We went to our local library this week and, as always, I gave my 2 1/2 year old son free reign to pick any three books he wants from the children's section. I was so pleased when he chose, along with one book about Santa and one book about construction vehicles, a Caribbean cookbook.
Cooking the Caribbean Way by Cheryl Davidson Kaufman is part of a youth literature series which includes Cooking the Vietnamese Way, Cooking the Australian Way, and Cooking the Israeli Way, just to mention a few. Ms. Kaufman is from Jamaica, so I assume the recipes are authentic. The introduction includes a glossary of cooking terms, some history on the islands, and even a page devoted to working with whole coconut!
The Soups and Stews section has two recipes named Pepper Pot -- one for soup and one for stew. I adapted and combined these two recipes, due to my ingredient availability, my son's skill level, and taste. When I followed the recipe for the soup it tasted heavy and earthy. I felt like it needed an acid to brighten it, so I used the vinegar that was called for in the stew recipe. To cut the sharpness of the vinegar, I added molasses, also called for in the stew recipe. These small adaptation didn't alter it visually -- I came up with something that looks a lot like the picture of Pepper Pot soup on the book cover -- but I liked the way the vinegar and molasses affected the flavor.
6 cups of water
1 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can kale
1 can okra
1 lb frozen chopped spinach
1 diced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 pinch dried thyme
1 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 can coconut milk
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
2 T molasses
salt and pepper to taste
Combine water, meat, kale, okra, spinach, onion, garlic, and sweet potato in a large pot.
Bring to a boil and simmer one to two hours.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
My son had a lot of fun dumping the fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables into the pot, and I felt perfectly comfortable allowing him to do so because it was off the heat. Just watch for sharp can edges! Once all of "his" ingredients were in the pot, I added the water and raw meat and placed it on the stove. We washed up, and played for the next hour and a half. I added the last ingredients and finished it off. A perfect taste of the islands on a cold winter day.