Do any of you have a friend that you always seem to be on the same wavelength with? For me, that friend is my girl Josina, who is Jamaican-Canadian and lives in Paris. During my last couple of years in Paris, she was my partner-in-crime for all kinds of adventures...and what's funny is that we almost always seemed to have the same thoughts at the same time! Once when her mom Geanine was in town visiting from Toronto, they had us over for a delicious Jamaican dinner. Jerk chicken, rice and peas, plantains...it was all wonderful...but what I most remember was this killer dish of lentils stewed in coconut milk and spiced up with the traditional Jamaican flavors of thyme, allspice and Scotch bonnet pepper.
Geanine was kind enough to share her recipe and also to send us some fresh allspice berries via Jo when she visited us in Bangkok a few months ago. Since then, this awesome dish has made regular appearances in our kitchen! Geanine's recipe calls for canned lentils, which you simply add to a can of coconut milk. I've done it that way a couple of times (sometimes substituting kidney beans for the lentils), but yesterday I used dried brown lentils which took quite some time to cook but were well worth the wait! Try to use whole allspice berries if you can rather than powder, and be sure to crush them up nice and fine with a mortar and pestle. A fresh Scotch bonnet (or habanero) is definitely preferred, but since we didn't have any I used some of Luis's famous African piment, which is made from habaneros.
Thanks to Geanine for the great recipe and to DLG (inside joke) for the friendship!
GEANINE'S JAMAICAN-STYLE LENTILS
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon allspice berries, crushed
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper OR 1 teaspoon (to taste) hot chili sauce
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1. In a medium pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato and saute a couple of minutes more.
2. Pour in the coconut milk and add the allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet/habanero or chili sauce and salt. Mix well and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
4. Add the lentils and water and mix well. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low again, cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 30-40 minutes. While cooking, you should periodically stir the mixture and make sure that it's not sticking to the bottom, adding a bit of additional coconut milk and/or water if need be.
5. Before serving, mash the lentils slightly with a potato masher. Serve with some additional fresh thyme crumbled in, if desired.
Today I served these lentils along with some Caribbean pumpkin patties, adapted from Natalie of Cook Live Eat Vegetarian's recipe for Caribbean sweet potato patties with a spicy coconut and spinach sauce (the lentils substituted for the sauce). Natalie's blog is one of my favorites for inventive vegetarian recipes and gorgeous photos, and these patties were simply awesome with the lentils! Try them together, or serve the lentils with rice and my Caribbean pineapple chutney or alongside some African-style spinach in peanut sauce.