Apart from Callaloo if ever there was one dish that could sum up Trini culture it would be pelau, I think. My British and American readers may notice that it look different to the pilau rice that they are familiar with. Trini pelau is like a half-sister to the Indian pilau rice that’s served in the curry houses. The pilau rice popular in the curry houses originates from Central, South and Middle Asia. Trini pelau looks a bit like some versions of Indian Biryani and tastes a bit like West African jollof rice. As I’ve said before, I’m not a culinary historian but its possible this dish is the result of a cross-pollination of the two main ethnic groups on the island, Indo-Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians. Whatever the cause, its unlikely that you will visit Trinidad or a Trindadians’ home and not have tasted pelau. Its one of the dishes of choice when family and friends are limin’ (hang-0ut/meet-up), whether indoors or outdoors. Trini pelau is a one pot rice, peas and meat dish that gets its colour from caramelised sugar and aroma from coconut milk.
There are various ways to make Trini pelau. Every family will have their own twist on it. I think of it as Caribbean soul food. When your sugar starts to melt (caramelise) and the cooking smoke arises, the inspiration comes. Yet, at the core of this tasty dish is chicken or beef, pigeon peas (also know as gungo peas), rice and coconut milk.I recently cooked a pelau SO good, I was moved to write this food blog. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve never shared my own recipe with you before! Its my only other favourite dish, after a chicken curry and dhal puri roti. Here’s how I cooked my Trini pelau rice.
2 boneless chicken breasts diced
4 cups brown rice (optional, you can use easy cook long grain rice)
1 tin kidney beans
1 tin coconut milk
1 diced red bell (sweet) pepper
1 roughly chopped onion
4 finely chopped springs flat leaf parsley
1 stock cube
6 baby tomatoes
1/2 tin sweet corn (optional you can use carrots instead)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
250 mls hot water
- Place a strong bottom iron pot on the hob, add oil and brown sugar. Allow the sugar to heat until it caramelises, then add chicken. (I normally season my meat for at least 30 mins prior to cooking with salt, pepper, garlic and fine thyme)
- Stir chicken and allow to seal. Once chicken has sealed add pepper, onion, tomatoes and saute for 3-5 mins untill onions are clear
- Add rice, beans, stock cube (that was melted in the hot water), coconut milk and sweet corn
- Simmer pot contents, for 15 minutes then add ketchup.
- Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes untill all liquid has evaporated down and rice has been cooked to your preference. Add water slowly if you need to prolong the cooking process.
- Serve warm with a fresh salad and hot sauce if you fancy it.
This recipe served our family of 4 with leftovers for the following day.