Pelau is a beloved Caribbean and West Indian dish that combines rice and pigeon peas with succulent chicken and an array of flavorful ingredients. This hearty and aromatic one-pot meal is perfect for sharing with friends and family, and it captures the essence of Caribbean culinary traditions.
Pelau, with its captivating flavors and enticing aroma, captures the spirit of the Caribbean and is a true delight for the senses. Enjoy this dish as a comforting, all-in-one meal that embodies the heart and soul of Caribbean cuisine.
This dish is not only delicious but also quite simple and fast to prepare, taking under an hour from start to finish once all the prep work is complete. If you’re cooking it over an open fire, like I do, you’ll need to be extra vigilant in the early stages to avoid burning the chicken. It’s also important to strike the right balance with the stock: enough to cook the peas and rice but not so much that it becomes soggy.
I got this recipe here and adapted it slightly.
- 400g dried pigeon peas (or cowpeas or black-eyed peas), soaked for 6 hours and drained
- 2kg chicken pieces (or whole chicken cut into pieces), washed in lime or vinegar and drained
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 500ml parboiled basmati rice, washed and drained
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 400ml coconut milk
- 750ml chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- 1 habanero chilli, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 cup frozen green peas
For the Chicken Seasoning
- 4 large cloves of garlic
- 5 scallions/spring onions, chopped
- 1 bunch of thyme
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 habanero chillis, 1 with seeds and 2 with seeds removed, finely chopped
Instructions for the chicken seasoning
In a food processor, finely chop the garlic, scallions, thyme, onion, and hot pepper.
In a bowl, place the chicken and add half of the green seasoning (reserving the other half). Season with salt and pepper.
Mix well by hand to ensure even coating of the chicken.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, then for an additional 1 hour at room temperature.
For the Pelau
In a large Dutch oven or cast iron skillet, heat the oil, then add the sugar.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugar is melted and turns dark brown with a foamy texture.
Add the marinated chicken and brown it, turning frequently for about 5 minutes to prevent sticking.
Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir well.
Combine the peas, red pepper, carrot, celery, and the remaining reserved seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
Pour in the coconut milk and stock.
Add the habanero and ketchup.
Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked, and all the liquid has evaporated.
Stir in the frozen peas and cook for another 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Serve alongside coleslaw or a green salad, and complement with slices of avocado and a dash of lime juice.
We enjoyed this with a 2022 Bon Courage Colombard, Andre’s Fame. Here are the tasting notes for 2023 vintage: