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West Indian Rice & Peas

2 cups uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
2 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups water
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 cup dried pigeon peas, soaked at least 5 hours
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2-1 small chile, sliced (or 1/4 tsp. cayenne) (or to taste)
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
generous pinch of ground fennel seeds
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 scallions, chopped

Saute the rice and coconut in the 2 1/2 tbsp. of oil for 2-3 minutes,
stirring constantly. Add the water and cinnamon stick. Cover the
pot and bring it to a rapid boil. Don't lift the lid to see if
the water is boiling. Just notice when steam begins to escape.
Traditionally, the lid is never lifted while cooking rice. When
steam escapes, reduce the heat and simmer about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the peas with the bay leaves in salted, boiling
water until tender. The cooking time will vary with different
peas. When peas are done, drain them and remove the bay leaves.
Keep them warm until the rice is ready. While the rice and peas
are cooking, saute the onion and garlic with the oil in a cast-iron
skillet for a few minutes, until the onions soften. Stir in the
chile or cayenne and the bell pepper and continue to saute for a
couple of minutes. Add the fennel, salt, and pepper and lower the
heat. Cook, covered, for a few more minutes.

Combine everything, mixing together well. Adjust the seasonings
and serve hot, topped with the chopped scallions.


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