Sunday morning I would wake up to sounds and smells. First it would be the sound of my mum singing in the kitchen and then the smell of fried bakes roasting to eat with the Buljol she had just prepared. Dad could be heard like a giant stirring around in the living room in his dressing gown and slippers, thumbing through his precious vinyl collection: “Which would it be today: Mighty Sparrow or Mahalia Jackson?” His thoughts would soon be interrupted by the crescendo of pots and pans crashing to the kitchen floor: I would picture Mum in my mind’s eye as I lay on my warm bed: bending down low and reaching far back to grab her precious pot which was usually stacked very badly (by one of us) behind or on top of smaller weaker pots, hence the clash of metal befallen on our sleeping ears. Then I would wait for her to cry out my name to come fix the problem (“Raaaaaaa-neeeee…”)
Traditions are so important, they help solidify memories and reaffirm identities. The sounds and smells of a Sunday morning was a tradition of ours, as was the cleaning and hoovering and washing the car…the list goes on. But nothing said ‘Trini Sunday’ more than Trini food and music. One of my favourites has to be this dish right here: Pelau Rice. There is a special sweetness and fierceness to this dish which makes it so satisfying. When this dish was served on the table we use to dig around the pot to find the precious chunks of chicken hidden between the jewelled gungo peas and rice. It was a bit of a fight but it was all a part of the enjoyment.
Tips: marinate the chicken well. The longer the more intense the flavour. Once all the ingredients have been added stir the pot with a fork not a spoon to prevent the rice from getting mushy.
Chicken Pelau Rice
3lbs chicken pieces, skinned and cleaned (preferably diced, if not cut into no more than 3 inch pieces)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp mixed green seasoning
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups parboiled rice
1/2 cup finely chopped (minced) onion
1/4 cup sweet red pepper
1 1/2 cup cooked pigeon (gungo) peas
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper
2 cups of coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock or water
Trini Green Seasoning:
4 green onions, 1 bunch thyme (remove very thick stems) 1 bunch coriander, 1 bunch parsley 12 cloves garlic, peeled, 1 large onion, peeled and chopped Optional: 6 pimento peppers, scotch bonnet, to taste. Place all the ingredients in a food processor with a sprinkle of salt – the salt works as a preservative. Blend the herbs until you have a very fine mince. Transfer the mixture to clean glass jars, close tightly and store in the refrigerator. Each time you open a jar to get some of the seasoning be use a clean spoon to avoid it spoiling. The green seasoning lasts for a very long time; it may lose some of the bright green colour but the flavour will remain. Alternatively you can freeze the seasoning into ice cube trays and store in the freezer!
Once you have cleaned and skinned the chicken, season it with salt, black pepper, garlic, green seasoning, Worcestershire Sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. Leave the chicken to marinate either overnight or at least for 2-3 hours before cooking.
When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat oil a large deep pan (about 4 tbsp oil). Then add the sugar and allow it to burn. Then add the chicken and stir until the chicken is well coated with the molten sugar, keep stirring occasionally for around 5 minutes. Then add rice and keep stirring until the rice is fully coated as well, do this for around 3 minutes.
Then add the onion, sweet peppers, peas and cook until there appear to have softened. Add salt the whole scotch bonnet pepper, coconut milk and chicken stock. Then bring the rice to a boil, lower the heat and cover until the rice is cooked and all the liquid has evaporated (this will take around 25-30 mins). Tastes the mixture for flavour and texture; if the rice is still hard add a little more water and continue to allow it to simmer.
Serve with your favourite side dish e.g. potato salad or coleslaw.