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West Indian Rice & Peas


  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried pigeon peas, soaked at least 5 hours
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2-1 small chile, sliced (or 1/4 tsp. cayenne) (or to taste)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • generous pinch of ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped


Saute the rice and coconut in the 2 1/2 tbsp. of oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and cinnamon stick. Cover the pot and bring it to a rapid boil. Don't lift the lid to see if the water is boiling. Just notice when steam begins to escape. Traditionally, the lid is never lifted while cooking rice. When steam escapes, reduce the heat and simmer about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the peas with the bay leaves in salted, boiling water until tender. The cooking time will vary with different peas. When peas are done, drain them and remove the bay leaves. Keep them warm until the rice is ready. While the rice and peas are cooking, saute the onion and garlic with the oil in a cast-iron skillet for a few minutes, until the onions soften. Stir in the chile or cayenne and the bell pepper and continue to saute for a couple of minutes. Add the fennel, salt, and pepper and lower the heat. Cook, covered, for a few more minutes. Combine everything, mixing together well. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot, topped with the chopped scallions.

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