Rice and Peas

Rice and peas is the ubiquitous dish of Jamaica, a national food like our fish and chips, yet its title is something of a misnomer, since the peas are actually dried red kidney beans. In Jamaica it may be eaten at any time of the day, including breakfast. For lunch or dinner, it accompanies everything from curried goat to salt fish.


  • 225 g/ 8 oz red kidney beans
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced wafer-thin
  • 2 hot red chillies, finely diced
  • 350 g/ 12 oz long-grain rice
  • 600 ml/ 1 pt coconut milk
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried
  • salt and pepper
  • shredded spring onion, to garnish


Soak the beans in cold water overnight.

Next day, bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes, then drain, rinse and cover with fresh water by 2.5 cm / 1 inch. This is a necessary preliminary to rid red beans of the toxins they contain. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat and simmer until tender, which will take 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Put the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the garlic and chillies, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat for another minute.

Add to the beans with the coconut milk, thyme and salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil. Put on a lid, turn down to the lowest heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, when all the liquid should have been absorbed. If not, turn up the heat a little and evaporate any excess, stirring continuously or the rice will stick and burn.

Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with shredded spring onion.