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Jamaican Stew Peas

This is a typical Jamaican dish. The saltiness of the pig’s tail, the creaminess of the coconut and just a few other simple ingredients and you have a burst of complex flavors all at once.
Photography by Robert Demetrius

2 cups red peas (red kidney beans)
2½ pounds salted pig’s tail
1½ pounds stew beef
6 pimento seeds
3 cloves of garlic
2 cups coconut milk
2 stalks scallion
3 sprigs thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper
Soak 2 cups of red peas overnight, they will be much easier to cook the following day as it won’t take that much time before they soften, especially if you do not own a pressure cooker like myself. I had soaked mine for 16 hours before using.
Scalding Pig Tails
For this recipe I used 2½ pounds of salted pig’s tail. It will be necessary to scald the pig’s tails twice. To scald the pig’s tails, start with a large pot. The tails should be covered by at least two inches of water and bring to a boil. Drain the water and start the process over again. It should take about 13 minutes to reach a boil. Use 7 cups of water, each time, just to minimize the saltiness. You can also scald it three times if you are not a salt lover. You should not need to add any more salt when seasoning the stew later on.
Cutting Beef in 1/2 inch Pieces
Cut 1½ pounds stew beef in ½ inch pieces. This will shorten the cooking time and you are guaranteed tender morsels of meat.
Once the pig’s tails have been scalded and drained, add the drained, soaked red peas and the stew beef in the pot and mix. 
Beans, Pig Tails and Beef Covered with Water Seasoned with Pimento Seeds and Garlic
Add 6½ cups of water, so that the pig’s tail, meat and peas are covered in water. Add 6 pimento seeds and 3 cloves of garlic. 
Stew Bubbling Hot on the Burner
Beating Scallion Stalks Before Adding to the Pot, Allowing the Flavor to Release Quicker
Adding Coconut Milk to the Stew Peas
Bring to a boil, which should take around 15 minutes, simmer for 1½ hours at medium low heat before adding 2 cups coconut milk, 2 stalks of scallion which should be crushed slightly, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 scotch bonnet pepper and spinners and let simmer for a final 30 minutes. 
Stew Peas with Coconut Milk, Scallion Stalks and Fresh Thyme
Adding the Spinners
Whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper adding a Delightful Flavor to the Stew Peas
Make sure the scotch bonnet pepper is whole, with the stem still on. Place the pepper on the top and be careful when stirring, as you do not want the pepper to break. It has only been added for flavor and not peppery heat.
This serves 6. Voilà. In Jamaica, the typical way to serve this dish is with white rice, vegetables and fried ripe plantain. Enjoy.


Spinners
1 cup of all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of salt
7 tablespoons water
In a bowl, mix flour, salt and water. Start with about 5 tablespoons of water and add more if needed. The dough should be somewhat dry in consistency, but easy to roll as the spinners should be dense once cooked. To roll the spinners, take about the size of a quarter amount of dough and roll between your two palms, so you get an elongated and thin dumpling. Drop in stew or soup and allow to cook for about 30 minutes.

Anonymous –   – (October 30, 2011 at 5:32 PM)  

Tried this recipe, soaked my peas for 24 hours, but they didn't soften enough with the cooking time laid out in this recipe. I recommend that if you don't have a pressure cooker you cook the peas for 45minutes to and hour before you add beef and pigtail to ensure that the peas cook thoroughly.

Natascha Kessler - Heaven on Hearth  – (October 30, 2011 at 7:39 PM)  

Thank you for sharing. I am sure if anyone has the same issue with the peas not softening, your feedback will be welcome. I hope you enjoyed the recipe, even though you had to cook the peas a bit longer.

Anonymous –   – (January 6, 2012 at 2:58 PM)  

Seems to me this is more of 'pig's tail with stewed peas', since you used more meat than peas. I might add 'for those' who're watching calories and carbs, you dont need to add coconut milk. It's just as sumptious without.
For vegans, follow the recipe but, without the meats, and you'll have had an enjoyable healthy meal. Good luck!

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