If you’ve spent much time in the Caribbean, you realize that you have to be flexible with your cooking. The corner market doesn’t have rice noodles or soy milk, and for that matter, their fridge might quit and rot all produce on the east end of the island. It’s normal for the power to go out for no reason on a sunny day. Or, for example, you realize that almost no one’s stove has a gas line, but is powered like a grill by an external propane tank. And so it’s very likely that you only find the morning of your husband’s birthday dinner that there’s no propane, and that you can’t cook anything on the stove or in the oven.
So, I spent my morning thinking of dishes to cook in the microwave (fortunately, the power wasn’t randomly out). Since I’d already marinated some chicken breasts in jerk spice for the grill, I thought hey, why not continue the Caribbean theme, and try to make some peas and rice in the microwave?
That’s another thing. If you’ve spend much time down here, you’ve probably had some version of peas and rice before. In the Dominican Republic, the dish is often made with Pigeon Peas–small, circular beans cooked up with white rice and coconut milk. In Jamaica, they’re also often made with kidney beans and with a blazingly hot Scotch Bonnet pepper.
And that set of circumstances is how this recipe was born. I really recommend adding the lemongrass if you can–it lends a wonderful citrus taste and makes the rice incredibly fragrant. It turned out great, and in many ways is easier to cook in the microwave than on the stove, so hey, maybe that was all a blessing in disguise. Now that I think of it, I wish I’d known this recipe in college, as it would be great for dorm, microwave-only cooking. Hope you like it.
Microwave Jamaican Peas and Rice
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 C. white long grain rice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 hot pepper, Scotch Bonnet or something milder
- 2-3 stalks lemongrass, rinsed and tied in a knot (optional)
Add the onion and oil to a large microwave safe casserole. Saute for 1-2 minutes on normal power. Add the garlic in and microwave for another minute.
Stir in the thyme, rice, salt and pepper, and tomato paste. Add enough water to the coconut milk to add up to 3 cups, and stir it into the rice mixture. Place the whole chili pepper and the lemongrass knot on top. Cover the mixture with lid, or a plate that seals the top of the casserole. Place in microwave, and microwave on high for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid or plate and microwave for another 5-10 minutes on 50% until all of the liquid is absorbed. Microwaves differ in their power, so keep an eye out for when the rice absorbs all liquid. Do not stir rice at any time. Taste, and if the rice is tender, remove it from the microwave. Stir in the drained kidney beans gently. Place the lid back on top of the casserole, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to steam. Serve while hot with plenty of hot sauce on the side.