Ital Stew with Ginger Chayote & Trinidadian Green Seasoning

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

V is for Vegan

By Kerstin Rodgers

Published 2015

  • About

Continuing our journey around the world, let’s visit Jamaica and the Rastafarian community, where “ital” means “vital.” Many words start with “i” in the Rastafarian dialect, to signify the unity of “I” or “eye” with God and nature. Rastas are mostly vegan; they try to live and eat naturally, with no processed food, sometimes no salt, using only clay or wood vessels. I made this stew for the funeral of my neighbors’ father who was a Rastafarian. Authentic Caribbean funerals have nine nights of mourning, a tradition that started in Africa. On the ninth night, food and over-proofed rum are provided, and towards midnight, the spirit of the deceased is “seen.” Family and friends sing, sending the spirit on its way.

You’ll need some great Caribbean ingredients here. Yam has many varieties, some of which are nicer than others (I’m not keen on the slimier ones). Americans use the word “yam” interchangeably with sweet potatoes, but this is incorrect; they are quite different. Cookbook writer Catherine Phipps, who spent a few months in the Caribbean, says the only way to buy a genuine Scotch bonnet is to smell it. She digs her thumbnail in to get at the flesh (hoping the shop assistant won’t notice!) and if it smells floral, it’s genuine. Chayote is also known as cho-cho or christophine. I’ve seen all these ingredients in big supermarkets and ethnic stores.

I hope you all “overstand” this recipe, as Rastas would say! (“Understand” is considered rather negative.) The Ginger Chayote and Trinidadian Green Seasoning are both, and brilliant dishes in themselves.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped into 2-in [5-cm] lengths
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 3 carrots, peeled and finely sliced into rounds
  • 1 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into ¾-in [2-cm] slices
  • 14-oz [400-g] can of black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1⅔ cups [400 ml] canned coconut milk
  • 2 cups [480 ml] vegetable stock
  • 19 oz [530 g] canned callaloo leaves
  • 2 large yams (purple or yellow) or eddoes, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths (or lb [1 kg] pumpkin, cut into thick slices)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • Kernels cut from 2 fresh corn cobs
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small, sturdy Scotch bonnet chile
  • Sea salt
  • Chopped cilantro, to garnish

Method

Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the scallions and garlic and fry until soft, then add the allspice berries, carrots, and plantain. Stir, then add the black-eyed peas. Continue to cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, followed by the callaloo, yams or eddoes, sweet potatoes, corn kernels and thyme.

Add salt to taste and cook over low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and yams are soft enough to pierce with a fork. Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, add the whole Scotch bonnet. Check the seasoning before serving, garnished with cilantro. Accompany with Ginger Chayote and Trinidadian Green Seasoning.