth be known, this is not one of my recipes but when I received this recipe it ‘mek mi mout water, mon’, eeh, eeh. But before I get into that, let me give a little insight into our peas cooking culture. Red kidney beans and gungo peas are the most popular peas in our peas-using tradition. In addition to our using these two types of popular peas to make stews and cook them with rice, we use them in many of our soups as well...Yah Mon! We use other peas, too, such as split peas and black peas along with butter beans and the like, but that’s neither here nor there. The stars of the show are red peas an’ gungo.

As I write this, I am trying to tread lightly on the subject of these peas’ preference, too. Because this life-long debate about which peas is better have been going on without any compromise in sight as to which peas is superior. You see, on one hand some Jamaicans eat one or the other but not both. While on the other hand, some people, like me, don’t care if you use red peas or gungo. ..Yah Mon! Also, mixing the two peas together is sacrilege. With that said, I may embark upon a serious campaign, with your help, to dethrone red peas and set the record straight that gungo peas deserve some credit in the rice an’ peas arena, you know…Indeed!!!

While red peas has dominated the culinary landscape in restaurants and every little haunts and hamlet across the globe, gungo peas, however, still stand strong when cooked with meat and other ‘salting.’ For example, more people will remember ‘green gungo an’ saltfish’ stew than a red peas an’ saltfish stew, if ever a satfish an’ red peas stew was made. Also, you can cook gungo dried or green: right from the pod.

In any case, we may have to leave the peas debate for some Artical Don, bush cook, or a creative Rasta cook to draw the line and bring peace and resolve this peas issue…Yah Mon!

And speaking of Rasta, I received this Jamaican Gungo Peas Paste recipe from a friend who was member of the Rastafarian movement, Twelve Tribes of Israel. Now, I am no expert on the Rastafarian movement, but I know that when I used to visit Ras Lloyd and Ras Owlie’s rasta camp on Old Harbor Road these nyahs made some ‘wicked’ Ital gungo peas and rice, I might add, with nuff pepper and coconut oil, you know.

As I intimated earlier, let’s celebrate this holiday season with much fanfare and revelry. Add this Jamaican Gungo Peas Paste to the table, too.

Jamaican Gungo (Pigeon Peas) Peas Paste

1 can Gungo Peas

1 medium Onion (chopped)

1 Stlk Scallion(chopped)

1 clove Garlic(crushed)

½ Scotch Bonnet Pepper( very optional) 1 Can Coconut Milk

2 oz. Water

3 tbsp Cooking Oil

1 tbsp Salt

Method:

Heat the cooking oil on medium high and add the seasonings. Stir the seasonings until the onion slices are soft and clear. Add the water, the can of coconut milk, and salt to the pot:be careful when you do this because the hot oil and water make a bad combination. Stir and then taste…if you need more salt, now is the time to add some. Let the mixture cook for 15 minutes. Add the can of gungo peas to the pot and then stir with a wooden spoon.

Keep the cover off the pot and let the coconut milk evaporate to create an oily film over the gungo peas. You may have to use the spoon to move the custard over to see that the liquid is not completely evaporated.

When the evaporation is complete, turn off the stove and allow the peas to cool. Put all the ingredients in a blender and turn on the switch to puree the peas. Remove peas into a serving bowl and place into the fridge. Let the paste cool for a couple of hours and then serve on your favorite crackers.

Happy Cooking,

Uncle Zack




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