Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pepper Pot Soup

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.

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